So Simple, A Car Wash Can Do It. Can You?

By Beacon Staff

After last month’s troop campout at Bowman Lake, I came home with a really filthy Suburban and troop trailer.

60 miles of North Fork driving with a trailer after 3 days of rain last week = muddy, icy vehicles.

So I’m thinking that I need to get the mud and ice off, and I don’t really want to leave it all in my driveway for the dog to track inside. Thing is, it’s Sunday, the banks are closed, and I don’t have 5 bucks worth of quarters on me.

Then I remembered, I don’t have to have quarters. Glacier Clean will take care of this. I sat next to the owners of Glacier Clean at the last Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce lunch and they told me that they had added credit card terminals to their bays.

So…I pull in, swipe my debit card, and it tells me to press the stop button when I’m done. Simple.

They’ve passed rule #1 – Make it easy to buy.

More importantly, the things that annoy EVERYONE about coin-operated car washes are gone with the swipe of a card:
• No more extra stops to get change for the machine, and then perhaps finding I’m just a bit short of what I need.
• No more digging in pockets at the last second for the quarter that will give me one extra 15 seconds of rinsing.
• No more dropping coins on the ice, dirt, etc while hurrying to feed the machine.

It was the most leisurely car wash I’d done in years – outside of doing it in the driveway. Maybe.

Perhaps city folks have had these for a long time, but the bottom line is this: It would have been EASY for the owners to blow off this expense in a town of 4000. After all, the other car wash doesn’t have this capability. People aren’t going to drive 15 miles round trip to Whitefish – if their car wash has credit card terminals.

It would’ve been easy to save this money. But they didn’t, and I’m hoping it was because they realized the big thing it would do for their business: It would raise the average sale per car wash.

See, most of the time when you go to a car wash, you probably rush through it to get done before the minimum spend runs out. Not anymore. Now you’ll swipe your card and wash your car the right way. Better satisfaction with the money you spent to clean your car, a cleaner car, a larger transaction for the car wash – and easier for you.

There are basically three ways to increase your revenue: get more clients, sell existing clients more often, or sell them more when you sell them. The last one is what these terminals allow.

Glacier Clean does a few other things that seem obvious, but aren’t to every car wash:
• Bright lighting.
• Clean bays.
• Machines that work.

Simple, obvious stuff. Even so, not everyone does the obvious.

Who else can use this? Coin laundries. They’ve had card reader systems available for years, but there’s a big gorilla in the room that prevents a lot of them from using these systems. Batting cages, miniature golf courses, arcades, movie theaters and so on.

Many businesses in these categories are cash only because of the big gorilla in the room: Taxes. Despite the clear advantages (no more change bags, no more lost transactions because the change machine is empty) and bigger transaction sizes, they want no part of a credit card system because it means revenue can’t be hidden.

Owners with systems will be able to tell the prospective buyer what the store’s real income is without winking at them and saying “of course, it isn’t all on the books”. That always prompts more questions about your business, your books and what is and isn’t the truth. Buyers don’t like mysteries, especially mysteries about “alleged revenue”.

Think bigger. Asset growth.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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