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And of course, more dumb criminals...


VOL. 2, NO. 1, WINTER 2015
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1/8/15 11:06 AM

CONTENTS
Letters to the Editor ..................7

Carrs Corner
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

NRCC Show Report .................10


Promotional Poster .................24
From the Archives:
Down the Drain.........................27
Carwash Funnies from
Pinterest.......................................40
Kleen-Rite Show Report ........42
Calendar ......................................51
Innovations.................................52
How Big is the Car Wash
Industry .......................................58
Industry Dirt..............................67
Extra!Extra! ................................69
Tricks of the Trade ..................78
Express Conversions..............87
WCA Show Report................. 104
Darwin @ the Carwash ...... 108

VOL. 42, NO. 1, WINTER 2015


Publisher Jackson Vahaly
Editor Kate Carr
Design Katy Barret-Alley
Editor Emeritus Jarret J. Jakubowski
Editor Emeritus Joseph J. Campbell
Editor Posthumous Julia E. Campbell
Self Serve Carwash News is published 4
times per year and is independently owned by
Jackson Vahaly. Web address is www.sscwn.com.
All inquiries should be directed to:

Self Serve Car Wash News


110 Childs Ln., Franklin, TN 37067
jacksonv@sscwn.com
Copyright 2014.
2 Dollar Enterprises/SSCWN. All Rights Reserved

Brace yourselves: I want


to talk about credit cards.
When I started writing about the car wash industry 10 years ago, credit cards were the hot topic for
self serve operators. It wasnt a soft sell, either. At
trade show booths and educational seminars and
in online discussion forums, the pressure was on. It
felt like the trade journals were addressing the topic with a new article about the necessity of taking
cards each month. You couldnt have a conversation
without at least one operator chiming in about his
overnight success with plastic. (And another grumbling about all the hidden costs.)
Yet out of that pushing and pleading fray, I can
vividly remember only one essay. It was by the ever
diligent Joe Wolfinger. (Im sure youll recall that
gentleman and the wonderful things hes done for
our industry while reading the reprinted article
Dollars Down the Drain on page 26.) Joe wrote
a piece for me back in 2007 as part of a series of
Great Debates we were posing among industry experts for PC&D magazine. Joe was writing against
credit card acceptance at the self serve car wash.
I recall this particular article for two reasons. For
one, Joe made an argument in that piece that resonated with me: He wrote, There is an effort by
the card companies to eliminate cash in our society
and force every retailer to pay a fee on every sales
transaction. I call this a private national sales tax.
I remember proofreading his article and feeling
strangely guilty and complicit in this trend. Also, I
felt a little hoodwinked. As a member of the millennial generation, I was sent off to college with a debit
card in one hand and a cell phone in the other. By
the time I graduated, I was using plastic every time
I opened my wallet. And like all the other Millennials around me, I was completely ignorant as to the
costs I was passing on to the business owner.
I read Joes argument and I remembered all of
the subtle marketing messages in my youth. I remembered playing board games as a kid that had
fake credit cards in addition to the fake money. I
remembered my McDonalds cashier set with the
fake credit cards, too. I remembered receiving my
first piece of credit card junk mail when I was 16.
And I remembered working a $10-per-hour gig
walking around the residence halls at my college
passing out credit card applications.
An effort to eliminate cash, indeed.
The second reason Joes essay stuck with me
was because he concluded his piece by admitting
defeat -- which I think was a first for our Great
Debate series. Joe reluctantly decided to put in
credit card acceptors that year. My costs will go
up and my profits will go down, Joe wrote. I see

no pros in my decision.
I think perhaps that is where we find ourselves,
nearly 10 years later. Credit cards are a necessity
of your business, just like all the marketers and
credit card companies wanted them to be. (Unless
your carwash is in Amish country -- which I know
at least one reader out there is shaking his head at
me because he told me exactly that at a trade show
last year. So, yes, there are exceptions for some rural
market areas.)
But taken as a whole, I think you'll find the
concerns have shifted. The questions is no longer,
Should I offer credit card acceptors? But instead,
How can I protect my business while accepting
credit cards?
In our next issue, well be going in-depth on all of
the latest hubbub about merchant fees and credit
card security and I would like your input as I dig
my way through this chaos: What has your experience been with credit cards? What are some of the
more perplexing or aggravating hassles youve encountered? (There is at least one such grumbling in
our Tricks of the Trade section this issue on page
78.) In what ways have credit cards improved your
business? How have you been able to market credit
card acceptance at your wash or used it as a competitive edge? What were the factors that determined which credit card equipment you installed?
A lot of these questions were raised when we
discussed credit card security in detail at the
Kleen-Rite expo in a session led by Dave Richards
of CryptoPay. (More on the Learn More to Earn
More expo on page 40.) It is apparent from the
concerns voiced in that room that an important
conversation needs to be happening between car
wash operators and suppliers. SSCWN would like
to be a part of that discussion.
To that end, I want to tell you a cautionary tale.
Its a true story, although Ive left out the identifying details of the businesses involved. (If you absolutely have to satisfy your curiosity, you can Google
the story fairly easily by using any of the details below.) But honestly, I think the power of this tale is
improved through anonymity. If you can imagine
yourself in these shoes, you might be able to avoid
being in these shoes.
So, lets set the scene. In May 2014, police officers
in Massachusetts were investigating a robbery. As
part of their investigation they collected the pants
of a suspected gang member who had been stabbed
during the incident so they might test the blood
stains for DNA evidence. Inside these pants were
{continued }
WINTER 2015

Carrs Corner
a startling amount of credit cards which police believed were forgeries of real cards.
It didnt take long for officers to connect the dots
between these cards and a credit card fraud case
that had been called in from South Carolina. A police bureau there had been in contact with the MA
branch after a SC resident reported his credit card
data had been used to purchase goods at a Dollar
Store in Everett, MA.

Check it out!

Were providing operators with another


free poster to display in your car wash
bays or building. Head to page 24 for
the free graphic or purchase a PDF
copy to reprint at www.sscwn.com.

The methods these gangsters used to collect credit cards might have been complex, but the actual
crime wasnt: Gang members were using forged
credit cards to purchase gift cards at several local
Dollar Stores. The clerks would allow them to swipe
card after card until one of the forgeries worked.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

The credit card numbers were stolen in a variety of


ways, but at least one card used in connection with
this case was found to have been cloned from a card
used at a Connecticut car wash.
Once notified, the operators worked swiftly to
stop the hackers from accessing the data again, but
the scheme had already been running for over six
weeks. As it turned out, thieves were able to get
to the credit card numbers by taking advantage of
some outdated point-of-sale software. The cyber
criminals breached the system by using pcAnywhere, a remote-desktop software, and using default login credentials which had not been changed
or updated by the wash operator. (Its not an uncommon scenario, unfortunately.)
As Brian Krebs, an independent security expert,
explained in a report about the incident, Whether
the crooks are exploiting software vulnerabilities or
weak/default credentials in this case, security experts routinely advise companies to avoid using remote administration tools on point-of-sale devices.
Krebs added that this type of credit card fraud is
on the rise and frequently includes these kinds of
multi-state scams.
In this case, the car wash operator estimated about
1,400 users were affected out of the businesss
400,000 strong customer base.

Interestingly enough, the washs unlimited plan


customers were safe -- their data is encrypted. But
the operator strongly urged customers to continue
monitoring their credit card activity, since the number may rise over time.
If this story doesnt worry you, consider that at least
44% of small businesses reported a cyber attack in
2013, according to the National Small Business Association. The average cost of such an event was $8,700,
and the Association suggests the trend is rising.
In our next issue, well be going over the ways in
which self serve car wash owners can protect themselves from such attacks, but for now try these tips:
Have a system for routinely updating your password and login credentials and record carefully who
has access to this information.
Call your POS provider to verify that you have
the most recent software updates and credentials
from the supplier.
Ensure that your anti-virus, anti-malware and/or
firewall software is up-to-date and working correctly.
Consider purchasing insurance to cover financial
losses like these.

Until next time Happy washing!

Kate

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4 WINTER 2015

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WINTER 2015

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LETTERS
Ms. C,
I agree with many of the comments contained in the published letter by Paul Fazio in
the latest edition of the SSCWN.
While identifying a problem is one step toward a solution I think it behooves those of
us who feel there is a problem to make suggestions with regard to possible solutions.
I would like to see ICA programs at The
Show include:
A. More presentations from successful operators about their keys to success.
B. Problems and solutions developed on:
Employee theft issues
Equipment issues.
I am sure others have suggestions as well.
Earl Weiss, Pres.
Speedy Car Wash Co., Niles Car Wash Co.
Fast Car Wash Co.,
C/O Uptown Service Station, Inc.
4900 N. Broadway, Chicago, Il. 60640

Earl,
I think this harkens back to the concerns I
raised in my review of the ICA Show in the
Spring 2014 issue. So much of the value
of attending a trade show (for operators) is
in the educational offerings. Sure, you also
want to kick tires and get a little VIP treatment from the distributor and/or manufacturer -- but most of what the attendees are after is networking and knowledge. Car Wash
Show is the biggest opportunity for our industry. Again I say: Bring back the panel discussions! Bring back the roundtables!
Kate (Ms. C)

I read your article in the SSCWN


and was compelled to stop
what I was doing and write to
you about something that has
bothered me for years. Let me premise this with
some background so you can understand where
I come from. I am second generation. My family
has great perspective across the entire spectrum
from operator to distributor to manufacturer. We
are above the national average in locations that
we personally own and operate. We are primarily focused on the self-serve in bay and self-serve
wand bay markets. If I had to guess I would say
we are a medium sized equipment distributor, service provider, and car wash developer for the private and petro industries.

Dear
Paul...

Reader Input & Feedback

Kate,
I read Mr. Fazios 5 pages of whining, really. I suggest that he and everyone else vote with their
wallet; dont go to Europe, dont go to Vegas. I
am wondering if I need to spend money for a
publication that prints 5 page letters like this
as I look at the renewal notice, again voting
with the wallet. Given time it works.
Maybe Mr Fazio should start his own association called North American Only Carwash
Association.
Just my thoughts,
Jim Moran, Owner Alanson Laundry and
Carwash, Sunny downtown Alanson, Michigan

Jim,
I'm glad you wrote in. I don't think it will surprise you
to learn you're not alone in this opinion (although
the vast majority of readers have weighed in with a
more positive response). I have heard similar complaints to yours, though -- even from supporters of
Mr. Fazio -- who felt the letter was longer than necessary and thats its tone was, as you say, whiny.
One reader even took me to task at the Kleen Rite
Show: What kind of editor are you if you cant turn
five pages into five paragraphs?
To that point, Ill try to be brief. The reason I
chose to print the letter is simple:
No other trade magazine in our industry is covering this topic and I think the direction/future of
our largest trade association is an extremely important discussion to have. As such, I feel a responsibility to record as much of the discourse on
this matter as possible.
SSCWN has a long and storied history of being
the only trade magazine with a truly independent
voice. My publisher doesnt put me to task on an
article in the hopes it will draw advertising monies;

In addition, we are electrical and mechanical


contractors. I bring this up so I can go back to it later when I actually get to professional associations.
I am in full agreement that the ICA has lost its way.
I take no pain or caution in saying that because it
is without a doubt a true statement. Kudos to all
the manufacturers, distributors, and operators that
spend hundreds of thousands year after year. Nobody wants to be the one that is not there.
The manufacturers are the lifeblood of the
association, without them there is no association.
You cannot have a show without the vendors.
Operators would not attend, and manufacturers/
distributors alike are the actual boots on the ground
for the operators to gain knowledge and direction.
Sure, some of the ICA education is valuable, but

and I dont turn away from a story because Im


afraid of rocking the boat. As such, this is perhaps
the only home for letters like Mr. Fazios.
In regards to the practice of voting with your
wallet, I am like minded. But I think youll find
that kind of passive protest is best conducted in
conjunction with a more vocal one -- like youve
done here by writing into SSCWN. It clarifies the
objection and encourages response and (in the
best cases) action. I think operators have been
voting with their wallets for several years now,
and I worry the ICA has yet to hear their complaint.
I hope youll keep voting and rooting for SSCWN. Id like to think the value weve provided over
the last four issues outweighs the angst and aggravation of reading five pages of whining from an industry leader like Paul Fazio on a topic as important
as the direction and goals of the industrys largest
association. I want SSCWN to record and amplify
your voice and that of all our readers; I hope you
can see that promise in those five pages.
Kate

most of it is recycled snooze fest material. How


about telling operators about the real issues they
are facing or going to face like unionization, which
is scary. Or real topics like pit dirt, taxes, employee
training, how to find the right distributor, distributor
attended work-shops on good business practices
to name a few. For the consumer, which is the
operator, how can every product be good? There
are crappy ones out there and people need to
know which products hold up to the claims they
make. That might be worth some resources. The
water quality and affluent document and some
others that are helpful resources have not been
updated in years and are rendered useless in the
townships. Thankfully, we do all of our studies
{continued }
WINTER 2015

8 WINTER 2015

LETTERS
in house now. Oh, and maybe
somebody from the ICA should
help people understand that
flex-serve tunnels may not work
in absolutely every situation. The self-serve and in
bay are here to stay, but you would never know
that as a new investor that actually came through
the ICA or went to a show first.
This brings me to my real point. The ICA should
be spending the US dollars educating the motoring public, educating car manufacturers who still
have car wash warnings in their owners manuals
in 2014. They should be performing community
outreach, grassroots education to the people that
support all of us, and that is the motoring public and households. Spend more time squashing
charity and driveway washing. Spend more money on PSAs, media buying, and billboards. We
would all benefit by moving the needle on the
people who use any type of carwash rather than
doing it themselves. Educating fleets, trucking,
and schools on cost and environmental benefits
would be a noble thought. We pay our dues be-

cause it is not that much, but we get no benefit.


Now I am going to go back to the beginning of
what a professional member association should
act like. We are members of the largest free enterprise construction association in the country
called ABC (Association of Builders and Contractors). We pay larger dues for that type of association. They focus on the memberships needs
and wants above any individuals on the board.
They work for free enterprise, improving the businesses that provide construction so the end user
knows that they are dealing with reputable firms,
getting quality products, and the list goes on. This
is primarily accomplished through education and
measuring member firms daily practices. In the
car wash industry our measuring stick was left
behind. We are an industry of much potential, but
also one of great risk if you are a new investor.
I am going to close with a comment about a
Europe show. We currently represent a European/
USA company and have represented other European companies. We have also represented the
largest USA Company for 13 years. ICA Europe

is an idea that should get every board member


replaced. They have Automechanika, and the ICA
is free to have a 10 x 10 booth there. Any US manufacturer or other attendee is certainly free and
able to attend. For what end is this globalization
pattern other than diluting dollars, diluting resources, and/or giving board members something
to boast about at the manufacturer-paid-for cocktail parties. This disregard for membership opinion
is a train off the rails. I dont know any of them personally, and I am sure they are good people volunteering their time, but the membership should
mean more than just a good time for me to catch
up with people I have known for 25 years. What
would happen to our businesses if we alienated
all the largest customers (in this case the exhibit
vendors) because we want to do something a little different? I for one hope you stay in because
somebody needs to pay for my drinks in Vegas

Dear Editor:

only survive the heavy debt loads they carry if


they put all surrounding self serve washes out
of business. The best way to do that is to give
away one of the most profitable services at the
self serve wash, the VACUUM.
Believing this to still be a county under the
RULE of LAW, if the law stopped the oil companies from this activity why is it continuing now?
I believe if Express Washes were forced to quit
deceptively advertising vacuums as free, and
were not allowed to write off the cost of the free
service, then the threat to self serve would end
I would love to hear the opinions of other self
serve owners on this subject. Perhaps a class
action suit is in order.

would prefer express are therefore using an IBA


until the EE comes to town.
As for how to deal with express competition,
I think youll find SSCWN is solidly in the camp
of self serve evolution, whether that takes on the
path of gated pay-one-price formats, raising the
self serve price, or simply re-investing in your
carwash equipment and appearance.
I doubt as how a class action suit would help.
Even if it forced expresses to shill out a token or
to somehow indicate a cost for the free vacuum on a receipt or to remove all advertising for
free vacuums, I think youll still find the customer is drawn to express wash for a different
reason than the vacuums: Convenience. (And
after all, eliminating the free car wash with fillup did little to reduce the threat of competition
from gas station rollovers. I would argue the biggest detriment to those washes has been their
diminishing operational standards and refusal to
maintain/offer consistent value.)
I do think your letter raises one point, though:
We still dont know enough about our car wash
customers and their buying habits. Perhaps
its something the ICA could consider for their
next consumer study: How much crossover is
there between the different car wash customer
types and their car wash habits, especially in
markets where many choices abound? My theory is the busy soccer mom who doesnt want
to chip her manicure is going to choose the express every time; and the duallie truck is going
to be in your SS bay no matter how free the
vacuums might be.

Dear
Paul...

My name is Derald Kannady, and I have owned


and operated Self Serve washes in the Dallas,
Texas area since 1987. Back in the 80's, the big
concern for self serve owners was the FREE
WASH WITH A FILL UP being offered by the
oil majors at local gas stations. As I recall, the
car wash industry went after the oil majors and
eventually prevailed. Overnight the gas station
washes started charging a discount fee for their
washes, but no more FREE. My best recollection
is that there were three reasons that the oil companies stopped the free washes:
1. The wash was only free after you had
made a purchase and that was found to
be DECEPTIVE by the FTC.
2. There was cited a trade law that states
you can only give away a product for free
for 6 months during any 12 month period.
3. It was determined that the cost of the
wash equipment and the land it occupied
at the gas stations would not be deductible since the oil companies were choosing to lose money on washing activity.
All sounds fair to Self Serve owners, right?
Now consider the greatest threat to the self
serve car wash owner today: The Express Wash!
1. They offer FREE vacuum, but only after a
purchase and a trip through the tunnel.
2. They offer FREE vacuum all year around.
3. They deduct the cost of the free vacuum
equipment and all associated cost on their
taxes.
So why was it wrong when the oil majors did
it, but okay when car wash owners are doing it
to other car wash owners? Express washes can

Thank you,
Derald Kannady

Derald,
Im also hoping that other operators write-in with
their thoughts on the matter, and also, more historical data on the carwash industry vs. oil majors (I confess, its a bit before my own time in
the industry).
For myself, I can tell you we were differ on
opinion when it comes to the greatest threat to
the self serve carwash owner. I am of a strong
belief that your greatest competition is actually in the driveway, sudsing up on the weekend.
(And, sometimes, out of the driveway and in
Congress.) I think the type of customer that is
attracted to the express exterior is not usually
a potential SS customer. The only exception
might be in a market that has heretofore been
unexposed to express and those customers that

Sincerely,
Marc Tyndale
Car Wash Systems, Inc.; Harrisburg, PA

Happy washing,
Kate
WINTER 2015

S
G
H
N
I
O
K
P
L
A
T in
Northeast Regional Carwash Convention
The following is a transcript of an early bird panel discussion at
Northeast Regional Carwash Convention as recorded by SSCWN.
BOB KATSEFF: This is a meeting
for all segments; self serve, ex
serve, conveyor, in-bay automatic. Im going to open it up
to any comments, questions.
This is your meeting.
AUDIENCE: Id like to hear some
dialogue on the pros and cons
of free vacuums. Ive been in
business 30 years. Its a basic model; I give a good
value and I charge a fair price for it. Im not the lowest guy in town; Im not the highest guy in town. I
have three competitors that do free vacuums. I dont
do it. And Id like to hear the experience other people have had with their carwashes. I mean I drive by
my competitors, and their vacuum lots are full. Especially the guys with self serve. One guys got a self
serve, and he gives free vacuums with that, and that
lot is always full. But I dont know if hes increased
car counts to really make a difference with those
free vacuums. So Im curious about the experiences
everyone is having out there.
MARK: I have to give the credit to our staff because
every time I asked them what things we should do,
the vacuums would come up. Its tough to take your

10 WINTER 2015

vacs and give up revenue. That


was the toughest thing about
it. We were giving up revenue. But what we found and
we dont limit it, we just have
them there. You can use them
and leave. The theory behind it
is youre getting them trained
to come on your site. And
eventually theyll need to get a
wash and theyll use your facility. In the beginning,
we watched the customers because we were curious about if theyd use the wash. When we observed
them, most of the time they would use the wash,
too. And it gave us such a great buzz. The local Pennysaver magazine has a place where you can make a
comment, and they were writing in to thank us for
doing the free vacuums. It was about a community
service, we had a really positive reaction. It gave us
a good buzz. And again, our growth has been up in
the last two years. Weve done free vacs for at least a
year, about a year and a half. I think its contributed
to the bottom line.
BOB: Do you have somebody helping your customers to show them how they might better vacuum
their vehicle? Thats an idea it would allow you to

Panelists were:
Mike Conte,
Contes Carwash, NJ, CWONJ
Frank Lash

Frank Lash,
Alliant Car Wash Services,
PA, MCA
Dave Ellard,
Triple Pay Car Wash, MA, NECA

Fred ONeil

Mark Landers,
Perinton Express Wash,
NY, NYCWA
Fred ONeil,
Freds Car Wash, CT, CTCWA

Bob Katseff

Moderated by Bob Katseff,


Turnpike Car Wash, MA, NECA

talk to the consumer, especially one that might just


be there to use the vacuum, and to interact with the
user while theyre on the lot and maybe direct them
toward the wash.

