So simple, even a car wash can do it.

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

After all, we’re looking at about 30 miles of dirt road each way, and it had rained for 3 days prior to the campout (thankfully, it stopped during the day on Saturday and Sunday).

The trailer is normally white, so you can imagine what it looked like after being pulled for 60 miles on muddy roads. And it was just hovering about freezing, so with the wind chill of moving down the road, the mud was icy as well.

I’m thinking that I need to get the mud and ice off, but I don’t really want to leave it all in my yard for the dog to track into the house.

But it’s Sunday and the banks are closed, and I sure don’t have 5 or 10 bucks worth of quarters to wash them both.

Then I remembered, I don’t have to have change.

Glacier Clean is a 3 year old self-serve car wash in the middle of Columbia Falls. I sat next to the owners at the last Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce lunch and they told me that they had added credit card terminals. I’ve not seen them anywhere else in the Flathead Valley.

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

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.

Now perhaps you folks in the big city 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. After all, no one else in town has this capability. People aren’t generally going to drive 15 miles round trip to Whitefish – whose car wash may also have this feature (I don’t drive over there just to wash my car).

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. 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 and most importantly, a larger transaction for Glacier Clean.

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 the terminals enable.

Glacier Clean does a few other things that seem obvious, but aren’t to the other car wash in town:

  • Bright lighting.
  • Clean bays.
  • Machines that work.

Little things, once again, that are so simple, even a caveman, er I mean car wash, can do them.

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. Putt putt courses. Movie theaters. Many businesses in these categories are cash only. As a result, they want no part of a credit card system that makes their clients spend more.

It doesn’t matter that the advantages are clear: no more (or lots fewer) change bags and runs to the bank, no more lost transactions because the change machine is empty or some jerk jammed a washer in the coin slot, and of course, bigger transaction sizes, they simply want no part of a credit card system because it means revenue canĂ¢??t be hidden.

What’s the other thing preventing people from implementing these systems? Taxes, of course.

These newfangled systems mean it’s no longer a cash business. Systems mean you can’t hide you revenue nearly as easily.

Thing is, people who do that are setting themselves up for a hit later in life. Why? Because accurate revenue reporting means when the time comes to sell the business, you’ll be able to tell the prospective buyer what the real income is WITHOUT winking at them or saying “of course, it isn’t all on the books, since it’s a cash business”. 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 asset growth. The revenue is gravy.

One reply on “So simple, even a car wash can do it.”

  1. We live at the end of a dirt road that is frequently more mud than dirt. There is a car wash in town that gives unlimited washes for $16 a month. It’s an automatic wash that does a better job than any other place I’ve seen and they have free vacuums to boot. (When you’ve got seven kids, you need to vacuum the van frequently).

    We definitely get our money’s worth each month.

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