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Patrick Ryan
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WINTER 2015

11

Northeast Regional
Carwash Convention
MARK: Yeah. We converted these vacs. They were actually coin vacuums. We used to give a free token out
if the customer bought the top-of-the-line wash. So
we converted these to a push button. At first, wed
have to go out there and explain to them how the
push button would wok it gives you like sixty seconds. So we created a dialogue with the customer to
let them know they could push the button a couple
times so they werent always running back to the car.
FRED: How weve done the free vac thing is, like
Mark, we have standard old coin-ops that everybody uses. What we went to a couple years ago, is
if you bought one of our upgraded packages, wed
give you a free token to use the vacuum. Were a
little bit constricted in real estate where we are right
now my lots are small. What we found out as we
went through this process, is people would come in
and buy the package they wanted and wed hand
them a token. We literally found ourselves going
through thousands and thousands of tokens. And
you would think that at some point these would
recycle through and people would use them. Wed
give out thousands and wed get dozens back. Maybe they were planning on it later, but people simply
werent using them. Id look in the cars and people would have cupfuls of my tokens. We got to the
point where it was a really nice benefit, but the tokens were so expensive that wed ask the customer
Are you vacuuming today? If theyre not, we printed business cards to hand them. This way, if they
werent washing that day, but they wanted to come
back another time, theyd come back and find an
attendant and hand them the card and the attendant
would give them the token. We have found it to be
a nice benefit, but again, if that is indicative of what
people do I mean, Im telling you: We literally gave
out thousands and thousands of tokens and we got
dozens back. I dont know if that helps you at all, but
thats what happened. Now everybody vacuums at
the back of our washes, and we have three exteriors
where we wipe the cars, and vacuums at all of our
locations and we didnt find it to be overwhelming.
DAVE: I think you asked about pros and cons, right?
At our sites, we have sixteen vacs stationed and we
do charge. We think about the free vac concept, and
first let me say, I think all these concepts are great
they work somewhere. The secret sauce is finding
what combination will work at your site. When we
look at it, our vacs are busy already. My site is busy.
So what scares me a little bit is that Ill make it too
busy. I dont want to have waiting lines, I dont want
traffic jams. So I havent done them because Im
busy enough but if I was looking to increase the
volume on my site, I think its a great way of doing it.
One of the cons that Ive observed from my neighbors and friends in my area that are doing it: Dumpster costs. Its not just that theyre vacuuming their
cars, theyre emptying the trash. You know, theyre
cleaning out the minivan. And Ive seen dumpster
costs triple and quadruple. And then you have the

12 WINTER 2015

labor the next morning to clean up the mess that


was left at night, sitting on the sidewalk next to your
vacs. So thats what scared me. I was willing to give
up the revenue from the vacs, but I wasnt sure I was
willing to give it up and take on the extra costs and
electricity and the maintenance and the dumpsters.
Its something to consider. But then again, Ive seen
it work at some sites tremendously well.
BOB: Good points talking about the expenses.
Theres always an upside and a downside.
AUDIENCE: I guess I have a general question about
the unlimited plans that are so popular right now.
Im wondering, are we devaluing our industry by offering these free vacs and unlimited plans? What are
we doing to our industry if we were once charging
for these services and now were giving them away?
What are we doing to ourselves?
BOB: I think in todays economy, even though it
seems to be climbing a little bit, I think little things
still matter to the consumers. It started with fast
food giving away little toys to the kids. Its a little
different concept, but youre paying for your meal
and then youre getting something in return for frequenting that facility. Its an interesting question.
But I believe we have to try different things. My
opinion would be were all going to learn. In this
industry, Ive seen it so many times itll come full
cycle. Its very possible that four or five years from
now, vacuums will be a whole different concept.
MARK: I think the unlimited thing theres some concern that youre devaluing the service, but I think the
important thing about the unlimited wash plan is
that youre getting steady revenue at the beginning
of every month. So if we have a series of wet winters
or wet years, like weve had in our area the last few
areas, youre still guaranteed to collect some revenue
every month. It kind of takes the weather out of play.
The other thing to consider is when you look at how
many times a month these people are actually coming in. As with anything, youll have some abusers,
someone who comes in several times a week. But
people who have studied the numbers, I think the
average time is something between 2 and 2.5 times a
month. So I think it comes down to the pricing and
how you set the plan up. You know, it cant be $10
a month, but its probably not $39.95 for just exteriors either. You need to set the price so that youre
still making money and covering the actual number
of times they come in. I think it can be a
real powerful thing. And to Bobs point,
things do come full circle. Whats hot
right now, you can kind of capitalize on
it and ride the wave and maybe long term
its not popular in five or seven years down
the road. But for right now, I think taking the
weather out of the equation is nice. We all deal
with the weather. This is a really effective way
to smooth out your revenue.
MIKE: Were actually in an area where the

economy is not good. New Jersey is just a devastated area; were taxed to death. So were looking at
unlimited plan, were looking at free vacuums. Or
doing tokens for the vacs. So were looking at everything to generate volume because like I said, were
in a devastated area. Were trying to live, much less
wash a car.
AUDIENCE: To address the question about devaluing
our service, you know, 2008 was one of our worst
weather years and that happened to be about the
year that we started the unlimited program. What
weve all been trying to do all these years is to tap
into our existing customers. The easiest thing to do
is to increase the frequency of our existing customers. As our unlimited program has grown since 2008,
every single year since then our profits have been
increasing. Thats what were really trying to do, is to
increase our profits. Were not trying to devalue our
service, were trying to increase profit. And were
also trying to inuence the behavior of our customers. The unlimited program has been the best way to
encourage your customer to wash more frequently.
Now, the other loyalty program weve always had,
are those ticket books. And over the years weve reduced the number of wash tickets in those books.
It wasnt just reducing the number of tickets but
reducing the price. Weve made it more affordable
for that visit for the person to purchase the wash
book. So now we have a two ticket wash book. Basically, if the customer doesnt have any with them,
theyre buying our best wash and then theyre buying the next wash for a total of $19. And between
the unlimited and the ticket books, 80 percent of
our volume every day is from one of those two loyalty programs. We have another location that is two
hours away from other sites, and theyve got 3,600
unlimited customers. Over 80 percent of our volume there is an unlimited customer. We still havent
figured out what the silver bullet is I really think
its both but it depends on how you get started
and if youre willing to suffer through those years or
months of building your unlimited program. It takes
a lot of patience. I dont know that anybody knows
what the right price is, but once you get busier you
can slowly raise the price on your club as you mold
your customers into frequent washers.
BOB: Without getting into numbers at a meeting
like this, but some people have washed a lot of cars
around the country at a lower price and theyre
starting to raise price. Not to increase revenue but
to limit some of the volume. To change the model
a bit. So I think the marketing, whether it be unlimited or books or whatever its another way to
market your business and increase profits.
AUDIENCE: Ive always felt that value added is a
better route. Ive got attended self serve bays.
For the last 25 years, Ive got these branded crevice tools that we pass out to people
vacuuming their cars. And youd think were
handing them a $10 bill because theyre so

WINTER 2015

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Northeast Regional
Carwash Convention
frustrated trying to get in between the seats and these
crevice tools can get in there. I tell them to keep em
and use them the next time they come by. To this
day, I see hundreds and hundreds of people coming in with those crevice tools. Now I dont know if
its because we gave them the thing or because its
got our name and address on there, but either way,
theyre coming in. When I first started these things
were just 80 cents apiece, now theyve gone up to
a buck. So, for the last few years we havent given
them out. We put them in our vending machine and
we vend them for a few dollars or something. So,
I dont know, its just a different way to add value
without giving away a car wash.
BOB: So, these crevice tools do they just put them
on the hose and leave them for the next customer?
Did you train the customer how to use them?
AUDIENCE: Ah, no. These crevice tools what they do
is they fit right inside the vacuum hose we actually
put a roll of tape in there, too -- and the customer
takes them out after and takes it with them.
BOB: So whats on the end of the hose, if its not the
crevice? The one with the 45-degree angle?
AUDIENCE: Yes.
BOB: SO theyre able to insert the one that you provide,
vacuum, remove it, and then theyre on their way?
AUDIENCE: Yes.
BOB: Good idea. Next speaker?
AUDIENCE: Good morning. Ive got a full service car
wash and our biggest challenge is speedier service
or processing cars in a faster way. Any suggestions?
BOB: Are you talking about on a man-hour basis?
AUDIENCE: Yes. Customers dont want to wait. Rule
of thumb that Ive been told is 10-12 minutes is
about what a customer wants to wait. Were far beyond that. Its our biggest challenge.
BOB: Its interesting, New England Carwash Association did a focus group for customers a couple years
ago. They asked how long would you wait for a carwash? And most people said if they saw four or five
cars in line, they would equate that with a long wait
time. Its too long. You dont really want to add labor
to the equation if you dont have to, but you could
add equipment. You could run the conveyor chain
at a faster speed if it could still maintain quality. But
if you cant do that, youve got to increase labor.
SPEAKER: Im not in that industry, Im in manufacturing, but any time we could buy a tool or do
something to decrease labor and speed up productivity was worth the investment. Im not sure what
youre doing or not doing, but if theres any kind of
tool you could use, you should invest in that because
people dont want to wait.
FRANK: Two ideas: One, look at your procedures.
Do you have set procedures for how you vacuum a

16 WINTER 2015

car, how you wipe down a car? Do you use teams?


You can improve your efficiency by creating some
standard procedures so that every employee is processing cars the same way. And then the other thing,
is equipment. What part of the wash is holding the
process up? Is it interior glass? Is it your vacuuming?
Is it wheels? What equipment can you add that can
take the labor component out of those hands? Another thing to consider is that the motoring public
the way they approach car washing is changing,
too. They dont want to wait for a full service wash.
Coming from the South, Ive seen the rise of the
exterior express. People want to get in, they want
to get out. I think that as we all get older and our
customers get younger, I think what they want out
of a car wash is starting to change.
BOB: Have you traveled to different full service car
washes to watch and see what others have done? I
would recommend that. Its very important. This is
an industry where people share, and Im so pleased
to see that. So, I think, go to other locations and
see what their procedures are and how you can incorporate it into what you do. If you can increase
productivity with equipment as opposed to labor,
I think that would be the most lucrative way to
achieve that goal.
WALT HARTL, HOFFMAN, NY, NYSCWA: One question:
Do you offer express exterior at your wash? Because
you might want to consider taking those customers
and giving them an alternate path to the conveyor
so that you can reduce waiting times. It depends on
your layout, but thats a simple action you can take
immediately to achieve a time savings.
AUDIENCE: I have a question for Dave. How were
you able to work with the town to save money on
your water bill?
DAVE: Well it was a little bit accidental. We were supposed to have a sewer meter which would track the
water in and water out. The city installed it, but the
city never read it for the first two years. Then came the

bill. It was unlikely that I would be able to catch up


on two years of sewer readings because of their mistake. So we started to work together on the recycling
of water. And when they realized how much water I
was recycling and how it was cleaner as it exited, they
actually reduced all my surcharges down. And then I
started understanding the recycling better, so I started putting more of my arches on my reclaim water
versus using my city water or reject water. I started
using less new water per car. I brought my gallons of
water per car down, and the amount of recycled water up. And that brought my average water bill with
sewer from $10,000 a month to $5,000 a month.
And I know it works. I had some problems with some
pumps in my recycling system the last couple of
months and it immediately went back up to $10,000
again. As soon as I got the bill I knew that it wasnt
operating correctly. We fixed it. The bill went back to
$5,000. So its a $5,000 swing for me between recycling and not recycling my water.
BOB: Ive spent some time with regulators in different cities and towns and it is just so important to
try to educate these regulators on how the car wash
works. They all think we use so much water. And we
know how much water the average person wastes
to wash a car in a driveway versus going to a commercial facility! The education process is key. By the
way how many people have wells? How many of
you have been forced to put in a sewer meter? I see
theres about 10 with wells, but just one who was
required to put a sewer meter. Was that at the get go
or was that after you opened?
AUDIENCE: All of my locations have wells and the
town right from the start required the water meter
but not on the sewer. Its on the incoming water
from the well. After a brief period of time, a year or
two, I worked with them and I was able to have a
reduction based on evaporation and other losses. At
one location it was about 10 percent off, at the other
I think it was maybe five percent.
When we started doing it, about twenty years ago,
the sewer meters were deemed too expensive and
too unreliable. Thats why its on the incoming water.
DAVE: Thats another way to save money since we
recycling our water. We have a water meter on the
water coming in to monitor that water, obviously,
but the sewer costs going out is twice the rate of the
water coming in. So its like $4 per thousand cubic
feet of water coming in, and its like $8 for the water going out. But since I have a sewer meter and a
water meter, I now know that only 7 percent of the
water I take in is going out to the sewer. The rest is
evaporation, its in ground. I dont know where it
goes. It doesnt go to the sewer. So if youre paying
your water bill based on your water and your sewer,
youre losing out. If you can get your town to agree
to a sewer meter as well as a water meter, youll cut
the cost of the more expensive side of the water.
BOB: The International Carwash Association did

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17

WINTER 2015

6/10/13 9:42 AM

Northeast Regional
Carwash Convention
a study on exactly just this in all segments of the
industry, in-bay, self serve and conveyor. That information is available. We all know water is being
carried out and evaporated. As you try to increase
your revenues, you should also look at how you can
manage costs.
Editors Note: Check out our story on page 26 for more
information about saving money on your water and sewer bills!

FRED: In certain communities in Connecticut, we


were able to go in and argue exactly that: That
there is a certain amount of carry out and evaporation and irrigation. We were able to successfully
argue to the town authorities for a reduction on our
sewer bill. I think it was 10 percent. You may be
successful in approaching your town that way and
using the ICA study.
FRANK: I think Dave DuGoff will probably remember this better than I do, but back in early 2000 in
Charlottesville, VA, they had a shortage of water and
they shut down all the car washes. Something about
the reservoir, I think. Dave and I were pretty actively involved in the discussions. One of the interesting
things that came out of it was that government considers car washes to be large users of water, but the
reality is your neighborhood McDonalds and local
restaurants use way more water than any car wash
does. So I think the lesson is to educate your local
government and have a drought plan in place, too.
Most of us now recycle water, too. I just remember
being amazed by the fact that a McDonalds uses
more water than we do. You have to have a plan in
place, though, because once they get it in their minds
to shut the carwashes down, theyre not going to just
change their minds. Youll have to give them a reason
to open them up again. Another thought, too, is a lot
of this talk about reclaim. You know, Dave mentioned
taking the reject water and using it in your spot-free
system. I think its roughly two gallons of fresh water
to make one gallon of spot-free. And if the reject water is good quality water, you can put it in a tank and
re-use that and reduce your water usage.
MIKE: Weve just cut back our water usage by just experimenting with the equipment. Youd be amazed
what changes when you just start playing around
with nozzles sizes. I mean, the tips and the way you
can mess around with the foamers and things like
that. The whole trick then is to think outside the
box. You go on the bus tours and things like that
and get back to your wash and just look around, look
around, look around.
BOB: To that point, I was at a location a week and a
half ago and saw some interesting nozzles on a wheel
cleaner. I looked at their pattern and the gallons per
minute, and the quality of the wheel was as good
if not better using less water and not touching the
wheel by hand. Just high pressure and some friction.
We owe it to ourselves and our customers to watch
our expenses. Its important to get out there and see

18 WINTER 2015

what other people are doing.


AUDIENCE: I wanted to go back to the unlimited plans.
I watch and I track that activity, and whether it makes
a difference or not, I can track numerous customers
who have used our program since we started it four
years ago and still use it today. I think that speaks volumes for our program because each year, consistently, I have more and more customers that stay in it. Its
a great hit at the beginning of the month that carries
you through some of these slower months, like October. As far as the free vacuums, that was another
experiment. Our staff recommended it and I have
so many people who come up to me and tell me
Thank you. They wont go anywhere else. They are
loyal, they come back, and they keep traffic on our
site which keeps the traffic coming from the road.
Thats how our vacuums are set up people can see
them from the road. One of our key things is how
we present ourselves. Our employees are expected
to have a smile on their face. You might be having
a rough day, but people are coming in because they
want a good feeling and a clean car at our wash. Its a
quick high. Theyre getting something done, theyre
feeling accomplished. They want a good experience.
You know, four months after our wash opened, my
husband had to have his leg amputated. There were
many days when I wanted to stand there and cry. But
I wouldnt do it. We made it through and we kept a
smile on our faces. Thats just my two cents.
BOB: Those are some very good two cents.
AUDIENCE: Good morning, everyone. If I may be so
bold (and I am): The biggest issue at most carwashes is
the operator. These are some great ideas, but you need
to implement them. You need to be disciplined. You
need to be committed to change. We operate a variety
of different carwashes. And we do have unique situations at every site. But at the end of the day, every day
is a great day. Were washing cars, customers are happy. Were using the right amount of chemical. Were
using good chemicals. Were delivering a great level of
service and we look to increase that all the time. When
it comes to unlimited plans, you hear a lot of people
worrying about people who are going to abuse the
plan. And yes, that happens. But I could tell you on
one hand the people who abuse the system. Id need a
volume of notebooks to tell you about everyone who
doesnt. Its a great way to take the weather out of the
business every day is Christmas. We get paid every
day, not monthly. I look at my numbers every day and
its a great way to adapt to what new buyers are doing
in business. You need to update, participate or evaporate. Because somebody else is going to come into
your market and take it away from you. Tokens? We
lose about 35 percent of our tokens. So what? Its a
great advertisement sitting in the ashtray. We now dispense our tokens from our pay stations, the customer
has an option for Yes or No and weve seen a drop
in how many weve lost since we put that question
there. People are more consciously aware they have
them. As far as the vacuums I dont care if people

come in every single day and vacuum their car and


leave. You have to look at all the different ideas and
see what appeals to you. Thirty day trials are useless
you need to give it a lot more time than that to see its
being executed properly and if it will work for your
location. Right now your carwash customer is coming
in once a month, once every few months or maybe
just a few times a year. It takes a while to build that
discipline and commitment to build your unlimited
plan. Your customers are changing and you need to
adapt to what theyre doing.
BOB: Were looking to make some changes ourselves.
Its not just changing the services you offer, its actually the way you operate your business.
FRED: Just one more thought on the unlimited programs going forward thats a little bit different than
whats been mentioned today. I know theres not
a person in this room that ever wants to leave the
carwash business, but unlimited plans represent reoccurring, verifiable income to your business. One
of the hardest things to prove when you go to sell
is reoccurring, verifiable income. That is going to
make you more money if you ever choose to leave
this business. Frankly, when Im seeing a substantial
amount of businesses going to subscription plans. It
makes all the difference.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Ive got a number of vans that come
to my wash painters, contractors, landscapers, that
type of thing. Does anybody have any ideas for how
you can direct them to a certain bay? Id like them to
stop using the bays that see a lot of business because
those need to stay cleaner during the day. We actually have three sites, and our first site is slower now
because our newest site is only a mile from that location. Wed actually love to direct them to that slower
carwash if we could. Im not sure what kind of incentive would work, though. Should we have one bay at
every car wash for the working mans truck?
BOB: I know some people have designated one bay
as a high pressure bay as a way to attract those contractors. You just use a lot of signage or banners to let
people know. Any other ideas?
AUDIENCE: One thought is maybe you could put in a
card reader at that slower wash and then approach
the companies to offer them a deal using a eet card.
AUDIENCE: you might want to try to incentivize it so
they get a deal when they come Monday through
Thursday, or off your peak days, too. Keep the traffic
out of the weekend.
AUDIENCE: Hi. We currently have an unlimited plans.
One is a yearly and one is a monthly. But its something the customer has to renew each time. What
wed like to do is have it automatically deducted
from their credit card or checking accounts. But we
were a little concerned about the legalities of that.
Id like to find out if thats how most people are doing it and what companies theyre using or how its
working for them.

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WINTER 2015

19

20 WINTER 2015

Northeast Regional
Carwash Convention
BOB: Yes, thats available and I think its the most
common way of doing it. And on the show oor
youll see some companies who offer exactly what
youre describing. Is anyone else doing it this way?
AUDIENCE: Yes, we are. We found it was cost prohibitive to retrofit everything to do it companywide
with 13 locations. Were doing it manually now and
hoping to add a site at a time.
AUDIENCE: We tried it that way, too. We used number cards and my greeter had a great memory so he
would just recognize the cars. But it was totally unmanageable. I think we had about 200 people signed
up then. So, now we do it the automatic way. Everything is reoccurring. We do it monthly and yearly
programs. The credit cards make it easier to manage.
AUDIENCE: I havent heard much conversation about
the self serve business. Ive got a full serve, an express
and a self serve location, and I was wondering if everybodys finding the same problems with their self
serves that I am. Theyre just dinosaurs. Business is
going down constantly. Anybody have any ideas on
how to revitalize my self serve?
BOB: Dave, you want to address that?
DAVE DUGOFF, COLLEGE PARK CAR WASH, MD, MCA:
Sure, yeah! Ive had my current location 17 years.
The self serve is still a great business. I dont understand why people have trouble with it. I reinvest.
I just updated my self serve. I replaced my pump
stand equipment, the bays, put oor booms in, added the wheel brush. We opened August 1st. We had
a great month. Self serve is still a very viable business for us. If youre not putting money back into it,
youre missing it. Because its there.
BOB: I feel the same way you do, Dave. The facility
has to be well lit, the equipment has to work. Are
you taking credit cards? Were doing a 20 minute
wash for $8, whether its cash or credit. Credit however, were doing count down, and thats a minimum
of $8 for credit card. Weve thought about changing
that a little bit. A lot of operators like count up. But
were marketing the 20 minute wash, so I think its
important to go out and see what other people are
doing. Youve got to reinvest. Youve got to make
sure everything is clean. There are consumers out there that want to use a self serve.
MARK: I think credit card is important, and
offer other services in there. We have triple foam, sprayers, the brush, the air dryers.
Give them more options and theyll use
more time. We just started count up for our
credit cards and its working real well at one
of our locations. I think theres ways to keep
them in there using the time.
BOB: In self serve, youre selling time. The
more options, the more time theyll use.
Anyone else?
AUDIENCE: Were thinking of offering unlimit-

ed pass at our ex serve. We want to offer a discount


on some of the more labor intensive detail services
when we do that, a discount for the unlimited customers. What type of incentive could we do to encourage that?
DAVE: We actually do that at Triple Play in Boston. We
have a loyalty program that we actually charge people
for its $39 a year. They get a card and it gives them
a whole bunch of benefits: I think its15 percent off oil
changes and our detail services, every eighth wash free,
and a free wax on their birthday. That kind of thing.
But they pay to get in. What we offer our unlimited members is free membership to that. So if they
join the unlimited program and we charge their credit
card monthly, then they get the loyalty program and
the card for free. Then when they go through, they
can use that card to buy those detail services and other
services at a discount. Its worked for us.
AUDIENCE: It is gated?
DAVE: I have gates, but I attend them.
AUDIENCE: Ive got a comment on one thing we did
this year. We upgraded all our sites to LED lights
and our electrical company provided about 70 percent cost payment for that, so our cost was only 30
percent for that. And the payback was within a couple years, so thats a savings opportunity.
BOB: Interesting. You know, we found that we were
offered a 20 percent discount on our electricity
bill if we paid within 15 days. If you can explore
some of these discount programs, you can find
some real savings.
AUDIENCE: We have a tunnel with four self serve
bays. We just did a conversion of 12 of the lights at
the self serves from metal halide to CFL. We saved
$200 on our monthly bill. Im not talking about a
$2,000 bill, either. This was normally a $500 bill. Its
tremendous.
BOB: Yes, and just a note, that you can check with
your local utility to see if they have lighting exchange programs or rebates for these conversions to
help cover the cost of the new lights.
AUDIENCE: I have some mercury lights and some

metal halide lights. Can we just change those to


compact uorescent without any electrical work?
AUDIENCE: Yes, you just take the transformer out,
run a 110VAC right to the socket, and put the CFL
in and youre done. The other thing is, when something goes wrong, you just change the bulb.
FRED: Just a quick note on CFLs: The light from it
does grey. LEDs have a much longer lifespan. You
will get some degradation in your output over time.
The CFL will grey much faster. LEDs are becoming
more affordable now. Just a thought.
AUDIENCE: At the last few shows theres been a lot
of buzz about the hot wax. Could we talk about
that a bit?
BOB: You mean like the carnauba stuff?
AUDIENCE: The type thats pouring down and dripping in the tunnel.
DAVE: We have it at our tunnel and we put it in all of
our automatics as an option. A lot of our customers
love it and they use it again. Its a good opportunity
to talk to them about their vehicle and the up-sell
for the package. And were finding it about 20 percent of the customers are buying it all the time. Even
with the in-bay automatic; I was surprised there. We
converted all the sites over. Its not as showy as you
can do in the tunnel, but theres still quite an effect.
BOB: Right, so some people are offering it as an a la
carte service and then some people are just using it
in their top packages. Some are doing both.
AUDIENCE: What was the ROI like for the equipment
package and installation?
DAVE: Months. It was literally within months. It was
a very good investment. I actually laugh a little bit
about this. Ive been in the business since 1980 and
I can still remember taking out my last top brush
and jumping up and down on top of it and saying,
Youll never hurt me again! And yet, in the last five
years Ive probably put in six top brushes because
its come back. The same cycle has happened with
the hot wax. I can still remember taking out all these
hot wax arches in the early 1980s, thinking this is
never going to run again. And in the couple years,
its just resurrected itself and coming back
as a new opportunity. Its a real opportunity.
If youre not doing it, you should do it as
quick as you can.
BOB: Yes, these top brushes, I can remember
you couldnt get rid of them fast enough
when mitters were introduced. Talk about
full circle! Its interesting that theyre doing
a different type of cleaning process thats
safer and faster.
AUDIENCE: We put in a hot wax arch last
year. We paid for the equipment in three
weeks. Its 20 to 30 percent of our customers that are buying it. And we do it a
WINTER 2015

21

Northeast Regional
Carwash Convention
la carte only. Its made a tremendous amount of
money for us.
DAVE: Yeah, and the thing about hot wax is, not only
is it going to improve your revenue and your ticket,
its one of those services that you can see working. I
mean, our customers are very happy with the way
their cars are turning out. And its all types: Cars,
pickup trucks. It puts a sheen on it and they literally see the improvement. There are many chemicals
that we put on, but they dont give that wow factor.
You just dont see that its doing something good.
But Ive seen at our carwashes that literally, the cars
look better. People know what theyre paying for. I
mean, if you do 10,000 cars a month, and just 10
percent of your customers buy it, thats easy to attain. So if just 1,000 cars are using it, and youre
getting $6 for the service, then thats $6,000. You
could easily be in the game.
FRED: And as for the education, you know, people
know what hot wax is I mean, its been around
since the 70s. Youre not reeducating people to a
new service or a new product that they cant pronounce the name or that they dont understand. I
mean, I think the education is done. Your customers
know what hot wax is.

AUDIENCE: It seems like you guys are in universal


agreement about the hot wax. My question is, for
those of you who have done it, did you also have
triple foam, Rain-X, clear coat, and all of that? Did
you rip one of those out and put it in place of that?
Especially for the people who had success with an a
la carte package I can understand people getting it
as part of your top package, where it seems like its
free, but are these customers choosing to buy the
hot wax in addition to triple foam, Rain-X and clear
coat? Or are they buying cheaper packages?
FRED: Yes. We added it on to our top package to
make it a super top package. We went up in price.
And we do offer it a la carte.
AUDIENCE: I have triple foam, sealant, and also some
stuff I cant pronounce.
AUDIENCE: We have everything, too, and what weve
found is that it just sells itself. They might not do it
every time, but theyre doing it once a month or whatever. We have the greeters wear specialty shirts, we
market it on the site.
AUDIENCE: We have everything, all this stuff, and we
threw it on top of that. We do not include it in our
top package. Our unlimited customers are opting

for it, too about 25 percent of them. It gives us


an opportunity to talk to them, too. We were concerned about our unlimited part of our business, but
that is one of the groups that is really going for it.
AUDIENCE: Heres something, if you put it in, make
sure youre putting enough product on. If you try to
skimp out on the product, youre not going to get
that sheen. But if you put the product out there, the
customers will love it.
DAVE: I think its an easy decision to add the service.
I think the question is: How are you going to inform
the customer that you have this? I think the secret is
making sure the customer knows what the value is.
What we do, is we sell it and we advertise it at the
gas station pumps. Every customer that stands there
to put gas in their car, they watch a video that shows
it being put on the car and its pretty impressive.
Then when they come up to our pay station, they
see the video again. And no matter where they buy
the car wash at the pump or the lube or at the
kiosk they have to say Yes or No. That really
has driven our business. Everybody sees what it is.
Thats whats selling it for us.
AUDIENCE: So where should I put it on?

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DAVE: I put it right before my last mitters and before the
Rain-X and final rinse. I put it where my triple foam
was and moved my triple foam earlier in the tunnel.
BOB: Did you have to add another rinse arch?
DAVE: No. I believe it rinses a lot easier than the
triple foam.
AUDIENCE: Years ago there was a company that
would come to your site and they would tell you
what colors your customers would like. Not what
you want maybe pink or blue or whatever but
they would tell you the right colors. Is that attractive to the customer? These companies would come
by and they would say, Your sign is ugly. I know
you think its wonderful and your great Aunt Betty
designed it, but you need to take that down. Or I
know youre Irish and you like this green, but its
wrong for this site. Rather than painting and designing your site to your likings, it would be for the customers preferences. And I also remember -- I would
hope most of us belong to our regional Associations
- but I remember years ago we could go around to
everyones car washes and we would rip apart each
others car washes. I remember one time I had these
shrubs out there and I said, Guys, how can I make
these shrubs look better? Ive been working on them

for years. And they all looked at me and said, Pull


em out! Well, I couldnt say that to myself. I needed somebody else to come in there and give me
some constructive criticism. They were right. They
were 100 percent right. But I needed someone else
to tell me that. So many times, we think weve got
the right thing going on. But maybe we cant see it
maybe it doesnt look appealing or it doesnt look
inviting for the customer to come in. You know, you
need to be willing to get some other opinions.
BOB: Good points. Good points.
AUDIENCE: Is anybody putting that hot wax or the
lava arch up at the front of the tunnel? You know, so
the customer might be able to see it as theyre waiting in line instead of just in between mitters.
AUDIENCE: We do something like that. We have a bubblelizer there; its the first thing you see inside the tunnel. Its doing the same thing as the hot wax, were
not running the lava through it its a low pH. But its
the same thing. You can see it from the main road, its
lit right up. And people drive in and they say, What
was that stuff?? I want that stuff! That red stuff! Kids
come in and theyre excited. People love it. You can
see it. Thats in our top package with the hot wax.

AUDIENCE: So you do it twice?


AUDIENCE: Yes. They get the low pH when they come
in, and then after the triple foam, we had to add a small
rain arch to get the triple foam off the cars so that you
can see the hot wax. We did 54 percent got the top
package last month. Its definitely paid off for us.
WALT HARTL, HOFFMAN CAR WASH, NY, NYSCWA: One
last thing before we close, I wanted to make a plug
for Grace for Vets. If youre not signed up, you need
to sign up. Its graceforvets.org. We give away a free
carwash or oil change to all veterans on Veterans
Day. It is absolutely the best program that we do. Its
been an amazing experience for us, for our employees. Our staff tells us how they look forward to coming into work that day. We get hundreds of emails
afterwards thanking us. Its a wonderful thing to do
for your community, for your car wash. Its absolutely incredible. Its a national program and they make
it very easy to participate, just visit the website and
all the promotional materials and details are there.
Its www.graceforvets.org.
BOB: Excellent. Thanks for that reminder. It is a wonderful program. And thanks to our panelists and to
our audience. This has been a great session, very informative. Have a great show!

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23

WINTER 12/4/13
2015 2:25 PM

Do our fish a favor,


take it to the car wash.
When you wash at home, the cleaning chemicals (hydrochloric acid, naphthalene,
methylene chloride, sulfuric acid and phosphates), dirt and contaminants from
your car (oil, antifreeze, transmission uid) go down the driveway, to the sewer,
and then nally reach our local streams, lakes, and oceans. Car wash chemicals
and vehicle runoff can kill our sh and other wildlife. Commercial carwashes are
required by the EPA to use water treatment centers or septic systems in addition
to meeting local pollution control criteria.

24 WINTER 2015

WINTER 2015

25

TM

26 WINTER 2015

FROM THE SSCWN ARCHIVES

Dollars
Down the
Drain:
Can we
stem the
tide?

You are being


overcharged on sewer
costs! Heres the proof ...
and a way to find relief.
By: Jarret J. Jakubowski, Editor Emeritus
The following article is a compilation of two articles that were first run in the SSCWN over 25
years ago, and published again in Fall 2001. Were
reprinting them yet again because the info/data
is still perfectly relevant, and unfortunately, the
problem of excessively escalating sewer bills has
gotten so much worse in so many different areas
around the country.
These articles are an excellent example of both
independent initiative and
a willingness to help other
operators. Such endeavors
characterize many of the
new breed of the best in
professional self serve operators. So we want to thank
Joe Wolfinger of Solar Shine
Carwash in Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania for his important pioneering efforts
and Larry Morrison of East
Adams Carwash in La-

Grange, Oregon for his valuable follow-up work.


We would also encourage others to do likewise on
this and other issues that impact the industry. The
more we share, care and communicate, the better
off well all be.
Well start with the man who got this ball rolling
-- Joe Wolfinger -- who had been motivated to do
something when his sewer bill increased suddenly and dramatically -- in excess of $8,000 -- and
virtually overnight! Joe knew that considerably
more water was being piped into his carwash than
was going out via the sewers, and yet his sewer bills
were based on his water bills. One gallon of water
in must equal one gallon of water/sewage out
or so most rate boards reason. But he realized that
before he could convince those setting his sewer
rates that he was being unfairly overcharged -- he had
to accumulate and present
the rate board hard data to
substantiate a request for a
rebate or rate adjustment.
After some investigation
Joe discovered that Penn
State had a program, personnel and expertise to help.
The following tests were
scientifically designed and
the data compiled under
the objective auspices of the
University. The cost? Free!
{continued }

To the SSCWN Editors and Readers:


I have completed a water loss test that was designed
to determine what percentage of the water that entered
the wash bay actually reached the sewer system. This
test was designed by the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program which is administered by the Pennsylvania State University. I thought your readers might find
the results very informative.
As you can see, any carwash that is paying sewer rates
based on incoming water meter readings is being substantially over charged. Even when a vehicle with a small
surface area (such as a motorcycle) was washed directly over the sewer trap -- 12 percent of the water never
reached the sewer trap!
We found three major loss areas: Evaporation from the
bay floor and walls, direct vehicle Carry Out, and Atomization directly into the air from the nozzle tip.
This is a cost area for carwashes that is going to become more critical as time goes on. We found that the
main concern the sewer department had was developing
a billing system that was easy for them to administer.
What is needed is for our national organizations to develop some more testing data and lobby directly to the
Environmental Protection Agency for a recognized percentage of water losses based on the type of carwash.
This could then be used as a rate allowance on any federally funded sewer project. Virtually all local sewer departments receive funding from the EPA and this would help
prevent inequitable sewer rates to carwashes.
Joe Wolfinger,
Solar Shine Carwash,
Chambersburg, PA

FROM THE
SSCWN
ARCHIVES

Dollars Down
the Drain

Our readers might be surprised to discover that


there are many governmental agencies, university
programs, and independent organizations around
which can provide a business person with all manner of assistance. Your public library information
service and a book called Information U.S.A. by
M. Lesko are a couple good places to start.
Bottom line -- these tests demonstrated that of
all the water used at a typical self serve carwash an
average one gallon out of three does not even get
to the sewer!
In certain areas, sewer rates are a staggering 30
percent of costs and are literally destroying carwash businesses. It was the SSCWNs hope that
Joe Wolfingers study would provide a springboard
for more research, organized lobbying efforts, and
more effective tools for carwash operators to deal
with their local boards of bureaucrats. There has
been and is important movement in that direction. The International Carwash Association has
available some good adjunct data and materials.
The video tape Home Carwashing and Environmental Concerns produced by the ICA and Tom
Hoffman illustrate how self serve carwashes are
actually meaningful environmental assets to any
community by helping save water resources and
protecting ecological integrity. Driving our carwashes out of business hurts more than just the
carwash owner and his employees.
The SSCWN wants to again thank Joe for his efforts and acknowledge his special contributions to
our industry which have had a ripple effect far beyond Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. We hope other
operators are inspired by his example.
The following is a letter sent to the SSCWN
with the data Joe Wolfinger compiled:

Flow Rates

5. Pre Soak, 7.5 Pints Per Minute


6. Foam Brush, 0.5 Pints Per Minute
7. HP Wash/Rinse (1250 PSI), 32 Pints Per Minute

#4. COMPACT CAR


Cleaned Saturn-sized car. Used PreSoak. Floor
was dry at start of wash process.

#1. MORNING CLEAN UP


A typical morning cleaning: use HP Rinse to push
debris toward drain. Sprayed clean foam brush, signs,
hose, grease spots, and mat holders. Also cleaned first
four feet of entrance pad with HP Rinse.

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 176


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ......................... 96.8
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ........................... 77.5
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....20%

#5. FULL SIZE CAR


Cleaned full size, four-door car. Floor was very
wet at start of test. No PreSoak was used.

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 144


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ......................... 79.2
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ......................... 34.75
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....56%

#2. Floor Clean Up


A short clean up of the bay floor only -- HP Rinse
to push debris toward center of bay and drain.
TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ................. 72

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 297


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 163.3
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ......................... 124.5
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....24%

#6. PICK UP TRUCK


Full sized American pick-up. Floor was very wet
at start.

Test Procedure
1. Completely removed all residue (solids and
fluids) from test trap.
2. All wash and rinse fluids touching floor will
drain to trap via standard bay floor designed
to gravity feed fluids into trap.
3. Established the flow rate of water for the various wash and rinse services (33:5 Pints Per
Minute average flow).
4. Typical wash and water usage:
Performed a variety of maintenance/cleanup activities to bay structures (walls, floors,
signs, etcetera).
Washed and rinsed a wide range of vehicles -from small motorcycle to a semi-truck and trailer.
Wait until wash/rinse water stops draining
into enclosed container (from 5 to 10 minutes,
depending on size of vehicle).
Finally -- measure water in container and
compare to established flow rates (from wand
and foaming brush).

28 WINTER 2015

PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ......................... 39.6


PINTS Of Water Trapped: ........................... 26.5
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....33%

#3. Wall Clean Up


HP Rinsed walls between 4 and 10 levels. Walls
were dry at start. Water that ran off walls followed
low spots of floor to drain -- 75 percent of floor
remained dry.

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: 60


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): 35
PINTS Of Water Trapped: 10.75
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: 70%

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 299


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 116.5
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ......................... 164.4
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....29%

#7. Large School Bus


Back 10 of bus would not fit into bay. Customer
had to wash half of bus at a time.

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 528


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 290.4
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ....................... 190.75
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....34%

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WINTER 2015

29

FROM THE
SSCWN
ARCHIVES

Dollars Down
the Drain

#8. Motorcycle

#9. Small School Bus

#11. Small Pickup Truck

Medium-sized bike was placed directly over


drain while being washed. Floor was dry.

Downsized bus which fit entirely into bay. Floor


was dry at start.

Compact pickup. Substantial time spent flushing wheel wells and mats. Floor was dry.

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 350


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 192.5
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ....................... 125.25
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....35%
.....

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 599


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 329.4
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ....................... 263.75
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....20%

#10. Van

#12. Semi-Truck

Full-sized van with exterior spare tire. Very


thorough undercarriage wash. Dry floor.

Semi pulled a trailer, but cleaning time was primarily focused on cab portion.

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 299


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 145.5
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ......................... 104.4
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....11%
.....

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: 897


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): 493.3
PINTS Of Water Trapped: 209
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: 58%

TIME (Seconds) to Wash & Rinse: ............... 267


PINTS Of Water Flow (In): ....................... 146.8
PINTS Of Water Trapped: ......................... 129.5
PERCENTAGE Of Water Lost to Sewer: .....12%

2015 UPDATE FROM

JOE WOLFINGER:
SSCWN reached out to Joe to ask him if he
had been able to tap his city for savings in the 15
years since this article had been republished. His
response (below) is a rather dissapointing, No.
FROM JOE: On the sewer rate situation, the sewer department originally told
me I could install a sewage meter on my line
(my cost $10,000) plus I would have to pay
an additional quarterly fee of $250 to have
it calibrated four times a year. At that time it
would cost me more than the savings I would
receive from actually paying for the amount of
fluids being discharged. Remember this was
about 30 years ago. I approached them one
more time right after the ICA report came out
(in 2002) showing the same 33% difference
between incoming water vs. outgoing sewage.
They rejected that report also and refuse to
give me any reduction in my bill.
In case you are not familiar with the ICA report they conducted a study by an independent
firm that covered a year review in four different
locations in the U.S. Their research found the
same 30-33% less difference between incoming
water flow and sewage flow exiting the wash.
I might add that over the years I had other
sewer departments and individuals contact me
asking about my findings. One sewer department told me they wanted to be fair with their
car wash operators. At this time I can not provide data for anyone looking to approach their
sewer department. I would advise obtaining the
information from the ICA report.
I have not completed any recent research or
test on the sewer flow. As you indicated the data
should still be consistent with my original figures. Everyone is still using the same pressure,
vehicles are basically the same. The atomization,
evaporation and carry out should all still apply.

30 WINTER 2015

In Conclusion
Water/sewer service is essential to this business, and
paying for what we actually use makes perfect sense. This
study does an excellent job of demonstrating how 20-30
percent of our incoming water is typically lost to the sewer. So being forced to pay sewer rates identical to truly water intensive commercial operations that do come very close
to that one gallon in, one gallon out formula (laundries,
restaurants, etcetera) is just not fair or reasonable.

Rebates, adjustments and abatement sdo happen. Much


of our legal and civil system is built upon precedents. So if
any of you have examples of any success in these matters,
please share them with us.
The problem of murderously high sewer rates is spreading. Joe Wolfinger warns, just because this situation seems
far removed from many operators now, they cant afford to
be complacent. Forewarned is forearmed. Be prepared to
deal with this before rising rates nail you to the wall!

Part II: A Study in Oregon


Review
This article ran three years after the previous one featuring the
water lost to sewer tests done
by Joe Wolfinger. Those findings
helped hundreds of operators
around the country obtain 20%30% adjustments on their sewer
bills from utility rate boards. And
quite typically, rebates on paid
charges from one to three years
back were also given many fortunate operators. There have been,
however, municipal boards very
skeptical of the study. They have
demanded more data as a requisite for the consideration of any

rate adjustments.
Enter Larry Morrison who was
in the latter category of operators -- those with skeptics on his
local board. He wrote the SSCWN and told us what he was
going to do about it. Well let
Larry tell his own story. The following article is taken from letters he was considerate enough
to send us and share with our
readers. His background, experiment, and resulting data should
be of great interest to thousands
of operators today and thousands more of you tomorrow.

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34 WINTER 2015

Dollars Down
the Drain
By Larry Morrison
I am a high school science teacher in La Grande,
Oregon, who decided to build a carwash as a source
for a second income. After extensive research, I settled on a four-bay self serve outfitted with a Southern Pride wash rack from Jim Garner who was my
supplier and carwash coach from Carwash Equipment of Boise, Idaho. About two months after my
grand opening, Jim showed me the Dollars Down
the Drain article from the SSCWN.
I then showed the article to Rod McKee, our
local City Engineer. Mr. McKee said that it was
interesting, but he added that more hard data
would be needed before I could receive an adjustment on my sewer rate charges. He went on
to recommend and outline a method by which I
could collect the type of quality data he required
-- basically a year long monitoring of my water/
sewer usage by way of a water meter and careful
correlation to variables such as weather, season of
the year, equipment, hours of operation, etcetera.
I have a Masters Degree in Science and being
very familiar with proper research procedures, I
was confident that I would be thorough and accurate -- drop for drop. I , therefore, agreed to the
lengthy test and so proceeded in conjunction and
cooperation with both the City Engineering Department and Eastern Oregon State College.
Heres a brief summary of my situation and the
results of that test:

Background
La Grande is a small community of 11,000 people located in a valley surrounded by mountains in
northeast Oregon. We are at 45 degrees north latitude near which are such other cities as Minneapolis, Minnesota and Bangor, Maine. La Grande has
an elevation of 2700 feet and has a very temperate,
moderate climate:
Temperature extremes can range from highs up to
100 degrees (Fahrenheit) and down to as low as -20
degrees. But typically we do not have over one or
two weeks per year of the extremes in temperature.
Our average temperature in July is about 73 and
33 in January. Rain falls at an average of 20 per year,
with much of it in the winter months. We have an
average humidity of 61% and moderate winds.
My wash, the East Adams Carwash, is located
on the east end of Adams Avenue, which is La
Grandes main street. It faces northeast with its

FROM THE
SSCWN
ARCHIVES

backside receiving direct sun exposure.


Due to our proximity to the out of doors and
occasional hard winters, there are many fourwheel drive vehicles and pickups in our area. Our
business volume is quite brisk due in part to many
students attending nearby Eastern Oregon State
College which assisted in my year long project.
Water and sewer costs are not a major operating
expense for me. When my study began water was
only less than 60 cents per 100 cubic feet (8 per
100 gallons), and sewer was billed at a rate about
158 percent more -- 95 per 100 cubic feet (less
than 13 per 100 gallons). These are low rates relative to many other parts of the country where
sewage rates can often be as high as 300 to 500
percent more than water charges. My interest in
doing such a study, therefore, was motivated more
by a natural scientific curiosity, as well as the fact
that such research could be used as the basis for
a paper in one of my college science courses. In
short, I was definitely not compelled by a strong
financial self interest.

Equipment and Routine


My Southern Pride wash rack has 5 HP motors
and Giant 5066 direct drive pumps which produce 1450 PSI at the pump and approximately
1300 PSI at the wand.
The rate of flow is 3.2 GPM at high pressure
(Wash, Rinse, Wax) and about .5 GPM for the low
pressure services (Tire Cleaner, Pre Soak, and Foam
Brush). I now have Spot Free Rinse (deionized), but
it was in use for only one month during the test period and, therefore, should not be a factor.
I have one boiler and storage tank and provide
heated Wash, Rinse, and Wax services -- 120 degrees at the boiler.
I use Giant trigger guns and Gates hose. My
winter weep system is activated by an air thermostat when temperatures drop below 35 degrees. The weep water flows at a continuous weep
through both the wands and the foam brushes.
The only unusual procedure is in my bay and
lot wash downs. I use a garden hose rather than
the more typical in-bay wand at high pressure.
The reasons for this are that I prefer to avoid the
added expense of using the heated water, and because our municipal water pressure is a very high
105 PSI! Given that amount of force and the high

GPM, clean ups consist of a fast, heavy flush rather than the more typical low GPM, high pressure,
sharp impact spray from the wands.
My building size is 79 x 28 and my lot is 100
x 110. I wash down my bays virtually every night,
and hose down the lot at least one time per week.
I have landscaping that requires minimal maintenance and relatively little water. Theres no grass,
just 20 small, hardy evergreen shrubs that are
briefly and manually watered (no sustained water
by way of sprinklers) at the very most two times
per week during the growing season...if needed
due to lack of rain. Water used on bushes in the
Summer months is approximated to be 200-250
gallons per month.

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To comply with our city engineer, the water meter
had to be installed in my secondary holding sump -{continued }
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Dollars Down
the Drain

FROM THE
SSCWN
ARCHIVES

Besides water lost to the sanitary sewers because of lot rinse downs and landscape watering there are three major factors: EVAPORATION of overspray water
from the bay walls and floors; direct vehicle CARRY-OUT of rinse water from the bay; and airborne ATOMIZATION of HP spray which floats out of the bay. By
the way, this lost water is generated primarily by the HP rinse process, and therefore, is totally harmless to the environment.

the 1000 gallons tank into which drain my four 1000


gallon bay pits/sumps. At the secondary sump, solids
settle and effluents are then drained into the city sanitary sewer line. To facilitate easy, routine access to
my secondary sump, I obtained a manhole cover and
created an opening large enough to accommodate it.
I was fortunate enough to have acquired a
water meter from our very cooperative City Engineer. His department provided me with the water
meter which was an analog type -- the kind with
dials thats very accurate but has been replaced
over the years by the easier to read digital units.
The meter was rebuilt and calibrated by the Engineering Department and sold to me for only $25.
Im told that this was far, far below the usual costs
for a meter for which total charges typically run
from hundreds into thousands of dollars!
The meter requires water to move through it
under pressure in order for the internal gears to
turn, register, and then measure water flow. For this
purpose, I obtained an electric-automatic Simmer
Mark 1A sump pump. The water meter was connected to the sump pump and the assembly was
installed in the secondary sump. The pump was
mounted eight inches below the regular outlet to
the sewer so that if there were pump failures that
outlet would still function.
To eliminate continuous off/on pumping, the
pump was set to allow the sump to receive an additional seven inches of water before being activated. Effluent from carwashing, weeping, and bay
cleanup then would drain to the bay pits and on
into the secondary sump. When the liquids level
rose sufficiently, the top seven inches (about 150
gallons at a time) would be pumped through the
water meter where the flow would be measured
and then directed to the city sanitary sewer.
I then maintained a schedule of taking water
meter readings at the same time of day every two
to three days for one year. June 1989 to June 1990.
During that time all outgoing effluent actually being presented to the sewer was measured -- drop
for drop. And those readings were compared to

the total amounts of incoming water metered and


billed to me by the city.

The results
Our city water/sewer billing period is for two
months so I correlated my readings with theirs.
During that first two month period (from June 25,
1989 to August 21,1989) my findings almost exactly matched Joe Wolfingers data:

% of Loss

Water Loss

30-35% 4436

Sewer Use Water Use

101,179 14,615

(Note: Readings
are in Cubic
Feet, not
gallons. One
cubic foot =
7.48 Gallons.)

Based on that data, I sent a letter to our city


manager and requested a 30-35% reduction (almost $40) of that periods sewer bill which was
for $130.90. I cited the Sewer Ordinance number
and specified the relevant Section and paragraph
numbers, and then requested that I also be given a 30-35 percent rebate of my last 12 months
sewer charges.
As a result of that letter regarding my initial research I received a 30 percent sewer rate reduction
on that first bill plus a future adjustment from a
city engineer (Norman Paullus) which stated that
...owner (Larry Morrison) is to pay only 70 percent of water consumption for sewer use. This is
effective until further notice.
My second testing/billing period was from August
21, 1989 to October 15, 1989. Here were the results:

% of Loss

Water Loss

25.1% 3344

Sewer Use Water Use

9.982

13.326

I requested a 25 percent reduction on that periods sewer charge. And I again sought a rebate
which was not granted with my previous rate adjustment. Rather than again ask for a refund for the
whole prior year, I suggested a rebate of only the
same correspondence two month period of 1988.
On my third testing/billing period, I had a 24.9
percent water loss. So I was very surprised to receive a sewer charge that reflected a 90 percent reduction of what y reading indicated it should have
been -- even after a 30 percent reduction! I contacted the Water/Sewer Department and asked
about their bill which seemed much too low. I
was then told that my rebate had finally been approved and that I had been allowed 30 percent
credit from overpayments from the preceding
year the year I opened. The credit whittled my
charge down to only $23 -- what a deal!

Conclusion
Without a doubt water is essential to self service
carwashing. However, it is not really all that water
intensive. Thanks to high pressure at low GPM;
effective, bio-degradable cleaning agents; and the
other special services and tools of our trade self
serve carwashing is (bar none) the most efficient
way to wash a vehicle.
Additional good news can be found in that we
run businesses that are not sewer intensive either. My year long study proved to the satisfaction of our city engineers the significant water loss
due to Carry Off. Evaporation, and Atomization
as well as lot clean up and landscape watering.
That loss ranged from a high of over 35 percent
during a hot, windy summer to a low of almost 7
percent. That low, however, was December 1989
-- the coldest month on record for as much as 100
years in much of the Northern latitudes. It was an
unusually bad winter month for carwashing. Not
only was it much too cold to wash cars, there was
almost no snowfall (or salt on the roads) to dirty
cars! And yet to prevent freeze ups my weep sys{continued }
WINTER 2015

37

FROM THE
SSCWN
ARCHIVES

Dollars Down
the Drain

tem ran continuously and around the clock taking


most of that large amount of water directly to the
sewer. But even in spite of that fluke winter period, my yearly average water loss was a substantial
24.8 percent -- only about one gallon in four got
to the sewer!
Our city engineer would accept the results of
this year long test and apply its average percentage
of water loss to my future sewer bills. I, however,
will continue my testing on an ongoing basis for a
couple of reasons:
In the course of my twelve month test I also
kept track of weather conditions and found four
variables that would affect water loss: temperature, humidity, wind, and length of day. Ive analyzed this data in light of my water loss for 1989
and compared it to weather averages for my area
in past years. And Im confident that my future
yearly water losses will be larger than 25% and on
average will probably be more in tune with Mr.
Wolfingers average water loss of about 30 percent.
The amount of money I have saved by presenting my research to our local city engineer may not
be impressive to some, but it is significant. My first
year I had about a $500 reduction and rebate. And
I know that I will be receiving at least a $300 savings every year from now on. But, as I said at the
outset, our water/sewer rates are relatively inexpensive in my area and I only have one, small fourbay carwash. Owners with larger washes, multiple
washes, and those operating in areas with high
sewer rates could very well enjoy much more substantial savings when they pay only for the sewer
services they actually use.
Of course, the only way to be absolutely -- drop
for drop -- accurate at any other location would
require a repetition of my type of research at that
particular location. In lieu of that, I have been
formulating charts and graphs that could help operators from different parts of the country (with
different average temperatures, percentages of humidity, etcetera) more precisely determine their
water loss based on my research.
My research is also going to continue so that I
can prove that self serve carwashes do not produce
effluent that warrants the higher sewer rate assessed other commercial/industrial businesses. My
detergents are all biodegradable and normal effluent is certainly no more dangerous than that most
municipalities allow to freely flow down residential driveways and into our water supply by way of
street storm sewers. I will, therefore, be trapping
and analyzing all sediments in two separate traps
in addition to monitoring water loss.
Ill be sure to keep you and your readers informed. I hope this first effort will be of some help.
Larry Morrison
East Adams Carwash,
LaGrande, Oregon

38 WINTER 2015

2015 UPDATE
FROM LARRY
MORRISON:
SSCWN was also able to contact Larry
Morrison, still in business in Oregon, to
verify he is still enjoying the reduced
sewer rate and savings he achieved over
25 years ago. His response is below:
FROM LARRY: I just went to the
City water deptartment and am still
receiving a 25% reduction in the sewer
portion of my water/sewer bill. Since
more than half of the bill is for sewer
the savings are even greater. Over the
years, I have saved thousands of dollars
due to my research. As you probably
know, the article first ran in SummerFall of 1990 and was then reprinted in
Fall of 2001. I received a number of
contacts at first and very few later.
Since we have moved twice since
1990 maybe that is the reason. If you
wish you can run our e-mail with your
reprint in case others want to contact
me: larrynpammorrison@gmail.com

Addendum: Even More Proof!


Larry Morrisons research results will be of
great interest and value to many operators. One
especially noteworthy aspect of this study is to
be found in its conservative to moderate findings.
Rate appeal boards reviewing such data should
be able to comfortably allow about a 25 percent
reduction of sewer costs. Some factors that assure
the conservative safety of a 25 percent reduction
are to be found at washes that (when compared
to Larrys four-bay in Oregon) have warmer
weather; use less or no winter weep; are in areas

with less humidity; occupy larger lots (if regularly


washed down); and have grass or more landscaping. Most of the variables in place at Larrys wash
(especially that bitterly cold 89 December that
badly skewed his yearly average) point to water
loss that will be typically larger (across the board)
than that safe 25 percent!
Adding even more credence to this conservative 25 percent average can be found in the results of a test actually designed and monitored
by a Mr. Frey, the City Engineer of West Valley
City, Utah. Freys office received a copy of the
first Dollars Down the Drain article along with
a request from Rick Diehl (owner of Turbo Wash
Carwash) for a reduced sewer rate in line with
Joe Wolfingers 30 percent water loss average.
Mr. Frey was extremely skeptical of test results provided by any carwash owner who was
motivated by wanting to lower a sewer bill. He
refused to allow any reduction until the City Engineering Office concluded its own test...which
was done. The test focused only on washing vehicles and the bay clean up -- no lot cleaning or
landscape watering. The results really seemed
to surprise the officials whose revenue interest
and preconceptions were tilted toward disproving Wolfingers findings. In the end, however, the
City Engineers report had to admit that, ...by
comparison, our study is fairly consistent with
the study (Dollars Down the Drain) sent to us
by the carwash owner (Rich Diehl). Their test
completed in March 1990 showed a water loss of
slightly over 26%! Consequently Mr. Diehl was
granted a 25 percent reduction on all future sewer bills. The engineer also suggested that if Diehl
wanted more of a reduction that option was still
open, but it would require essentially the same
sort of ongoing, involved water metering procedure outlined by Larry Morrison.
Since our first publishing of Joe Wolfingers
Dollars Down the Drain the SSCWN has received letters from operators around the country
notifying us of rate reductions based primarily on
that article. Roughly half of those who contacted
us were granted 25 percent reductions and about
{continued }

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STOP Paying tRansaCtion FEEs on EvERy swiPE!
Self
Serve
Bays

Auto
Cashiers

Vacuums

Vending

Pet Wash

Go online now to learn how CryptoPay reduces


fees, secures your transactions and simply stops fraud.

719-277-7400 | getcryptopay.com

CryptoPay System Security Overview

cryptopay postcard 0114.indd 1

1/10/14 4:53 PM

CyrptoPay System Security Overview


CryptoPay
Swiper

Proprietarty wireless network can


connect to coordinator directly
or through another swiper.

CryptoPay
Coordinator

Wireless transmissions are


encrypted using AES-128
encryption. (Encrypted data
is doubly encrypted at this point.)

CryptoPay swiper encrypts credit card data using 3DES/DUKPT at the moment
of credit card swipe. Encrypted data can only be decrypted by Magensa.net

Magensa.net

Credit Card
Processor

www.mycryptopay.com
Carwash customers
retrieve Go Green Receipts

PCI-DSS Certified
Payment Gateway

Connection to Magensa is via an SSL connection.


The head-encrypted data is sent over this channel,
so that the encrypted data is once again doubly encrypted.

Swiper head data


is decrypted at
secure facility

Cryptopay
Server

The Internet

Purchase logging
System Upgrades
Site monitoring
by Genesys

The connection to the CryptoPay server is protected


by encryption based on the SHA-256 standard. No card
data is sent to the server over this channel.

2014 Genesys Technologies.

Copyright 2012 Genesys Technologies

cryptopay postcard 0114.indd 2

1/10/14 4:53 PM

WINTER 2015

39

FROM THE
SSCWN
ARCHIVES

Dollars Down
the Drain

one fourth each got either a 30 percent or a 20


percent reduction. Others unfortunately have
gotten no relief at all. And what is most ironic -almost tragic -- is that the operator who started it
all, Joe Wolfinger, is among those who have local
rate boards unwilling to budge.
Hopefully this rising tide of data will help convince those municipal board members that the
self serve carwash industry only wants to be treated reasonably. The closer this issue is examined,
the more obvious it becomes that granting a 25
percent or at the very least a 20 percent reduction on sewer charges conservatively reflects our

actual use of city sewer services. As far as most


municipalities are concerned, such reductions
seem to be not only fair, but actually provide
them with the better end of the deal.
Given some of the variables mentioned, operators may very well be entitled to markedly
larger reductions -- above 25 percent, 30 percent
and some even more. Some operators may still
conduct their own metered studies. If so and regardless of method, the SSCWN would be most
interested in your results in obtaining rate reductions. Please share with us results of your tests
and experience.

Finally, we are also very encouraged by the fact


that before the end of the year (2001), the ICA
will be releasing its own exhaustive, scientific
three-year study on this as well as related water
conservation and pit sand issues. This massive undertaking was in no small part inspired by individual operator efforts as seen in these SSCWN
articles. The proofs continue to mount. Yes, professional carwashes are conservators and protectors of our natural resources. We are genuine assets to any community. This data will continue to
make that point -- adding up, drop by drop.

S
E
I
N
N
U
F
H
S
A
W
R
CA
FROM

40 WINTER 2015

THE PUMP
WITH 9 LIVES

10

JUST GOT ITS


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TH

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WINTER 2015

41

Kleen
Rite
Show Review

42 WINTER 2015

If there is at all a possibility of actually having a free lunch I think it must be


served in Columbia, PA, during Kleen-Rites Learn More, Earn More Car Wash
Expo. Attendees walk in without paying a dime and leave with full bellies and
full minds. Although -- as nearly every attendee who walked by SSCWNs booth
reminded me -- Theres just no way you leave here without buying something.
The show specials were indeed worth a four or five hour drive to the companys
headquarters. Over the course of the six-hour event, show goers could visit over
70 booths and cover a variety of topics at the expos educational sessions, which
discussed the ins and outs of self serve equipment, video security systems, credit
card acceptance (by CryptoPay), Cat Pumps, chemical proportioning and a roundtable discussion on soaps and car wash chemistry.

WINTER 2015

43

Kleen
Rite
Show
Review

The biennial one-day event attracted over 400


attendees and also offered bus tours of the KleenRite car wash and facilities. These tours included the order center, warehouse and fulfillment
stations, as well as the companys car wash. The
Kleen-Rite wash boasts a little bit of everything:
tunnel, IBA, self serve bays, motorcycle wash and
pet wash bays, and the tour was an excellent way
to see some of the catalog products in action.

44 WINTER 2015

Speaking of the catalog, I dont think I ever caught


the KR sales booth without a line of at least two
operators waiting to place their orders. A successful show indeed! About the only hitch was on my
end; I lost my recording of the shows educational
sessions which I had planned to share with you
here. My apologies for everyone who could have
benefitted from the information shared at the show
-- but I think I can summarize a few basic points

based on my few chicken scratch notes:


If youre not having your pit sludge tested to
avoid hazmat regulations in your state, you
should consider sending out a sample. For the
cost of a (roughly) $100 study you might find
youre then able to dump your waste anywhere
-- local dumps or even on extra farm land
if you have some. One operator suggested
throwing in styrofoam pieces, which can be

A Division of DuBois Chemicals

WINTER 2015

45

Kleen
Rite
Show
Review

purchased at a craft store or nursery, to help


absorb liquids in the pits.
Pet washes continue to be money makers for
those operators who have invested in them. If
youre dealing with odor issues, try installing
an exhaust fan on your meter box relay.
The vast majority of operators continue to prefer
count up timers with credit card acceptance
versus countdown. There was some discussion
in the room about how to educate the customers

46 WINTER 2015

as to the hold fee for credit cards, but most


operators agreed those calls will resolve themselves after a few months of credit card use.
The session covered the usual concerns about
cold weather operations, since so many operators drove in from the Northern states. The
usual recommendations were given: Doors, heat
floors, salt the area where customers walk, as
well as where the door meets the floor.
One operator gave his experience so far with

using the Hydrospray underbody wand. He said


customers understood how to use the wand
and were not abusing it, although its worth
it to have an attendant on hand for those first
few weeks to explain or answer questions. It
had already paid for itself within the first few
months after installation.
Thanks for a great show, Kleen-Rite! SSCWN
enjoyed ourselves immensely and we look forward
to seeing you all again in 2016!

WINTER 2015

47

Kleen
Rite
Show Review
If you
missed the
"Learn More,
Earn More"
tour and want
to see the
Kleen Rite
car wash in
action, visit
www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsIcCY54n-4.
48 WINTER 2015

WINTER 2015

49

Microcoin QL

The MICROCOIN QL is a high speed,


multi-coin, field programmable electronic
coin acceptor that can be used in many
applications in your car wash including
your:
WASH BAYS
AUTOCASHIERS
VACUUMS
FRAGRANCE MACHINES
CHANGE MACHINES
Its features are many. Here are just a few:
Quick Learn On Board Programming
Single and multi-coin programming
Programmable for Multiple Currencies
Programmable for up to 12 different coins
Universal size - one size fits all
High speed, multi-coin acceptance up to 10 cps
New, revolutionary coin discrimination
techniques
Highly critical and unique coin path design which
virtually eliminates the possibility of coin jams.
Maximum fraud coin rejection
For more information on the MICROCOIN QL contact Hi-Performance Wash Systems or one of the distributors listed
below.
Advanced Car Wash Systems GA JE Adams IA
National Pride Equipment OH
Auto Wash Concepts CA
Jim Coleman Company TX
Ryko IA
Dultmeier NE
Kleen-Rite PA
U-Wash Equipment IL
Etowah Valley NC
Laurel Metal Products, Inc. IL
Water Conservation Services CA
Fragramatics AR
Mark VII CO
Windtrax - KS

3901 East 41st Avenue


800.922.1313 (Toll Free)
Denver, CO 80237
303.322.2232 (Local)
www.hpws.com
50 WINTER 2015

Association
Calendar of Events
FEBRUARY 17-18

FEBRUARY 22-24

Western Carwash
Association
(WCA) Roadshow
& Car Wash Tour

Southwest Car Wash


Association
(SWCA) Convention
& Car Wash EXPO

Phoenix, AZ
www.wcwa.org

Arlington Convention Center


Arlington, Texas
www.swcarwash.org

MARCH 16-17

MARCH 29-30

APRIL 23-25

Heartland Carwash
Association Product
Show

Southeast Car Wash


Association (SECWA)
Road Show

Prairie Meadows Conference


Center, Hotel and Casino
Altoona, IA
www.heartlandcarwash.org

Downtown Marriott at
the Convention Center
New Orleans, LA
www.secwa.org

The Car Wash Show


2015, presented
by International
Carwash
Association (ICA)

JUNE 22-24

AUGUST 4

AUGUST 23-25

Midwest Car
Association
(MCA) Expo

SCWA Regional
Car Wash Tour

SECWA Trade Show


and Car Wash Tour

Marriott Hotel
Colorado Springs, Colorado
www.swcarwash.org

Sheraton/Convention Center
Myrtle Beach, SC
www.secwa.org

OCTOBER 5-7

OCTOBER 5-7

NOVEMBER 10

Northeast Regional
Carwash Convention

Car Wash Show


Europe, presented
by the International
Carwash Association

SCWA Regional Car


Wash Tour

RADNELAC

2015

FireKeepers Casino Hotel


Battle Creek, MI
www.midwestcarwash.com

Atlantic City Convention Center


Atlantic City, NJ
www.nrccshow.com

Amsterdam, Netherlands
www.carwashshow.eu

Las Vegas Convention Center


thecarwashshow.com

Houston Marriott North


Houston, Texas
www.swcarwash.org

WINTER 2015

51

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.


Yes, sir.
Are you listening?
I am, sir.

PLASTICS.

From Vehicle Wash Systems, Inc. (Wash-N-Go) - FASTRAC Mini Tunnel with Flat Belt Conveyor
Unique mini-tunnel will fit in the same space as
most in-bay automatics yet processes four times
more vehicles per hour. Plus, its simple mechanical design is easy to maintain. No computer engineer needed here! All of this and the FASTRAC is
still priced comparable to much slower and more
complex in-bay automatics.
Features:
A. Tunnel Controller

52 WINTER 2015

B. Activation Switch
C. Soap Foamer Pod
D. 8 Basket Side to Side Mitter Curtain
E. Tri Color Foam Applicator with Chemical Station
F. Lower Side Washers (Cloth Washing Material)
G. Flex Wrap a Round (Foam Washing Material)
H. Flashing Signs (Tri Foam/ Sealer Wax)
I. Dual Rinse Arch with Chemical Station
J. Motor Control Center

K. 45 Hp Blower Arch
Options:
Under Body Rinse and Flashing Sign
Auto Cashier with Gate
Spot Free Rinse
Water Reclaim with Zero Discharge
Sign Package
To see the flat belt system in action, visit YouTube
and search for South Beach Car Wash Experience.

CARCARWASH
CAR
WASH
WASH

NEWHORIZONS
NEWHORIZONS
NEWHORIZONS

PERFECT
PERFECT
PERFECT
FOR
FOR
FOR
YOUR
YOUR
YOUR
SELF
SELF
SELF
SERVE
SERVE
SERVE
BAY
BAY
BAY
GetGet
more
Get
more
more
usage
usage
usage
from
from
from
your
your
self-serve
your
self-serve
self-serve
bays,
bays,
bays,
provide
provide
provide
your
your
your
customers
customers
customers
with
with
extra
with
extra
extra
services
services
services
and
and
create
and
create
create
more
more
more
revenue
revenue
revenue
forfor
your
for
your
business.
your
business.
business.

CUSTOM
CUSTOM
CUSTOM
GLASS
GLASS
GLASS
CAR
CARCAR
WASH
WASH
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STRUCTURES
STRUCTURES
STRUCTURES
Automatic,
Automatic,
Automatic,
Tunnel
Tunnel
Tunnel
& Self-Serve
& Self-Serve
& Self-Serve
Buildings
Buildings
Buildings

WeWe
areWe
seasoned
are
seasoned
builders
builders
of glass
of car
glass
wash
car
wash
buildings,
buildings,
are
seasoned
builders
of glass
car
wash
buildings,
automatic
automatic
structures
structures
and
self
and
service
self
service
buildings.
buildings.
WeWe
also
We
automatic
structures
and
self
service
buildings.
alsoalso
build
build
custom
custom
options
options
likelike
kneewall
like
kneewall
upgrades,
upgrades,
equipment
equipment
build
custom
options
kneewall
upgrades,
equipment
rooms
rooms
and
additional
and
additional
vacuum
vacuum
bays.
These
bays.
These
clear
glass
clear
glass
rooms
and
additional
vacuum
bays.
These
clear
glass
structures,
structures,
paired
paired
with
our
with
custom
our
custom
options,
options,
have
made
have
made
us us us
structures,
paired
with
our
custom
options,
have
made
thethe
best
the
choice
best
choice
forfor
carfor
wash
car
wash
businesses
businesses
across
across
thethe
country.
the
country.
best
choice
car
wash
businesses
across
country.

Profitable
Profitable
Profitable
Customizable
Customizable
Customizable
ADA
ADA
Compliant
Compliant
ADA
Compliant
Ready
Ready
to to
connect
to connect
Ready
connect
to to
utilities
utilities
to utilities

Fully
Fully
Customizable
Fully
Customizable
Customizable
- over
- over
- 80
over
80
colors
80
colors
colors
to to
choose
choose
to choose
from
from
from
Functional
Functional
Functional
Buildings
Buildings
Buildings
Cost
Cost
Eective
Cost
Eective
Eective
Low
Low
Maintenance
Low
Maintenance
Maintenance

OurOur
Flip-Tub
Our
Flip-Tub
Flip-Tub
station
station
station
waswas
specially
was
specially
specially
designed
designed
designed
to maximize
to maximize
to maximize
thethe
useable
the
useable
useable
area
area
inarea
self-serve
in self-serve
in self-serve
carcar
wash
car
wash
bays.
wash
bays.
Itbays.
allows
It allows
It allows
a vehicle
a vehicle
a vehicle
to fit
to in
fit
tothe
in
fitthe
in
bay,
the
bay,bay,
while
while
the
while
the
tubthe
tub
is in
tub
isits
inisflip-up
its
inflip-up
its flip-up
position.
position.
position.
When
When
When
thethe
user
the
user
isuser
ready
is ready
is to
ready
wash
to wash
to wash
their
their
pet,
their
pet,
the
pet,
the
tub
the
tub
is tub
placed
is placed
is placed
in the
in the
in
flip-down
the
flip-down
flip-down
position
position
position
andand
the
and
the
unit
the
unit
isunit
is is
ready
ready
for
ready
for
use.use.
for use.

Fast
Fast
Construction
Fast
Construction
Construction
Beautiful
Beautiful
Beautiful
Glass
Glass
Glass

OTHER
OTHER
OTHER
MODELS
MODELS
MODELS
AND
AND
AND
OPTIONS
OPTIONS
OPTIONS
ARE
ARE
ARE
AVAILABLE
AVAILABLE
AVAILABLE
Want
Want
Want
more
more
more
info?
info?
Visit
info?
Visit
our
Visit
our
website:
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website:
website:

www.allpawspetwash.com
www.allpawspetwash.com
www.allpawspetwash.com
800-537-8231
800-537-8231
800-537-8231
info@allpawspetwash.com
info@allpawspetwash.com
info@allpawspetwash.com

WWW.FINDAPETWASH.COM
WWW.FINDAPETWASH.COM
WWW.FINDAPETWASH.COM
FIND
FIND
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A SELF-SERVE
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A SELF-SERVE
PET
PET
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new,
easy
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customers
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to find
to find
to
your
find
youryour
grooming
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shop
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www.newhorizonscarwash.com
www.newhorizonscarwash.com
www.newhorizonscarwash.com
8000-537-8231
8000-537-8231
8000-537-8231
info@newhorizonscarwash.com
info@newhorizonscarwash.com
info@newhorizonscarwash.com

SignSign
up to
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a map
a map
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pet
pet
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wwwsh
sh
sh
supplies
supplies
supplies

For For
half half
For
a century,
half
a century,
a century,
CCSI CCSI
International,
CCSI
International,
International,
Inc. Inc.
has Inc.
has has
manufactured
manufactured
manufactured
and and
distributed
and
distributed
distributed
wet wet
environment
wet
environment
environment
structures
structures
structures
and and
retractable
and
retractable
retractable
roof roof
systems
roof
systems
systems
to both
to both
to both
residential
residential
residential
and commercial
and commercial
and commercial
customers.
customers.
customers.
Our attractive
Our attractive
Our attractive
products
products
are
products
built
are built
with
are built
with
corrosion-resistant
with
corrosion-resistant
corrosion-resistant
aluminum
aluminum
aluminum
frames
frames
and
frames
and
shatter-proof
shatter-proof
and shatter-proof
safety
safety
glass,
safety
glass,
to withstand
glass,
to withstand
to withstand
the the
harshest
harshest
the harshest
weather
weather
conditions.
weather
conditions.
conditions.
Operating
Operating
Operating
out out
of ofout of
our state
our state
of
ourthe
state
ofart
theof
facility
art
thefacility
art
in facility
Garden
in Garden
inPrairie,
Garden
Prairie,
Illinois.
Prairie,
Illinois.
Illinois.

CCSI
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WWW.PETWASHSUPPLIES.COM
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61038
WINTER 2015

53

INNOVATIONS
From Coleman Hanna In Bay Tunnels

BRIGHT NEW IDEAS, PRODUCTS &


SERVICES FOR SELF SERVE CARWASHES

From Poly Pro Systems - Smart Brush Handle/Wobblehead

Coleman Hannas In Bay Tunnels can fit in


most standard rollover bays and can wash 35 to
60 cars per hour. Utilizing the most productive
combination of Hanna foam or cloth components.
The system is more than twice as fast as most inbay automatics, more than doubling wash volume
while reducing drive-offs, turning a rollover or self
serve bay into a true profit center. In Bay Tunnel
packages are available to fit bays 28, 35, and 40
in length. All three systems can be modified to suit
individual needs.

METAL
HALIDE

The Smart Brush Handle is a foam brush handle that ONLY works when the foam is flowing
through the handle. Without the foam flowing,
the brush head wobbles in a useless fashion. This
minimizes the free use and abuse of the foam
brush. The brush is designed to use with your ex-

(1200 Watts)

VS.

isting foam brush and weep/methanol systems and


creator Pat Ryan has improved upon the original
design in order to make it more affordable, robust,
and in-field reparable. The brush handles (built in
the U.S.A.) come in red, blue and black colors, too.

G&G
LED

(400 Watts)

W P S E R I E S | C A R WA S H L E D LU M I N A I R E S

WAT E R P R O O F L E D L I G H T S | M A D E I N U S A | 5 Y E A R WA R R A N T Y
UL WET LISTED | CREE LED | LEXAN SLX LENS
I N S TA L L S L I K E P V C CO N D U I T | Z E R O M A I N T E N A N C E
CO M P L I M E N TA R Y L I G H T I N G P L A N A N D CO N S U LTAT I O N

54 WINTER 2015

ggled.net
800.285.6780
sales@ggled.net

BRIGHT NEW IDEAS, PRODUCTS &


SERVICES FOR SELF SERVE CARWASHES

INNOVATIONS

From WashMetrics - Management App

From Peerless-AV - Digital Signage Solutions

Holding your employees accountable while you are off site is a problem most owner operators are experiencing. WashMetrics was developed to keep owners, managers, and employees connected even while
at a remote location. Conveniently check the app and know what is
happening at each location.
Your Wash, Convenience Store, Liquor Store, etc. will be humming,
making sure nothing is overlooked or missed during the day. If something happens while youre, notifications get pushed right to your
phone. Never worry about going on vacation again.
Whether your run one location, or have 30, WashMetrics can be customized to tailor each ones specific needs and duties.Its completely
stand-alone, which means you do not have mess with your tunnel management or POS system.
You built your business to have a better life, its time to start living it.

Digital signage from Peerless-AV allows car washes to easily update their
menus and service offerings, as well as
the opportunity to sell outside advertising. A case study from the owners of
Clean Image Car Wash in Plainfield, IL,
showed how Peerless-AVs Xtreme Outdoor Digital Menu Board with Xtreme
optically bonded LCD
display gave the car
wash a modern look
while simultaneously increasing sales
by promoting daily
upsell specials and
weather-related services. With a kiosk-enclosed,
fully-sealed
display and a rain cap
that doubles as a solar shield to reduce
solar load, the menu
board is a complete

weatherproof signage
solution designed to be
both visually-appealing
and cost-effective. With
the new digital signage
solution,
customers
waiting in line could
more easily review the
current services and
promotions
than
with the previous,
too-busy static board,
leading to an uptick
in add-on services. In
addition, Clean Image now has the ability to swiftly change
promotions on a daily basis, without the
cost of creating and
removing signs or any
manual labor out in
the elements.

NEVER STOPS
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WINTER 2015

55

56 WINTER 2015

WINTER 2015

57

Just How Big is the

Car Wash Industry?

A look at the (lack of) numbers in our business.


You would think it would be a simple matter of consulting IRS or even Census Bureau figures, but alas, the fragmented nature of the car wash industry
makes the practice of tallying rather difficult. SBDCNet, the official National
Information Clearinghouse of the U.S. Small Business Administration, promotes reports from First Research and IBISWorld on its website, but does
not mention the ICAs statistics. (SBDCNet is funded in part by a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.) Still, it remains
anyones best guess. As for ours? We guess anywhere between $6-8 billion.

$24
$6
$5.8

Statistic Brain
First Research
IBISWorld

ICA

BILLION

Estimated
annual
revenues of
car wash
industry

BILLION

$9

BILLION

58 WINTER 2015

Which numbers should I trust?

BILLION

Perhaps one of the lesser acknowledged challenges in our industry is


the lack of standardized and verified statistical information about the
car wash business. From consumer trends to typical site expenses, the
car wash operator is left with few reliable sources of information -- and
even those that have attempted to document and track industry performance over the years have been fighting an uphill battle for survey
participation.
While SSCWN has touted some significant wins in data for our industry in regards to water usage at the car wash (as youll see in the
pages of this issue and previous ones) there remain many giant holes
in our industry spreadsheet. For starters, do we even know how big the
car wash industry is?!
In 2008, the International Carwash Association proudly estimated
the car wash industry was exceeding $24 billion in annual revenues.
That number -- which could indicate national or global performance, it
does not specify -- has remained on the Associations website and has
been cited in numerous news articles and business references for the
last eight years. (If that numbers means nothing to you, consider the
NFL -- technically a non-profit -- makes about $10 billion a year, the
hair care industry is worth roughly $20 billion, and the Self Storage
Association estimates those businesses also raked in about $24 billion
in 2013.)
The ICAs estimate stands in stark contrast to figures from other statistician and small business reporting firms, like ISISWorld and SBDCNet.
These resources assume the industry is more likely worth about $6-8 billion in annual revenues. Of course, those publishers have specified their
numbers are in regard to the U.S. car wash industry, so we might not even
{continued }

THE SAFEST FLAT BELT CONVEYOR


SYSTEM OF THE

FUTURE IS HERE TODAY!


Martin Geller, President of Vehicle Wash
Systems, Inc. has been around car washes all
of his life. His familys been in the business since
1952. Over the years he has seen a lot of changes, but hes come up with a new and safer way of
doing things, a compact car wash system with a
Superior Flat Belt Conveyor.
The Future of Conveyors is here today, with the
Superior Flat Belt Conveyor.
This concept was born out of the necessity to
increase the throughput and the revenue for the
Self-Service and Gas Station car wash bays.
Deemed as the Safest conveyor in the industry today, the Superior Flat Belt Conveyor is just
that, the vehicle is driven onto a flat belt conveyor
which totally eliminates any scratches, dents, and
blown out tires caused by the car striking the side
of a guide rail. A definite plus for not having to deal
with customer damage claims !!!!
As for the customer experience, it is a very simple transition onto the belt, verses driving onto a
correlator and being put onto a standard chain
and roller conveyor. The Superior Flat Belt
Conveyor provides the customer with a quiet
steady ride through the car wash as the customer simple glides through and enjoys the ride.
Used in a Mini-Tunnel environment, the Superior Flat Belt Conveyor is totally safe to
operate in an unattended setting, thus saving the

car wash operator the cost of manpower. When


replacing a roll-over machine in a small foot print,
the Mini Tunnel with the Flat Belt Conveyor increases the number of cars washed from a mere
7 per hour to at minimum 35 40 cars per hour,
thus increasing the bottom line for the car wash
operator. (numbers may vary depending on the
length of the tunnel)
The Superior Flat Belt Conveyor has a
304 Stainless Steel frame, and has absolutely
NO chain or Rollers to ever replace, is safe for
all luxury cars, trucks with dual wheels, and low
chassis vehicles.
As others in the industry may offer a belt conveyor
system, the Superior Flat Belt Conveyor is
constructed from a high molecular plastic material and has a pivot pin that can be removed from
any point along the track for simple maintenance
purposes. We are proud to say that ours is thicker
and wider of any others on the market today.
Available in varies colors, we are able to color
coordinate the Belting along with the Fiberglass
Grating and custom Signage to make a car wash
that stands out and will be the talk of the town.
A driving mechanism consisting of a Gear Box assembly of either hydraulic or electric, with a variable
speed control unit is the heart of the system.
The Flat Belt Conveyor is capable of moving vehicles up to 7 tons and is complete with a Self-

Cleaning Belt Mechanism which is continually


cleaning the belt as it goes around.
Also included in this unit is a self-tightening belt
mechanism that keeps the belt tight at all times ...
no more need to stop the conveyor and pull out
chain and rollers!!!!
To enhance the experience and to gain additional
revenue, the car wash operator can still offer numerous upgrades, such as, Tire Shinner, Exotic
Foam/Pay waxes, Spot-Free Rinse, etc. all able
to be applied on the Flat Belt Conveyor.
Installations of the Flat Belt have proven to
be very successful, for both the car wash owner
and for all those customers using the belt. It is installed like the conventional Over/Under Conveyor.
Fiberglass grating is added in the center portion
of the conveyor for safety and appearance, it also
provides easy access to cleaning the conveyor pit.
Another benefit of this installation is all electrical and
water lines can be run under the conveyor and will
not be seen in the tunnel. This makes for a very
clean look, something that a car wash should be
Currently, car wash operators with the
SuperiorFlat Belt Conveyor System are extremely satisfied with their performance and appearance. Down time is minimal to non-existent.
For more information on our belt conveyor, please
visit us on the web at www.washngo.com. There
you will see our You Tubes and recent installations.

Vehicle Wash Systems, Inc.


800-344-8700 Fax: 781-331-8701
www.washngo.com
email: info@washngo.com

The Compact Wash System of Today


WINTER 2015

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60 WINTER 2015

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WINTER 2015

61

A Look at the
Numbers
From STATISTIC BRAIN, January 2014
(which cites MSSP, IRS, Professional Carwashing and
Detailing, and the US Census Bureau as sources)
Car wash industry annual revenue $5.8 billion
Car wash industry annual revenue including gas purchases $48 billion
Annual car wash industry revenue growth from 2006-2011 -1.6%
Number of full-service carwashes 9,000
Number of exterior conveyor washes 10,500
Number of self-serve car washes 36,000
Number of in-bay automatics 58,000
Total number of carwashes 113,000
Total number of car wash employees 350,000
Number of cars washed annually 2.3 Billion
Number of cars washed per day 8 Million
Percent of car washes that also dispense gasoline 65%
Percent of car washes owned by small business persons 90%
Estimate number of gallons of water used on each car 38 gallons
Average annual number of gallons of water lost per car wash 48,000

In-Bay Automatic Statistics


for a single operation

being comparing apples to apples.


Despite what the incongruous numbers might suggest, the
ICA has not remained passive on the larger issue of data collection. In 2012, the Association announced the Wash Count program, a benchmarking tool for car wash operators to compare
their performance in several areas, including cars washed and
monthly revenues, as well as to sort the data by car wash type and
geography. But like the industrys trade magazines which publish
annual surveys of information for the different segments of car
washing, they have made the results of the information available
only to participants in an effort to encourage more operators to
become involved. In 2013, the program had more than 500 locations enrolled. (The ICA has just over 2,000 members representing about 15,000 locations, according to its website.)
Likewise, the results of the Associations consumer study, conducted every three years, is only available to Association members. Trade magazines like Auto Laundry News and Professional
Carwashing & Detailing publish their survey data in a similar
manner, although these reports are commonly handed out at expos and trade shows for free. And, of course, participation numbers are a closely guarded secret. Looking at the error margins,
its hard to believe more than 100 operators are participating in
these annual studies by trade magazines.
The ICA has had better luck with scientific studies theyve been
conducted in regards to water usage and quality. These reports,
{continued }

Break down of locations by car wash


type, according to Statistic Brain

Average number of cars washed annually 19,947

10,500

Average sale per vehicle $6.34


Average profit per vehicle $4.35
Average annual profit $86,531

Number of exterior
conveyor washe

9,000
Number of
full-service
carwashes

Average annual revenue $139,000

Self-Serve Statistics for a single operation


(Wand or Coin-op Style)
Average monthly revenue per bay $1,489
Average percent of time bay is in use 10%
Average annual revenue for a 2 bay operation $41,000

Tunnel Carwash Statistics for a


single operation
Average number of cars washed per year 45,750
Average price per carwash $15
Average annual revenue $686,250

62 WINTER 2015

36,000

Number of self-serve
car washes

58,000

Number of in-bay automatics

Estimated number of car


wash locations in the U.S.
Statistic
Brain

113,000
ICA

80,500

First
Research:

14,000
IBIS
World

58,754

published in 1999 and 2002, are made available to


all car wash operators via the Association's website.
And, perhaps the most famous home washing study
-- funded by Vic Odermat of Brown Bear Car Wash
-- is also of public record. The Fish Toxicity Study
Report from 2007 is available for download simply
by conducting a Google search for that title.
And all of this ruminating to ask: What would
you like to see SSCWN contribute towards data
collection in the self serve industry? Please use the
form (below) or email me at katec@sscwn.com in
order to guide our efforts in the future.

From IBISWorld, 2014:


The car wash industry brought in $9 billion in
revenues for 2014, coming from a supposed
58,754 businesses and representing a 2.3
percent growth between 2009-2014. The
report estimated the car wash industry had
an estimated 181,090 workers. (In 2011,
IBISWorld predicted car wash industry revenues
would rise an annual rate of 2.5 percent to
reach $6.8 billion by 2016.)

A look back in time


In 1998, the ICA estimated
there were 9,570 full-service
carwashes in North America,
approximately 4,546 exterioronly carwashes, nearly 30,000
self-service carwashes, and about
30,000 rollover/high pressure
washes, the majority of these
being affiliated with gas stations or
convenience stores. Together these
carwashes generated more than
$14 billion in annual revenue

From First Research


Report, November 2014:
The US car wash industry includes about
14,000 companies with combined
annual revenue of about $6 billion. The
industry includes full- and self-service car
wash facilities, as well as truck and bus
washes and vehicle detailing services.

Submit your ideas for future surveys and data collection!


SSCWN would like your help in gauging interest and guidance on potential surveys by this publication.
Please indicate below what sorts of information you are interested in and how you feel this information would be best
presented. Mail this survey to 110 Childs Ln., Franklin, TN 37067

I would be more inclined to


participate in annual surveys if:

I think our industry needs better


data about (check all that apply):

I was paid for my participation

Annual expenses

Pricing

I was given access to exclusive data

Equipment costs

Annual revenues

The surveys were shorter

The number of car washes in the U.S.

The surveys were more useful

The revenue performance of our industry as a whole

The surveys were more reliable

Other:

Labor costs

Other:

Additional comment:

WINTER 2015

63

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WINTER 2015

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66 WINTER 2015

060513 FragramaticsAd_FreeVac.indd 1

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INDUSTRY DIRT
Carwashes participating in the
Grace for Vets program washed over
200,000 cars for free this past Veterans Day.
Military veterans in
the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand
were treated to free carwashes at over 2,887
carwash operations as
thanks for their service.
The total number of free washes given in 2014
was estimated to exceed 233,000.
Grace for Vets, a one day event where veterans
and active-duty personnel get their cars washed
at no charge, was started ten years ago by Mike
Mountz, a carwash owner who operated four
washes in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. Local operators in each country publicize the event
to ensure that as many vets know about the free
wash as possible.
Its a great event and a super way to show the
men and women who have done so much for us a
small gesture of our appreciation, stated Jack Anthony, owner of Seven Flags Carwash, which operates washes in northern California. We are always
amazed at how much goodwill is generated by the
free washes, not only by those getting the free wash,
but also by the rest of our customers, he added.
Mountz hopes that the event will continue to

grow in each of the four countries as well as in


other countries that have yet to join in the event.
There are veterans, who have made incredible
sacrifices, in every country who have fought to
protect their countries and their way of life. I
think they all should be honored, he said. Ultimately, Mountz projects that over a million cars
will be washed for free on an annual basis.
Participation in the event is easy as it only requires the carwash owner to sign up at the event
website, www.graceforvets.org, and agree not to
charge veterans for their carwash. The owners can
then report their free wash totals to the website
following the Veterans Day event.

Mark VII Equipment Inc. has


named Chris Andersen as its
new CEO, at the same time promoting Ryan
Beaty to executive vice president of sales and service and Pierre-Yves Leclercq to executive vice
president of operations.
Andersen previously held senior level positions
in sales, marketing and management with Hilti, a
German company which provides products and
systems to the global construction industry, according to a release announcing his appointment.
He replaces retiring CEO Steve Jeffs, who served
in various positions for Mark VII since 2004. Mark
VII is a subsidiary of WashTec AG, the worlds

largest manufacturer of carwash equipment, according to the company.


Chris will be a great asset to Mark VII, said
Jeffs in the release. Under his leadership, and with
the support of the Mark VII team, Im confident
North America will play an important role in
WashTecs growth strategy.

Mike Jacques has joined PECO


Car Wash Systems as the companys
business development manager. Jacques has over
17 years of sales and account experience in the
tunnel car wash industry.
A press release stated
Jacques will continue to focus on the Eastern U.S. and
Canadian markets.
I am excited to start a new challenge with PECO
and look forward to working within the PECO team
to further develop their already extensive product
and service to the car wash industry, Jacques said
in the release. I am fortunate to be joining such a
respected company that prides itself on top quality
{continued }
WINTER 2015

67

INDUSTRY DIRT
customer care.
PECO supplies carwash parts, equipment and
systems throughout the world, and it manufactures its own line of conveyorized equipment.

SONNYS The CarWash Factory


has named A & T Car Wash Systems as its Select Service Organization (SSO)
member to serve car wash operators in China.
Im proud of the investments weve made over
the years in SONNYS software and in our automation process. In doing so, we have improved
initial product quality which has enabled us to
manufacture a product with a distinct value proposition and high quality standard that lets us sell
directly to China, using a product designed and
built in the USA. Paul Fazio, CEO of SONNYS
The CarWash Factory, said in a news release announcing the relationship.

As Bloomberg.com reports, in 2013 Chinas vehicle population reached an all-time high of approximately 240 million cars, hence the need to
build additional state-of-the-art car washes there.
The car wash operators we sell to demand
equipment that delivers clean, dry, shiny cars
every time, so that they can keep their focus on
attracting and retaining customers, not repairing
equipment. We chose SONNYS because they
make equipment thats dependable, durable, reliable, and simply put, built for the long term. stated Shihou Li, A&T Car Wash Systems Owner and
Chairman of the Board
SONNYS The CarWash Factory, is the largest
manufacturer of conveyorized car wash equipment, parts, and supplies in the world.

WashCard Systems is celebrating its 25th year in business by


updating its website, www.washcard.com. The
company creates card activation technology for
the car wash and coin laundry industries. According to a press release announcing the new website,
WashCards goal was
to make the web
browsing experience
more fluid for customers.

Airlift Doors has promoted Sabrina Shrack to the position of sales account manager. A press release about the appointment said Shrack has worked for Airlift Doors
since 2008 and will now be charged with managing new and existing accounts while supporting
the rest of the company sales team.

68 WINTER 2015

HAPPENINGS IN & AROUND


SELF SERVE CARWASHING

Valley Dynamo has purchased


the Rowe Bill Changer Assets
from Megatouch, LLC. Kelye Stites,
President of Valley-Dynamo, a gaming and sporting good manufacturing company, said, The Valley-Dynamo
Companies focus on the coin-op
industry and the Rowe acquisition is a perfect fit. Rowe Bill
Changers, LLC will operate as
a separate business in Richland
Hills, Texas. Rowe is an industry
leader with a proven and well
established reputation in the
money handling industry and we welcome all the
Rowe distributors and operators to the Valley-Dynamo family of companies.
Tom Kozlik, Vice President of Rowe Changers, a
provider of bill and coin handling products to the
car wash and laundry industries (as well as gaming,
vending, parking and amusement industries) said,
This transaction offers many significant benefits
for Rowe bill changer owners, distributors and
stakeholders. Valley-Dynamo is infusing excitement and financial investment that provides compelling new opportunities for Rowe now and in
the future. Together we will continue to support
our valued customers and provide innovative solutions for the money handling industry.

Bozeman Distributors, a manufacturer and servicer of self serve and automatic car wash systems, received the 2014 Douglas Manship Sr. Torch Award for Ethics in Business
by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of South
Central Louisiana. The group was acknowledged at
an awards banquet in October,
along with three
other businesses.
The award recognizes businesses that exhibit the
highest ethical standards of behavior toward customers, suppliers, users, shareholders, employees
and the community, according to a press release.

The Connecticut Carwash Association (CCA) held its annual Holiday


Gathering Dec. 4 at Carmines Restaurant.
This is one of my favorite holiday traditions,
said board member Frank Gaglio, noting the event
attracted nearly 40 attendees. Its a great kickoff
to the holidays with a close-knit group of people
who are like family.
CCA incoming president Bob Rossini of Torrington Carwash encouraged the groups continued support of the association, said the release.
The associations next event is its Annual Mini
Expo on March 25 at the Marriott Courtyard in
Cromwell. Go to wewashctcars.com for more information.

SONNYS President Anthony


Analetto was the guest speaker
for the fall membership meeting of The Car
Wash Operators of New Jerseys (CWONJ) on
November 18.
According to a news release about the event,
Analetto discussed what he had done to improve operations at several struggling washes and
stressed the lessons he has learned while trying
new things over his 25 years of experience in the
car wash industry.
Anthony is a wealth of knowledge, said
CWONJ President Mike Conte, in the release,
noting he is the creator of the original XtremeXpress Mini Tunnel. He has so much information
and is very willing to share it.
Conte also presented a $1,000 check to Kayla Lucia, the 2014 COWNJ scholarship winner,
reported the release. Lucia is a student at Monmouth University in Long Branch, New Jersey, and
a part-time employee of Madison Carwash & Detail Center in Madison.
The associations winter meeting in February
will feature Simoniz USAs Bill Gorra.

Mister Car Wash, the countrys


largest conveyor car wash operator, has opened new corporation headquarters in downtown Tucson.
The new corporate
headquarters, located at
222 E. Fifth St., began
operations in June. Mister Car Wash relocated
its corporate headquarters due to their recent expansion under their new
president and chief executive officer, John Lai.
Weve built one of the most sophisticated operating platforms in the car wash industry and
now, with our newly consolidated corporate footings and the strength of Leonard Greens backing, were perfectly positioned to grow at an even
faster clip said Lai. As a result of our incredible
growth trajectory.
The car wash chain was recently acquired by
Leonard Green & Partners on Aug. 21.
Their new corporate headquarters offers their
employees a chance to enjoy where they work,
with accommodations such as a workout room, a
community kitchen, barbeque space and bicycles
to ride around downtown Tucson added to the design of the building.
Mister Car Wash and Lube Centers, also known
as Mister Hotshine, currently employs a team of
4,500 throughout 134 car washes and 32 lube
centers across the United States.
Mister Car Wash currently has eight full serve
car washes in Tucson.

EXTRA!
EXTRA!

Read all
about it ...

Interesting operator news and tidbits from around the industry water cooler.
Hows this for fighting dirty? Los Angeles Waterkeeper, a water conservation group in Los
Angeles, launched a dirty car pledge in November
as a way to encourage residents to reduce their water usage during Californias drought. The pledge,
go dirty for the drought (also referred to as #dirtycarpledge on social media), asked county residents
to stop washing their cars for 60 days. At least 6,000
residents and three city governments participated
in the pledge.
But as a few car wash operators pointed out to a
reporter for Neon Tommy, an online news blog run
by students of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern
California, the (perhaps) well-intentioned pledge
completely ignores the water conservation efforts and
efficiencies of commercial car washes, while also dismissing the very real risk of allowing dirt and oils to
build up on vehicles before they are washed away into
city sewer systems by rain. The Western Carwash Association spoke out against the pledge shortly after it
was announced, calling it careless and misguided.
Los Angeles Waterkeeper seemed to distance
themselves from the original bold statement of the
pledge after speaking with the reporter for Neon
Tommy, claiming the pledge is aimed to make
people think about their overall water use, not only
their car washes. The conservation group told the
news blog they share operators concerns about the
dangers of urban runoff and agreed that professional carwashes are among the more environmentally
friendly options for cleaning a vehicle.
Were in no way against the car wash industry or
trying to put them out of business or anything like
that, Communications Manager Rachel Stich told
the news organization. At least one car wash operator
the blog spoke with claimed the pledge had reduced
volume at their site, though, and the entire industry

is now forced to once again battle these common


misperceptions. (For further background, see our cover story in SSCWNs Summer 2014 Issue.)
Some people who arent willing to not wash their
car, thats OK. Take shorter showers. Install water
efficient appliances in your home. Find other ways
to decrease your water usage. Its not just about the
car washes, Stich claimed about the movement
that sparked the hashtag, #dirtycarpledge.
An article promoting the pledge published by LA
Magazine a few months after #dirtycarpledge was
announced cited data from the ICA and ranked the
various types of commercial carwashes according to
how much water they used and treated. Self serves
handily won the magazines approval for their low
water usage -- a mere 12-15 gallons per car -- but the
magazine still remained in favor of the ill-thoughtout pledge. [Self serve carwashes are] your best
option, but only after your 60-day #dirtycarpledge
is up, of course. The pledge should be easy to keep
youll only have to wash your car six times in 12
months. Easiest New Years resolution ever!
Let the eye-rolling and head-banging commence...

There just wasnt enough money to be made to


keep things updated, Foster told the local paper, indicating an aging roof and deteriorating equipment
at the site.
One customer who turned up for the free wash
on closing day told the paper he plans to wash his
vehicle at home in the driveway from now on.
This was the only place you could do it yourself
anymore, he said in the report. All the other ones
have closed down, and the only other place that
{continued }

Well if youre going to go out, at least


go out in style. More than five decades after
Liberty Car Wash opened its bays, current owner
Charlie Foster decided to say sayonara with free
car washes before handing over the site to developers who will tear down the building and put
up luxury condos. The condos will fetch between
$500k and $1 million per unit, according to a local
newspaper report.
Despite a complete and total lack of competition
(all other self serves in the area have since closed
down), Foster said business continued to decline in
the 2000s after a factory across the street was replaced by condominiums.
WINTER 2015

69

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EXTRA! EXTRA!
you can even get your car washed now that I can
think of is the one on Main Street.
Foster was the second owner of the car wash,
which was built in the mid-1960s by Don Dewhirst. He purchased the site in 1996.
Im certainly not going to miss the graffiti cleanup, he told the newspaper. Sometimes I could
come in on a Friday morning and there was graffiti on the front of the building, and then Saturday
morning graffiti on the back of the building.
Meanwhile, in New England, car
wash operators had a proactive response to news about the pledge in
California, reaching out to local news outlets
in order to espouse the advantages of using a professional carwash. Articles on AutoBlog.com and
Boston.com heralded the environmental benefits of
commercial washes, while also pointing out the corrosive nature of winter road salt on a vehicles finish.
Danny Paisner, president of ScrubADub Car Wash
and a former president of the New England Car
Wash, was quoted to great effect in the piece on
Boston.com, which also cited research by the Environmental Protection Agency on the dangers of dirty
cars contributing to urban runoff in major cities.

Read all about it ... Interesting operator news and tidbits


from around the industry water cooler.
And if youre hesitant to ask Spiffy to
meet you at the local watering hole,
perhaps you could find a DD and
head over to Auto Spa Bistro in Atlanta. This carwash amps up a mundane chore
with a tiny but efficient restaurant, where patrons
can sip cocktails while watching the suds roll off
their cars or relax in purple snakeskin chairs that
are more ultra lounge than waiting room, according to the write-up in Atlanta Magazine. You can
learn more about the car wash (and see a full menu
and pictures of breakfast, lunch, dinner and drink
specials) at autospabistro.com.

An operator suffering from a cold in McDonald,


PA, learned a scary lesson after lighting a leaking
boiler at the car wash. Rich Bongiorni didnt detect
the build up of natural gas in the room due to a
stuffy nose. The boiler subsequently blew up, sending him and a carwash customer who was washing
his vehicle in an adjacent bay to the hospital.
According to first responders, every window in
the customers 2000 Ford Explorer was blown out,
but the customers wife, seated in the front passenger seat, was unharmed. She escaped the vehicle
and found her husband.
My husbands face is singed, she said in a local
TV report. His mustache is all singed off. His eyebrows are all singed off. His tossel cap is all burnt.
You could smell it.
Bongiorni was treated for first and second degree
burns.

Speaking of ScrubADub -- its not just


company president Danny Paisner
thats rolling out to the rescue! Two
ScrubADub employees at the chains Worcester,
MA, location assisted a woman after her sport utility vehicle crashed into the building, severing a gas
line in the ceiling and sparking a fire.
According to a local news report, Greg Fleischer,
a manager, and Dennis Kobel, cashier, pulled the
unconscious woman from her SUV.
We both assessed the damage and what was happening and then Dennis realized that the lady was
still in the car, so we tried to get her to safety as
quickly as possible because we saw 15-foot flames
from the gas, Fleischer said in the report.
The woman was treated at a local hospital.
Heres a carwash operator whos really on the go -- -- Karl Murphy, owner of two
Carolina Auto Spa car wash locations in North Carolina (Apex and Cary), now has a mobile app to
serve customers who want a car wash in their office
parking lot or driveway. Murphy began mobile car
washing in 2011 as a way to expand his fixed-site
car wash business. He later partnered with ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo to create the app, called
Spiffy, which allows customers to use their smartphones to order and pay for car washes which happen at a location of their choosing. It capitalizes on
the energy and excitement around similar apps, like
Uber and AirBnB. The mobile detailing operation
now includes a fleet of 10 vehicles outfitted to provide on-the-go car washes and the duo already have
their eyes set on a second city to launch: Charlotte.

74 WINTER 2015

provided its customers for nearly 50 years.


Make sure your sniffers in working
order before heading into the equipment room!

The first ever AAA-branded car wash


has opened in Cincinnati, OH. (You may
recall, Cincinnati was also home to that other first
ever brand, Mr. Clean, although it would appear
from an Internet search that Procter & Gamble has
since shuttered that location.) AAA Auto Wash is
a completely renovated full-service conveyor site,
formerly known as Rainbow Car Wash, and located just a mile from the organizations local tire and
auto service business.
The acquisition of Rainbow Car Wash represents AAAs ongoing commitment to adding value to the AAA membership experience, said AAA
Allied Group CEO James Pease in a release about
the acquisition. Motorists have come to depend on
us for reliable solutions to their automotive problems from the roadside to the garage, now we can
add the same, high quality service that Rainbow has

And we end this edition of Extra! Extra! by returning to the subject of


drought. If you dont have a plan in place for
operations during a drought with your municipality, now is the time to starting working with officials.
(If youre looking for ideas on how to begin the
conversation, check out our Summer 2014 issue.)
Operators in Wichita Falls are fighting for every
drop as the citys lake supply dries up; celebrating a
heavily discussed new amendment which overturns
a previous ordinance that would force them to find
alternative sources for water if the lake falls below
20 percent capacity. According to a local newspaper, the car washes are still forced to close on Sundays and Mondays during the drought. The council
held a closed door session for an hour to discuss the
amendment, which eventually came to a 4-2 vote.
We are very concerned that 29.5 percent of our
business has been taken by the government by closing us two days a week, the owner of Stadium Car
Wash told the council during the meeting. And at
least one resident also spoke out in favor of keeping
the car washes open.
Vehicles are usually the second biggest investment that an individual can own. People, including
myself, would like to protect that investment by
keeping it clean to protect the paint and the value
of that vehicle, the resident was quoted as saying in
the newspaper report.

Dilution Ratio
630:1
Dilution Ratio
380:1

Dilution Ratio
250:1

Dilution Ratio
270:1

Dilution Ratio
380:1

Dilution Ratio
64:1

Scotch Plaid, Inc.


Saving you money, one pail at a time!
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214-358-2575
WINTER 2015

75

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This business is all about clean cars and happy customers. It is
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last payment
UL approved electrical throughout

76 WINTER 2015

High volume car washes that can deliver clean, shiny cars need
to be a WORK HORSE, and that is what the TURBO WASH is
often called. In fact, there are more units of the TURBO WASH
basic design that are 10, 20 even 30 years old that are still out
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Stainless Steel Coin Box (vault ready)
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Low Pressure Air Pumps

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Automatic High Pressure Weep
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WINTER 2015

77

TRICKS TRADE
OF
THE

Presenting some of the best discussions of the self serve industrys headaches and
solutions from ACF. You can find more discussions like these on AutoCareForum.com.

Thinking of going Credit Card Only @ SS


GreenTreeCarWash: I am looking to purchase a 4 bay SS in a low income area near my home. Everyone...and I mean everyone has a credit or debit
cdreed06: I'm a supporter of the credit cards at
the wash, but don't think I'd go that far. For one
thing it would be cost prohibitive to remove the
coin parts of your meters, they would have to be
modified. And honestly I think multiple options for
people to pay you are good.
In my perfect world I'd not count coins any more.
Bill acceptors and CC swipers. Nobody cleaning out
my bill changer for poker night. No wet coins swirling around in my coin counter..... Only cash and CC
charges going into my account.
Jeff_L: I've thought of doing the same, then quickly told myself no. It would only benefit the owner,
not the customer. I would stick with giving as many
pay options as possible if you're already set up for it.
tdlconceptsllc: Cash is the best remember
theres no internet fees no debit fees, 15cent every
time you swipe. at my lower income washes/Ghetto
the people use coins more than cash/credit because
they have poor credit and cannot get a credit card
and take quarters from their home to wash the car.
I have cash and credit. Only way I would justify this
only credit cards is if you were in Detroit or somewhere they break into your wash daily then I would
switch over to straight credit cards.
*The Merchants are the people making all the
money now and don't have no equipment, no carwash , no headache just swipe and straight profit
withdrawal from your account.*
mjwalsh: I just want to add as a consumer customer myself that I have been currently going to a
gas station that has credit card only. It is not because
it is CC only nor will it be just because they will
probably be the first to have NFC that actually will
be 100% EMV compliant protecting against being

Price increase

HCW: I read every article regarding price increase


but I am hesitant to do so. Our price is $1.75 for
3:30 and the closest wash (2 miles away south) just
raised their price to $2 for 3:36, this car wash is very
run down and never attended, the other closest car
wash (3 miles away north) pricing is $2 for 3:35
and this car wash is better than the other one but not
attended as much as ours and in a more populated
area. According to some customers we have the best
car wash in town and we believe it. We are very hesitant to match their prices due to a significant increase
in revenue recently and was wondering if it's due to
our lower pricing? I am afraid of attracting the messy
customers with our lower pricing and worst raising
the price and lose customers. Any suggestions?

card today. Even welfare and unemployment is distributed on debit cards. I am


thinking of switching the meter boxes and vacuums to Card Only. Thoughts?

the weakest link in an identity theft trace back. As


a person looking mainly for overall value ... I factor in them being the least expensive plus 5% back
on all gas purchased additionally on their specific
EMV MasterCharge Credit Card. If anyone wants
to refer to me as lying they can just verify with any
other similar Sam's Club member in our area. Plus
the person monitoring the pumps on duty is always
very friendly ... not that I have had to look for assistance. It might be my personalized license plate that
makes him more friendly ... not sure. Their ingress &
egress is also very helpful.
I do see the point on theft protection ... but based
on past experience there is still that chance that a
wacko will be angry because of not being able to use
cash possibly .... because of being part of the percentage or people who has only one card & that one
happens to not work or whatever. I never did figure
out some "mindless vandalism".
Note: It is very possible that the 5% back has
something to do with the corporation having more
negotiating power than most of us.
Waxman: limiting the payment options reduces
overall revenue. ask me i know; was tokens only for
a few years; big mistake. now we accept tokens quarters and CC in bays. much better. you want to be
customer-minded when considering things like pay
options. many folks will ALWAYS consider a carwash
to be 'quarters to pay'. you will spend time and money trying to train them but you will ultimately fail
and leave money on the table in the process.
Reds: I like cdreed's perfect world idea.
tdlconceptsllc: As being in the Convenience
store business and my family owning over 16 locations when the credit cards came in to the factor back

slash007: Raise your prices, you will not regret it.


Then post back here after a month letting us know
how nice it is to have the extra income.
Waxman: Yes raise the price. No worries. No looking back.
swampdonkey: You will not lose the loyal customers.By having the best wash in town in your words,I
would charge the most and never look back.I charge
$3.00 for 4 minutes the other 3 washes in town are anywhere from $1.50 to $2.00 for 4 minutes and 2 of them
are for sale.Their down fall in my mind is not keeping a
clean place and out of service bays and the biggie lack
of pride in their business.BTW I deal with penny pinching farmers and ranchers and union mentality that I'm
making money off them.Raise your prices!
chaz: Yeah, raise the price! Even if you lose a few
customers, you'll still be making more money. True
customers understand you are there to make money.
Keep the place nice, they will stay loyal.

in the day at the pumps it hurt the stores by over


70% sales inside the store and also having to pay several thousands in merchant fees at every location I
know in this day in time you have to have it in the
carwash business and every business of this type. But
Cash is king just saying uncle sam takes everything
from us anyways and then some. I would never go
straight to credit until they stop making money.
Robert2181: I agree tdlconceptsllc. I also have a
lube center and tire center. The average person has no
clue the dollar amount business pays in fees. Also they
have no clue who pays the 5% back on purchases.
Earl Weiss: I am in your perfect world. I do not
count quarters. They are recycled back into the
changers. Changer meters are reconciled with Bills
in. I need to add quarters. None are taken to the
bank . No reason to count them.
Creole: My 2Cents is....Not to only accept CC. We
have one bay that is CC only, the other 3 accept bills,
coins and cc. The one bay that is CC only is an oversized bay for large vehicles, and I am not sure why the
Previous Owner built it this way. Outside the "truck"
bay is a sign that says "Credit cards only, no cash". The
intent from the PO was to inform customers that bay
would not take cash. Since we've owned the wash for
a year and 3 months, what we've seen is total confusion. People pull up and assume the sign refers to
all the bays and drive off. Some have caught us and
asked about it, when we explain the other bays take
cash and coins they go on in. Very soon I am going to
cut the sign pole down, and move the sign inside the
bay with different verbiage only visible within the
bay. I already have the sign made, but it's been too
cold to remove the existing one.

Randy: What are you waiting for, raise your prices. I


think most car washes dont charge enough to make a
decent profit and put money back into the facility. This
last April was the time I raised my prices, I went from
$2 for 4 minutes to $2.25 for 3:30 minutes for the bay
time and raised the vacs to $1.25 for 3 minutes. I got
no complaints, but have noticed an increase in revenue.
This winter Im going to $2.50 for 3 minutes in the bays
and $1.50 for 3 minutes on the vacs.
chaz: Yep raise the price. Though I am not a big fan
of two increases in in one year, nor am I fan of raising
price and cutting time. My customers are pretty smart
and they understand it's ok to make make money, but
they like me trying to fool them. I also want to work
away from pricing in 25-cent increments. I am at $3
for 4 minutes. I accept bills and dollar coins and CC.
Though my equipment also takes quarters, I do not
offer quarters in change.
seattle guy: Raise your prices. Also go to $1 to-

{continued }

78

WINTER 2015

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WINTER 2015

79

TRICKS TRADE
OF
THE

kens so your pricing is always raised to next highest


dollar. On my last big raise I did lose the worst 10% of
my customers I think. The losers that throw their trash
on the ground and think they have a right to give me
their household refuse. Good riddance.
HCW: Raised it today, I'll report back in a month or
so. I appreciate all the above encouragements.
chaz: Just curious, what are your new prices and bay
times?
HCW: Old price was $1.75 for 3:30, I wanted to raise
it to $2 for 3:30 but I just found out that it is $2 for
4min now. I can't figure out how to set it up to take $2
to start 3:30 and 30 seconds for each additional coin!
I.B. Washincars: $2, which would be 8-25 segments, is not evenly divisible at 3:30. It figures up to
26.25 seconds per quarter. If the timer is a Dixmor, you
will have to set it at 26 or 27, which figures out to 3:28
& 3:36. Some of them have a bonus feature that MAY
allow you to bump additional coins up to 30 seconds,
but I'm not sure. Let us know what timers you have and
then maybe someone can nail down a verdict.
HCW: It's a dixmor and I think you answered my
question. I was thinking to set it up for $2 for 3:30
then 30 seconds for each additional coin but I guess
that's not how it works. I went with 27 seconds per
coin. Thanks again!
Real Scott: How many of you display how much
time you get for the $? If not why don't you? I see
more often than not operators that just put how much
to start but no sign of how much time you get. However, I also know that when I'm there, people always
ask how much it costs and how much time you get,
even thought it's on the sign right there.
Does anyone put a sign up about how much it costs
to wash a car? I get this question a lot too, I suspect
from new customers, "how much does it take to wash
my car"? Thanks!
MEP001: I answer them "Everybody is different, it
just depends on how clean you want it."
Waxman: tell them 'it's up to you'. 'to rinse it off is
$3. to use all functions and do a really nice job is $6-9.'
HCW: (Six weeks later) Thank you thank you thank
you. No regrets so far
Almaprowash: I just raised my prices to $2.00
from a $1.50. Not one complaint yet! I also dropped
my vacuum time by 30 seconds. Hope to do it again
in 6 months.
chaz: Likely the price increase in 6 months will be
noticed and talked about. In my opinion, you should
have made one (larger) jump and moved on. It's been
9 months since I went from 2 to 3 dollars for the first 4
minutes. Only a handful of folks even commented, and
when i said its my first change in 7 years they didn't
discuss it further. My average spend per customer is
up, my biz is up and my mess is less as the ones that
leave the biggest mess are also the ones that don't like
paying 3 dollars to start.
robert roman: Given magnitude of change in
price of gas, meat, etc., I dont suspect most people
would quibble about difference of wash price when
measured in several pennies and seconds.
Consider the big picture.
According to some customers we have the best car
wash in town and we believe it.

80 WINTER 2015

This implies established customer base and business most


likely in mature phase (stable
income).
So, significant increase in revenue recently may be signal customers are finally fed up with inferior
store(s) now charging slightly higher price.
Here, inferior is more influential than price. So, if
price is raised $0.25, say, to cover inflation, new and
old customers probably would not balk at this given
inferior store. If inferior store makes improvements,
then its a different st ory. So, what most mature companies try to do is extend life cycle instead of compete
on the basis of price. Methods include redesign product/service, introduce new products or services, extend
market range (advertising) and expand customer base
(i.e. responsive website, customer loyalty program).
acbruno: I am looking at increasing my prices too.
Right now I have my pricing set for $2 for 4:00 minutes which is one quarter for 30 seconds. Its been this
way for 8+ years and all my competitors have gone to
$2.50. Im thinking it is time for me to increase prices
as well before the busy season. Im thinking Ill keep
the minimum at $2 but adjust the time per quarter to
20 seconds. That would be $2 for 3:40 minutes. I dont
think this is too big a change to get people worked up.
I do keep a clean place and reliable equipment with
generally happy customers.
One drawback, I use LED9 timers that will all have
to manually be altered to my new pricing. Since I am
lucky to have all the default pricing from the manufacturer, I never had to re-adjust the timer after resetting
so I will need to remember when I reset a timer to
adjust the price again.
I feel like I should send out a notice to my fleet customers in advance of the change but for normal customers, maybe I should put up a small sign in each bay
to communicate the price/time changes. Im going to
have to word this just right. Any thoughts?
Would you put up a sign some time before the increase to post it is coming or just do it? Thanks!
chaz: Here's what I did. One Rainy day about a year
ago, I changed all the signage in my bays to reflect my
new price, (kept the time the same and went from
2$ to 3$ for first 4 minutes). Then I logged into my
Hamilton DAN, and updated the price. No notice given, and no note posted about the new rates. Very few
comments (old price was in place 8 years), and most
understood, the ones who didn't like the new price are
typically the messy folks. I bet you'll have more negative reaction with the same price and less time. Raise
the price and enjoy the increased profits. Good luck!
Kevin James: Are you freaking kidding!! Why
wouldnt you raise your price if everyone in your area
is at $2.50? Why not go to $2.25 for 3:30 minutes
now and then go to $2.50 in 6 months are so. Id send
a letter to my fleet customers, but I wouldnt put up a
sign at the car wash.
Keith Baker: You'll have no problem raising the
start up price to $2.50. Your place is clean with up to
date equipment, and I'm sure your customers appreciate that. In my opinion, giving customer's less time
gives them the impression that you're trying to pull
one over on them. But raising prices is a straightforward message.
I went to $2.50 about three years ago and had little

or no negative feedback. I was at $2.00


for 12 years. I put up new decals, guns and
hoses to freshen the place up. and I did put
up small signs by the coin acceptors explaining
the increase and thanking them for their continued support. Omaha has a large sewer use fee
increase starting this year, so I'm sure this won't be
our last price increase.
Waxman: $3 start is in my near future
chaz: $3 start for 4 first four minutes, I assume!
WHY WAIT. start earning more $ now. good luck
waxman: laziness. etc. i have to get new decals made.
going to the sign shop tuesday to 'make it happen'
jeffpohl4: I'm at $2.50 start and 5 minutes, I have
a new facility with large LED lit bays, high pressure
and lots of options to choose from. After reading this
pricing discussion i'm wondering if I'm to cheap!? I've
only been open for 9 months so would this be to early
to do a price change? My hope was to make my money on volume but that may be the wrong way to look
at it. Suggestions??
chaz: Yeah Jeff, I'd raise the price. I'm ok with less
volume (less wear and tear, lower expenses,etc) while
making more money. S/s $3 for first 4 min. I'm among
the highest in the area, and that is ok.
Randy: Jeff, I wouldnt hesitate one minute to raise
my prices to $3.00 for 4 minutes at an newer facility.
waxman: raised mine to $3 startup. just under 4
min. no complaints. looks good so far. i am much happier cleaning up messes from those i know spent the
minimum (mudders and plow trucks etc)
cantbreak80: Me, too...But at $1 per minute. CC
customers get 5 minutes to start.
K_lazy_K: I keep my wash clean and in good working order with all the bells and whistles. My self serve
has all the modern functions as well as air shamees
in each bay. We accept coins, bills, and credit cards in
the bays. I made the move from $2 for 3:30 to $3 for
for 4:00 last week. I have not had one complaint and
it does feel a little better when shoveling up mud to
know at least I'm getting paid a little better to do it.
chaz: Just adjusted our recipes and pricing on our
automatic. My auto wash is now $8, $10, $11, and
$13. I dropped my $6 and added an $11. Only my top
wash that went from $12 to $13, was raised. It's been
only a day, but so far my average wash is $11.02, up 70
cents. I just hope it keeps up
guitarandy: Dang I'm cheap! I just went to
$1.25 for 3 min. and thought it was a big increase
over $1.25 for 3 min 20 sec. I need to look at another
increase soon.
cantbreak80: When I bought my wash (in 1994),
it was $1.25 to start. Within an hour of closing the sale,
it was $1.50 to start.
Huh...only took twenty years to get it to $3/3 minutes! I'm pretty sure my expenses have more than
doubled since 1994.?!.
guitarandy: The price should reflect cost to own
and operate at your location. It will be different at
all locations. For instance my two locations 12 miles
apart have significantly different water bills and clean
up expenses. My return on investment is 20% NOT
counting my labor. This is still probably a little soft. An
increase in price is in order.
{continued }

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WINTER 2015

81

TRICKS TRADE
OF
THE

Advice And Awareness From The Self Serve Car Wash Industry

Do you preauthorize self serve credit cards? If so BEWARE


ScottV: I have a Mercury Payment System with my Carolina Pride Self Service
equipment in two of my wash locations. We accept credit cards in the SS bays, and
have always preauthorized credit cards, before turning on the equipment. When we
first set up our wash sites, we decided on $12 as the preauthorized amount, thinking
that it would what the average customer would spend.
We were always flooded with phone calls from people who didnt understand how
banks put holds on pre authorized amounts. They would use the bay and log onto
their bank account and think the $12 was going to be the amount charged. I have
called hundreds of customers to explain that its only a hold amount and the actual
charge would come through in a day or so.
Well, today I received a chargeback notice from my credit card clearing company
in the amount of $8.25. After looking into the details of this charge, I found that the
chaz: My pre-auth is $15.00 same as max per swipe.
Rarely do I get folks spending 15$, usually c/c sales are
about 11$
BBE: Weve done a pre auth in the self serves for a
little over 3 years now. Just like chaz, we set the pre
auth amount to be the same as the max per swipe
amount. This way there is no chance of us getting
shorted, or the customer getting hit with an overdraft
fee. And yes, we got multiple calls a week about it. We
finally put a little message about it on our machine,
and that seemed to mostly take care of the problem.
By having it set lower than your max charge, you run
the risk of having someone have enough money in their
account to pass the pre auth, but end up spending more

than they have. Conversely, the higher you set the pre
auth amount to be, the more chance you have of a persons card getting declined. For instance, lets say your
pre auth is set at 15 dollars. Customer has 14 dollars in
her account, but was only planning on spending 4 or 5
anyways. Her card will get declined, and you will lose
the 4 or 5 dollars she was going to spend.
Following a time per coin decrease in our bays a few
months ago, I raised our pre auth amount from 15 dollars to 20 dollars. I had left it alone at first, and noticed
that quite a few people were hitting the max amount
limit on their cards because they were now getting less
time for their 15 dollars. So I raised it up to 20.
chaz: What are your cash and credit problems pric-

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customer used the bay for the maximum amount of time (30mins) and was charged
$18.75 + $1.50 sales tax for a total of $20.25. The charge was batched and processed
on 10/21/14 and a month later I get a notice from the credit card company saying the
charge was in excess of the preauthorized amount. So they credited me with the $8.25.
Ive never had this happen in 6 years of taking credit cards in SS bays. Im wondering if any of you have? I guess I have a couple of options. 1.) I can increase my pre
authorization amount to the maximum amount we would charge ($21.00) but that
will cause even more people to call and ask why they were charged so much when they
see the hold amount. 2.) I could lower our maximum time allowed from 30mins to
the amount that our pre authorization would cover.
Im surprised that this has never come up before, and Im wondering if any of you
have experienced anything like this with credit card clearing house chargebacks??

HAMILTON RNS

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ROWE BC-1400

ing on s/s? I am at $3 for first 4 minutes cash or credit.


Credit is count up with $15 max per swipe
BBE: We are still at $1.00 to start. Each dollar gives
you 1 minute 32 seconds. CC is count up with a minimum of $3.00 per swipe, and a max limit of $20.00.
Jeff_L: From your description it sounds as if the
chargeback was a one off incident. However, like the
others who replied, my max per swipe is the same
as my pre-Auth amount. I didnt know you could
change the pre-auth amount. However, I use Washgear and not MPS with Carolina Pride and perhaps I
dont have that option.
I dont see how your processor could reverse the

TRICKS TRADE
OF
THE

pre-Auth overage. How do gas stations get away with


a pre-auth of $1? I think theres more to the story that
hasnt been told to you. Perhaps the customer saw the
hold of $12, then when it changed to a higher amount
(the real charge) they complained to their bank who
reversed the presumed overage? I usually get a notice
from my processor that a charge has been asked to
be reversed, and they ask for my side of the story. Ive
fought these successfully every time by providing the
processor a receipt.
Earl Weiss: A while back got some but most who
have used their cards for Pay At The Pump are familiar with how the system works.
Chargebacks are BS by the CC companies. They just
stick it to the merchant whenever they can. Absent
outright merchant fraud the CC companies should eat
it. there ought to be a law.....
Klean Kars: Had Mercury Payment System years
ago, only one offered when I bought from Unitec.
They were horrible with all their fees, increased
monthly. Would call to see why I had so many fees and
they had to find out why as the rep had no idea. After
complaining to Unitec for years, they finally offered
another device to change CC processors. Think it was
around $1500 to change. Best move I ever did. Now
use my banks cc processor. Anyone using Mercury,
look at the fees and be aware its $350 cancellation fee,
and before I changed think it was over $200 PCI fee!

Car wash Code of Conduct

soapy: I was at the WCA road show in Portland last week on one topic that came up during a round table
discussion was a question asking if anyone had put up a sign explaining expected car wash conduct for customers. He was wondering if anyone had done this and if they had any examples. No one had but all thought it
might be a good idea. The closest I saw to this was a sign about littering with the local enforcement code. I think
a good conduct sign in each bay would go a long way to prevent operator frustration. Does anyone have such a
sign in their car wash. I think a few things I would like mine to say are 1. No mechanical repair in bay 2. Keep
all debris inside bay area. No landscape debris rocks, bark etc. 3. No outside dumping ( carpet cleaners or dog
groomers 4. Exit bay to dry and detail car 5. Leave bay clean for the next car. i do not want it to sound preachy
but would like to spell out a few of the expectations we all have about our washes.
washnshine: I just saw a ss operator who had
signs posted on the property essentially saying:
No loitering on property
No loud music
Police enforced
It was more eloquent than I just wrote, but his sign was
aimed at keeping the wash from becoming a hangout.

work but when we get there you have quit


and never let us know.
6. giving the detail shop 'carte blanche' when
we detail a car then flipping out about cost
afterwards, then returning a full year later to
schedule again. No, sir, we will not perform
any work for you. No thank you.

Waxman: It is a good idea. I have been bummed


out lately by the level of rudeness exhibited by customers. The rudeness is in the form of:
1. using a bay without meter running while customers wait.
2. leaving a mess.
3. leaving too much trash behind.
4. asking for too much ('can i use your dealer
plate for 2 weeks?')
5. scheduling a detail to be picked up at your

Kevin James: Welcome to the real world! People


are basically just bastards. You'll never able to change
them with sign. We looked at S/S car wash recently
that was fenced and only open from 8am to7pm. At
7pm they closed and locked the gate, pulled all the
money and went home. Came back at 7am opened
the gate and filled the changer, it was attended during
business hours.
jprb: I've been following and searching the "signs"
{continued }

WINTER 2015

83

TRICKS TRADE
OF
THE

Advice And Awareness From The Self Serve Car Wash Industry

threads and added ALL of the things I've found people have listed on signs. I like the "Customer Code of
Conduct" idea! Here is my list:
Notice: No Dumping Trash, Garbage, Mud, Grease,
Straw, Hay, Grass Clippings, Manure, Concrete,
Gravel, or other Debris in Bays or on Property.
No Truck bed or trailer washout.
No Hand or Bucket Washing
Bay meter must be activated while bay is occupied.
Vehicles left unattended will be towed
No Washing Engine Parts, and/or Allowing Oil,
Grease, Antifreeze, Paint, or other chemicals
into drains. It is a federal offense to pollute the
sewer system. DNR will be notified of violations.
Trash cans are for PAYING customers ONLY.
No tires, household trash, trash bags, or large
items are allowed on this property. Leaving
items outside of the trash cans is LITTERING
and will be strictly enforced by local police.
Minimum $100 Clean-up fee for any violations
of this notice! SMILE - You are on VIDEO.
Did I miss any??

mjwalsh: LOL ... you mean those aren't just bumble bees flying around. Some might prefer ... "Credit
Cards Only" & then add in fine print "the more access
to info about you the better"

JustClean: If the customer could clean the bay


without paying and NOT using this water to wash
their car it would make things much, much better. I
don't have the problem with my dog wash as the startup price is so high that all customers have plenty of
time left to clean the dogwash.

99 Roadking: "Children Left Unattended Will Be


Given a Red Bull and a Puppy!!"
Nearly 8 years ago we were promised "change".
Now that's all we have in our pockets.....Luckily at
"WASH ME! AUTO WASH we love change.

Earl Weiss:
No Body work
No mechanical work
No painting
No using FB to clean out truck beds
No defecating in Bays.
Or simply:
Inconsiderate, idiotic, and stupid behavior will
not be tolerated.
Kevin James: I dont know of any other business
that puts out expensive equipment for the public to
use and allows the public to come onto their property 24/7 without any oversight, no attendant on the
property. With no attendant on the property this pretty much allows the public to do whatever they want.
As long as there are people there will continue to be
problems. Youre not going to change the public so
you might well face the reality that they will continue
to do whatever they want to do. You can put up all the
BS signs, install camera systems, call the Police, try to
fine them, but in the end theyre people and people
are pigs. Then you have to look at the of the self serve
carwash, public perception and the type of people that
come to a self serve car wash, I can tell you its pretty
low as is the class of customer.
sjb: For what it is worth... these are the 3 different
signs that I have around the lot...
Every Step you take, Every move you make,
We will be watching you...
Dance like nobody is watching... Really!
Cameras and Drones in Use Smile!
and at the bottom of each of those 2" by 2" signs it also says
Your friends @ Kirkwood Car Wash!
Twodose: How about "do not allow children to
play with or use equipment." I have told many a child
to not play with that, or get off of that, or if you can't
control yourself then go sit in your parents car till they
get done. I actually have that on one of my signs in one
carwash.

84 WINTER 2015

soapy: I am working on trying to make it sound as


positive as possible. One thing I want to put at the
bottom of the list is " Failure to comply could result in
additional charges". Most cities have littering laws in
place and I want to site the city law so it sounds official
and shows that we have the law behind us. " city ordinance AB-1234" I doubt it will help with most people
but it would at least lay out proper conduct.
Lisa Lyons: Soapy, Jim Coleman use to have a really nice sign for the "don't do this" I took a picture of
it at one of their car washes. I didn't find it on their
website, but they still might have it. They didn't have
everything that is has been mentioned in this post, but
it was a start. I will look for it and sent it if I can find
it. They didn't mention my pet peeve, putting pennies
in the bill acceptor....I could mention more but will
stop there.

Twodose: Personally i don't think there is much


you can do to deter all the aholes that will come to
your wash and take advantage for 2 or 3 bucks, people are cheap and take advantage of any situation and
will try and get away with whatever they can, i think
all washes are under priced, there should be a cover
charge of like $5 just to get in the wash.
jeffpohl4: I put signs inside my bay and outside...every time I think I've seen it all some
assface raises the bar!! I now have
more signs in production but honestly they do little more than let
your good customers know
that you're really trying to
keep a nice place. I have
a tandem SS, 1 auto and
1 pet wash...16 cameras
and I watch them from
home and my cell when
I'm not on site. If I see
something I don't like I
rush up to the wash and let
them know in a friendly and
respectful manner what I expect
from my customers. believe it or
not it has worked well. Granted I have
only been open 9.5 months but every day it
gets easier and easier to maintain. One time i took
a snapshot from my cameras and put it
on my facebook page with a $50.00
gift card reward to the first person
who could identify the 2 kids that
destroyed my SS bays. about 30
seconds later I had the names
and 15 minutes later the 2
kids came up apologized
and offered to clean
up the bay that I
had already
cleaned

WikiWash: Nice move and great idea!


2Biz: Posting the snapshots on FB also lets people
know you're watching the place. It will go a long way
towards deterrence. The "Word" will get around...
Great Idea!
mjwalsh: As we are gradually increasing our outdoor lumens with our new LED 72 watt 250 Metal
Halide equivalent fixtures ... we are thinking that it
will be a subtle detriment towards unwanted activity
on our lot. Just thinking out loud it seems ... both the
police & other passerby cars etc will be able to see with
more detail what the unwanted persons are doing.
robert roman: What sign do you think would
attract more business?
No loitering on property
No loud music
Police enforced
"Don't do this"
Or
Open 24/7
We accept cash and credit cards
On-site attendant
24/7 video surveillance
Money back guarantee
MEP001: That's a ridiculous comparison. Of course
it's better to advertise what you offer than to post
what you don't allow.
Maybe you could address the topic at hand in a constructive manner? 3
rph9168: I think that any code of conduct should
reflect the customer base. That first set might be appropriate if not written in a sarcastic manner in some
locations but offensive in others. The second set
wouldn't mean much in other locations. I would
also consider having the sign in Spanish in
some areas. Finally either is useless unless they are enforced.
JustClean: And that is exactly the problem here. We
are so brainwashed with "the
customer is always right"
and to make it as comfortable as possible for the
customer that we grow a
generation of irresponsible
morons. If we all would set
the rules right from the start
and kick those "customers"
out we all would have less problems. But since many people are
so money driven that won't happen.
Better than putting signs up is putting
the price up. I try to be the most expensive wash
in town. That keeps the riff-raff out and brings a
smile to my face

BE
COOL,
PEOPLE

mmurra: We have two signs on property 1) Cameras ... and 2) "We reserve the
right to refuse service to anyone" and occasionally we do.
gearhead: Why not have both?
The second one to let potential customers know the outstanding benefits
you offer. The first one to let potential
customers know more of the outstanding
benefits you offer.

WINTER 2015

85

86 WINTER 2015

Express Conversion:

Do you Dare...
Kate Carr

SSCWN speaks to two self serve operators who


converted their SS sites to express conveyor operations.
Reader, I will be direct: I was nervous about publishing these interviews.
Over the years, Ive heard quite a few self serve
operators who have blamed express exterior car
wash sites for driving them out of business, specifically the free vacuums. There is a rather Us vs.
Them mentality about it all. Did I really want to have
this conversation about going to the dark side?
Then there are those operators who are in rural
markets where a well-run 3/1 can chug along quite
nicely, thank you very much. Those owners insist
an express carwash simply wont work at these
low volume sites. And, in most of those markets,
theyre entirely right. Would I alienate those readers by focusing on a concept that seems foreign to
their businesses?
Lastly, I was worried you might suspect me of
writing this article in a play for advertising dollars
from the conveyor manufacturers. Id like to think I
would be more subtle than that, but spoiler alert: No
vendors were interviewed for this article.
So what actually did prompt us to pursuit this
topic? The panel discussion of SS-to-Express conversions at the Southeastern Car Wash Association Show and Expo in Orlando last summer. It was
arguably the events most popular session for self
serve operators. The topic was actually even more
specific than just a conversion process, though, and
the panel quite small: Marc Wilson, executive director of SECWA and Marcus Kittrell, well known operator and former board member, discussed their

experiences in converting their self serve sites while


keeping the existing self serve building.
The benefits of keeping the building might seem
like small gains -- you save a bit of time and money
but the idea captivated SECWA attendees, several of whom had already visited Marc and Marcuss
sites in the Birmingham, AL, area.
While speaking to Marc and Marcus, I realized
that my hesitation to pursue this topic in the pages
of SSCWN was awfully similar to the hesitation we
are seeing throughout the self serve industry. Marc
and Marcus had the same concern about alienating
their customers through a vastly different format of
car washing and about making the numbers work in
low-volume locations. Change is scary. And in this
case, change can be expensive.
But you cant deny the numbers, and you cant
deny the appeal of express carwashes.
I originally set out to put together a piece about the
express conversion that allows the operator to keep
his original building; in this process, the operator
loses his self serve business entirely. A sad prospect indeed. But my conversations about the conversion process with Marc and Marcus quickly turned to
more general topics, What is the future of SS? We
explored the options available to SS operators today
and how the operator might keep and improve his
SS business while gaining a new customer base. We
talked about the new IBAs, mini tunnels and gated
pay-one-price (POP) sites.
I say available today, but I dont mean to give the

impression that these systems and formats are anything new. Gated POP sites have been around since
the 80s and unlimited self serve services even longer. Mini tunnels are a hot topic today, but the concept
is decades old. The first systems specifically branded
and marketed to SS operators were introduced about
15 years ago, while shorter conveyor systems (50-70
feet) have been around for decades before that.
Mini tunnels have enjoyed a lot more marketing
hype ever since the recession forced manufacturers
to push harder for sales and this in turn has seen
more dollars spent on R&D of these systems. As the
OEMs focus on perfecting the systems for the self
serve markets we now have better market data and
equipment for our SS sites. The self serve operator
today can put a 35 conveyor with space-saving wrap
design in an existing self serve bay with very little
changes to your building or site.
The point is: You have options. As youll discover by
reading SSCWNs interviews with Marcus and Marc,
most sites arent going to be able to keep their self
serve building while converting to an express and
some markets just arent worth the expense of a 90
conveyor. The important thing is staying current on
industry and customer trends, re-investing in your
business and remaining open to changing your format when the traditional self serve business is stagnant. After all, as Marcus Kittrell so eloquently put it
in our interview, below: If you want your business to
change, you have to change your business.
{continued }
WINTER 2015

87

Express Conversion
Interview with Marc Wilson, executive director of SECWA,
owner/operator of a converted express exterior carwash in
Pell City, AL, and a self serve in the Atlanta, GA, area.
SSCWN: Lets talk about the reaction to the SS-to-Express
panel discussion at the SECWA Show. It was an extremely
popular topic. I wasnt there and I had folks coming up to
me at trade shows in the Fall to talk about it. Were you at all
surprised by the enthusiasm for the discussion?

MW: In my case, running the Association, I get those


calls all the time. And we thought that would be
a hot topic. You know, at one point I had seven
self serve carwashes. Two years ago, I had two. I
converted the one and Im getting ready to convert
the other. I think I was like a lot of these operators
theyre looking for ways to increase their revenue,
and in some cases, I think theyre getting a little
desperate, too. No, I wasnt surprised at the reaction
we had to the panel f because I was in that same
boat and I was looking for ways to recapture what
we used to have.
Right now, you can keep yourself serve business
there and put in a small conveyor, like a 50-foot, a
mini tunnel. So you can create both worlds there. A lot
of people I know have just added the conveyor to their
self serves, and their self serve business also increased.
A lot of them kept their automatic, too, especially if
its a touchfree, and those numbers usually go up, too.
That was surprising to me.
I went down to Atlanta the other day with Marcus
(Kitrell) and we stopped by the carwash that Im going to tear down and re-do as an express. All my self
serve bays were full and it was an overcast, lousy day,
and it was in the morning. The decision is killing me -because right now this is the only self serve in a 15-20
mile radius. And now Im trying to figure out, because
of the size of the lot, how to put a 50-foot tunnel on
the side so that I can keep the automatic and three
bays of self serve. Id like room for one of these Buff n
Shine machines, too. Just to be a little different. This
way we could do everything; its a one stop shop for
the customer. And that extra $1,000 or so that you
could do per bay, or $4,000 for the automatic that
can pay for your labor, it can pay for a lot of stuff. I
would try to figure out a way you could keep it all, if
the layout of your site allows it.

So tell me about Pell City. Because at Pell City, you


didnt get to keep it all. You decided to completely
convert the self serve building into an express
exterior car wash. This was what the attendees at the
show found so interesting, because you were able to
preserve the building and now you have completely
changed the format of the wash.

MW: Well, Ill tell you what did it at Pell City. We


used to do $16,000 a month with a couple bays of
self serve and an automatic. Were on the outskirts
of town, right next to a Walmart. The last few years
the weather patterns have changed a lot. Its a lot
grayer, if that makes sense. A little more rain. The self
serve business started going down -- especially the
automatic. All of a sudden, were going from $16,000
down to anywhere from $8,000-$10,000. No other

88 WINTER 2015

competition; nothing. My carwash was in great shape,


looked really nice. Everything worked. But for two
years it just died.
So I started to consider the options. I looked at adding a few more automatics or putting a Buff n Shine
machine in there. We looked into those portable lube
things. And then I started talking to people about doing
an express.
In my case, I had this nice building, but it was right in
the middle of the lot. It wasnt ideal for an express, because you need room to put your vacuums on one side.
We were still considering plans, when out of the blue,
theres another car wash company coming to put an
express down the street. I mean this is about 200 yards
from me. So that made my mind up. I went ahead and
started building right away. I just blew out the walls on
the self serve and cut out the end part of it, which was
where the automatic and equipment room was, and
put the conveyor tunnel down the middle. When you
come out of the tunnel, you can go to the left or the
right, theres a few vacuums on either side. Its not the
ideal set-up, but I needed those guys to know I was
getting started.
So what I have now is a 90 foot conveyor. We had a
four bay self serve, automatic and an equipment room.

And those other guys??

MW: They decided not to build.


So you kept the building in the interest of saving time,
but did it also save you money?

MW: When

you talk to the builder, hell say I saved


about $75,000, maybe $100,000, by keeping the building. But I think I probably saved more like $200,000.
I already had all the concrete. I saved a bundle there,
because the whole lot was already concrete.

This type of conversion where you save the existing


building is that feasible for most other operators?

MW: Our

building in Pell City is a nice building, but


some carwashes -- like my other car wash that Im
converting, that was built in 1985, so were tearing it
down. But most of the time the self serves are in the
middle of the lot. If theyre positioned that way, you
would probably be better off tearing it down in order
to move the building to the back. You dont want to
mess up the traffic flow.
But even if you can keep the existing building, in
most cases, youre still going to have to gut the electrical. You might be able to use some of the plumbing,
but that's why you dont save as much money. Because
you do need to re-do all the electrical and in some cases the plumbing.
But if you can save the building and just blow out
some walls, it saves you a lot of time. If youre thinking
about adding the mini tunnel instead of converting the
entire business, you just put a smaller building on the
side or you extend one of the bays.

{continued }

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grown nearly three times faster than those that havent.*

Car Wash Volume Increase


National Average 2011-2014

20%
10%
0

25.5%

9.1%
Without FastPassss

With FastPass

FastPass RFID

A wireless acceptance system that clears transactions

in less than two seconds by reading windshield tags


without even requiring customers to lower their
windows.

The easiest and fastest way to identify monthly

pass customers.

Provides the most seamless buying experience when

used with the SiteWatch Automatic Recharge Module


(ARM) for monthly passes and the Xpress Pay
Terminal (XPT) self-pay station.

Learn more about how you can offer your customers a


better buying experience with SiteWatch FastPass from
DRB Systems.
Contact DRB Systems at 1-800-336-6338, or visit
www.drbsystems.com for more information.

* Comparison figure based on blind StatWatch reports from


over 600 anonymous car washes.

USING TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE YOUR CUSTOMERS EXPERIENCE

800-336-6338 Green, Ohio / www.drbsystems.com


Copyright 2014. All rights reserved DRB Systems

WINTER 2015

89

Express Conversion
Did you have experience with operating an express
carwash before you jumped into this?

MW: Actually, Greg Pack and I experimented with one a


few years before in Hueytown, LA. I already had a few
self serves and automatics over there, so we took a full
serve wash that was there and thought we might tinker
with it a bit. We were both always just into self serves,
so we thought we might try it out.
It was a little 65 foot tunnel. We gutted the whole
thing and built an express. It never was a high volume
place, but it got us to understand how the tunnel stuff
worked.
A lot of these self serve guys look at the tunnels and
see all the labor and they think theres a lot more to it
than there really is. A tunnel is actually easier to work
with because if one particular item breaks down, you
can retract it and not use that piece and keep going.
Whereas, if my automatics, if something goes down,
then its down.
Eventually, I sold that carwash along with the self
serves I had over there.

Tell me about the customers. Are they the same as


would have been coming to the self serve or is it
mostly new business?

MW: You know, in Pell City I was worried about losing


my self serve clientele; that whole market. Its interesting that the majority of them converted over to the
express. There are two other self serves in town and its
a small population; about 8,000 people. We get a lot of
business coming in for the Walmart from surrounding
towns. I was quite surprised that so many of them did
just kind of convert over to it. The difference in the
revenue turned out extreme. Its amazing. We charge
$5 and weve got free vacuums. Obviously, I think that
free vacuum is a huge draw to people. That central vacuum, the perception is that theres more suction on the
vacuums, but if you have a good vacuum out there I
dont think theres much difference, but thats the perception of it. The other thing, its a continuous flow.
The people, they can move through quicker. We get
people lined up for our automatic and literally, the best
you can do is 10, maybe 12 cars going through that
thing per hour. And, again, you know, were in a small
market and we dont do as many cars, but we dont
have the amount of money into it as some of these
express facilities do. We do 5,000 cars. The most weve
ever done in one day is like 58 cars in an hour, which
obviously is pretty good compared to an automatic.

Whats the timeline for a conversion like this?

MW: Normally its going to take 4-5 months to get these


things done. They might tell you 90 days, but thats if
nothing goes wrong. If you keep the building and some
plumbing, you might save a month.
When we were putting this together and we were
tearing off parts of the building we found that they
didnt shore up some of the walls. They really should
have done a better job on building the self serve, so
we ended up having to knock down a couple pillars to
re-do them and then filling the sides. One side was all
block and we added an equipment room on that side.
And then the other side we went up a little bit with
brick and then we had glass windows put in in between
them. It wasnt too bad, in the end.

Did you ever consider gated POP to revive the site?

90 WINTER 2015

Interested
in Gated POP?

Check out our interview with Marcus


Kittrell in the Summer 2014 issue!
Archived copies of SSCWN are available
for purchase at www.sscwn.com.

MW: Honestly, I

would have done the gated wash to


start with, but I really cant gate either of these sites
correctly because of the way theyre laid out. Marcus
has a gated one thats in between two express washes
and this year that gated car wash is going to do more
business than it ever has before and its been around
since the 80s.
My son has a self serve and the business has gone
way down. Weve been talking and trying to lay out
how he could gate it. Most of the gated washes Ive
seen -- especially sites that are still doing all right, but
maybe theyve lost a lot of business to competitors
once they gate it, business picks up tremendously.
I took a guy around a few washes last week and
we stopped to visit an older car wash thats not in a
very good neighborhood; its a low income area. They
gated it and put a chain link fence around, then they
took their automatic out and decided to use that covering for the entrance. We were walking around and
the place was packed. I was talking to the customers
there and they said this was the best thing that operator could have done, because now they pay $6 and they
have vacuums. They felt more secure, too. I used to go
there before, and there would be tons of trash. Now
the gate and the fence keep the riff raff from coming in
and dumping their trash. Those customers were really
excited about it.
I know were not talking about the Association, but
Ive been thinking we need to get these self serve guys
more involved. So many of them have these older carwashes and theyre not upgrading them, theyre not
doing anything to them. Thats one of the reasons that
business is going down. Theyre not lit right, not efficiently. They dont have some of the services that some
of the newer washes are offering. Theyve got to invest
money into them.

Were you nervous to make the leap to express?

MW: Oh yeah. I owed about $580,000 on that site still,


its a really good location. When you count it up, between the new equipment and the used equipment
that I bought, I spent another $600,000 or so. I prob-

ably have $500,000 less than someone putting a new


wash in, but when youre putting that kind of money into something youre nervous. I knew it would
work. I had pro formas that I had done. I knew I needed
about 3,000 cars a month, which is basically what I was
already doing with the self serve, but with the express
my ticket average was going to be about $10.
My whole thing was, I wanted to get back to where
I was making $10,000 a month. I had got down to the
point where I wasn't making any money -- all I was doing was cleaning up the place and keeping it running. I
wanted to get back to where I was making that kind of
money. I knew I wasnt going to be able to do that with
the self serve model.
The first year we averaged about 3,500 cars a month.
The second year we jumped up to 4,900 a month. And
soon, you know, its 5,000. All these people who say,
Oh, I cant build an express. The volumes not there.
You need to think about your options. I just wanted
3,000 cars a month, thats what I thought the customer
base was. And now I average $10.30 a car and I can run
that place with just one person during the week days,
and two people on the weekends.
I was talking to someone a bigger express operator,
one of those guys who spent about $2 million for his
site and I said, We did 4,000 cars last month. He
said, Oh, Im sorry. I was thinking, Im not. I mean,
4,000 cars?! Ive died and gone to heaven.

Tell me about the labor. Are the headaches that


different from an SS?

MW: Well, when youre doing the self serve, youve got
a clean-up guy or you go do it yourself. But you find a
lot of self serve guys have another job, so theyve got a
clean-up guy. And hes lazy. So when they think about
express, they worry about how theyre going to manage that person. They think theyll have to be there all
day. But, really, its no different than working with your
clean-up guy, except maybe now hes got a little bit
more to do because he can prep the cars or direct them
on the conveyor. Then its just taking out the trash and
telling people with muddy vehicles they cant come
through. Its really no different.
The equipment is easier. Its like I said earlier, if something breaks, you just retract it and just keep washing
cars. Youre not shutting the whole tunnel down like
you would have to do for an automatic. Its actually
more efficient.
You know, the first time I went into a self service
equipment room and I saw all these solenoids and all
these hoses going everywhere; I was thinking, Oh my
God. But really its not that bad. When its foreign to
you it seems complicated. But the self serve guys can
adjust to that very quickly.
I look at it this way. I am a self serve guy: I had seven
self serves at one point. When I think about my options,
I know a gated wash could have increased business quite
a bit. But the express will change your world completely.
Im doing five times the revenue. Yes, my expenses went
up and Ive got more people, but when you do the math,
the gains are still there. Its a big difference. Youre making some interesting money.

Whats the timeline for the next site,


the one out by Atlanta?

MW: Well start the first of the year (2015). I was going
{continued }

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WINTER 2015

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Express Conversion

to start at the beginning of last year, but we had some


delays and then I didnt want to start during pollen season. And then after that, the year just got away from
me. Now Im thinking about changing it again. Id really like to put a tunnel on the side so I can keep the self
serve bays. Ive got to get my guy out there to see if he
can lay it out that way.

Is it worth sacrificing on your tunnel length in order to


keep the self serve bays? I assume youre thinking of
adding something like a 50-foot mini instead of trying
to do a 90-foot express like you have in Pell City?

MW: Yes, I think so. I think you should try to keep it all.
A 50 foot tunnel and then some free vacuums, and
you get to keep your self serves and your automatic.
Something that Tim Jones [Champion Car Wash in
Tennessee] did, he put the tunnel on the side and then
he has four or five bays of self serve and hes got a gate
on those. You go in, you pay $5 and when it stops, the
gate comes up and you go back to the free vacuums.
Kevin Wood [Snappy Express Wash in GA] did the
same thing. And each time, their self serve business has
increased. Theyre doing a lot of volume. If you have
the space and you can lay it out, it works very well.

So is that a pay-one-price format for his self serve?

MW: What he did with one site -- where the gates are,
if the guy goes in and he only wants to spend $2, well,
he can do that. But hes got to back out of the bay.
The gate stays down. He doesnt get to drive through
for the free vacuums. But most people when they get
used to it, theyll pay the $5 to have the free vacuums.
I mean, it costs you $5 to wash your car anyway, right?
Theres another guy here in Alabama that added
about a 40-50 foot tunnel and kept the self serve. I was
talking to his brother the other day who came up here
to look around. He said he cant afford a tunnel at his
wash right now. He looked at my Pell City site and then
we went to Marcuss gated wash. Hell probably start
with a gated wash and then, if business improves, he
could try to put a little tunnel at the end. Its really not
that much. Worst case scenario you have two people
working for you, if you dont want to be out there. And
its going to keep your self serve clean as a whistle.
Marcus and I would go to Tims place, and first thing

92 WINTER 2015

I would say after we park is, Look at the self serves


and look at the vacuums. The hoses are always rolled
up and perfectly in place and everythings clean. When
theyre not doing cars, the guy is picking up. The place
is spic and span. And during the day anybody who
came through there that was skeptical, they kick him
out. You dont get the sheetrock people, the painters.
Unless they come late at night or something like that.
Some of these guys close the place down at night. Now
that kind of defeats the purpose of keeping that part of
your business, but thats an option, too.
There are so many options with it. When people
ask me -- like when that guy came up here, I showed
him both those sites, I said you have both options. The
gated wont give you the revenue that youll get out
of an express, and people could sit there all day long
and say, Were not going to do that kind of business,
those numbers, out here. But this little community Ive
got -- and Ive seen it in tons of places like that, with
smaller volumes and theyre going crazy. It will work.
Its just hard for people to bite the bullet and spend
that money.

What about your branding and marketing? How did


the customers adapt?

MW: The good thing about being an existing car wash


-- I mean, the one out in Pell City, I didnt have to do
anything because you go right by it to go to Wal-Mart,
its right on the corner and the people saw it being converted. They saw the changes. And a lot of them, even
though theres not an express in this community, they
work in Birmingham or surrounding communities and
theyve been through one. So, it wasnt foreign to them.
It really was interesting how easily they adapted to
the entry units, too. At my first express, the people hated the entry units. We literally quit using them. Theyd
come up and wed ask them what they wanted; we had
a cashier kiosk unit. That can happen once in a while,
but we didnt have that trouble in Pell City. That is the
fear for a lot of these guys, and you see so many self
serves that are older and theyre not making the money
and they dont want to spend even $5,000 or $10,000
to keep up with the industry and its a slippery slope. It
just keeps going down.

Lets talk about that slippery slope. Its a topic thats


coming up more and more at industry events and
online discussions. For the operators that dont have
the resources or perhaps the motivation to invest big
money in their businesses, where should they start?

MW: The site I am getting ready to convert, like I said,


we thought we were going to start earlier. So we had
a pump, and we had a vacuum that werent working.
We just closed those off and said The heck with it.
Next thing you know, its all going downhill. I had to
tell my son-in-law to go out and buy all new pumps. I
told him, Fix it up like were not changing anything. I
can sell those pumps later. It was a mistake on my part,
not to do it earlier, but I thought we were going to start
construction sooner.
I hate it for the self serves, but, you know, the self
serve businesses -- some of them are dead. You see it
every day. You go by the self serve place and business
has gone down and you look in the bays and one of the
lights isnt working, or the vacuums arent working, or
a couple lights in the back are out. Theyre not fixing
that stuff. They blame it on the competition, and I will
admit, if youre next to an express, youre going to lose
business to the express. The customers perceive a lot
more value for their money there.
You know, I had that guy around the wash the other
day, and I showed him the equipment room. He asked
me why I had water heaters. Well, we dispense hot water for the rinse. He said, Really? And I said, Yeah,
were the only ones that do that. And we get people
who travel from way over town just to use that. And
he said, But it costs you more? And I said, Well, yeah.
But thats why Ive got the business.
This one car wash I have it was built in 1985 and
it looks like it was 1985. But everything works. Weve
kept the lot clean and weve got phone numbers posted all over that place and weve got a guy that comes
by twice a day to clean up. And then my son in law or
myself is there at least once a day. And people know
that if anything goes wrong, that theyre getting their
money back or a free wash; theyll be taken care of.
And weve got the hot water rinse. It doesnt sound
like much but you would not believe how many people respond to that and say something about it. And
now in this last six months, we havent done as much

Express Conversion
as we would normally do because we were going to
tear it down, and you can really tell the difference. People would call and say, Whats going on? The timers
arent working on the vacuums. I mean theyve been
coming there since they were kids when their dads
would take them there. Its a community car wash. But
when you start letting things go down, then they'll let
you know, too.
Its an old car wash. But its clean and its there. Do
the walls need to be replaced? Yes. That kind of thing.
But all the brushes are constantly new. That stuff. Thats
one of the biggest problems; youll hear Dale Reynolds
[Carolina Pride] talk about it all the time. You know,
self serves not dead. Its the people that own it that
are killing it. I mean, the owners are older or they have
another job and they bought it just to make some extra
cash. You need an attendant thats up there a minimum
of two times a day, and then you need to be checking
it each night. Or you need a full time attendant. You
need to gate it if you want to avoid a lot of those headaches. But thats whats happening -- they have other
jobs. And when you talk about express -- theyre not
going to do that.
And some guys are justtheyre just self serve guys.
Like, Greg Pack bought a wash from me a while ago
and I keep telling him he should put an express over
there. Just a little tunnel would quadruple the business.
But he doesnt want to do it. When we had that express, he hated to go over there and work at it. Hes a
self serve guy. I mean, some of them are scared of that.
But the freedom for someone like Greg -- who's got
several car washes -- you can roam around, youre not
stuck at one. And then theyre also worried they wont
make enough money to make it work. I like self serves,
too, but if someone came to me and said, Would you
build a self serve or an express? Id say, Express.
This other carwash that were re-doing, it will do the
same numbers as my Pell City one. And if you have
two of them that do that -- and keep in mind, these are
small communities -- they only do 5,000 cars a month.
You don't have to do these huge numbers. But youre
changing your life money wise. Thats a lot of money.
But I do understand the dilemma or the mindset of a
lot of these guys.
You know, Marcus just bought a self serve and he
was just gonna do two automatics there and I told
him, your whole brand is express. You can keep the
automatic and you can keep the self serve, but put an
express in there and then it matches your model and
you're keeping a very viable self serve business, too.
And he has decided to do that. Hes gonna bite the
bullet; gonna spend a little extra money and just do it.
A lot of these self serves are big enough to do that. I
just didnt have enough room in Pell City to even gate
the ones I had, or I would have tried that first. If youve
got a car wash, a self serve, that was successful and its
gone down now, youre going to know how much business its going to do, pretty much. And thats like, with
Charlie Bell [American Pride, NC] he had successful
car washes, some of the most successful self serves in
the country, and then he just added a tunnel and it
went through the roof. Because you just add on to that
business. Thats pretty neat. I think the self serves can
bring it back and they can bring it back strong. They
just need to be willing to make the leap.

Interview with Marcus Kittrell, former SECWA Board Member and


owner/operator of Marc-1 Car Wash, a chain of four express car
washes and one gated self serve in the Birmgingham, AL, area.
Lets talk first about the actual conversion. You bought
a self serve site with the intent to convert to express,
right? You were going to keep the building, but put a
conveyor in there.

MK: We bought an existing 3 bay self-serve/3 bay automatic. We had actually looked to demolish the whole
property -- the whole building -- to move it, but once
we started looking at it, the building was really sitting
in about the perfect place. So we wondered, Can we
just knock the walls out and put the conveyor inside
that car wash? And it absolutely worked out.
Our site is parallel to the street and we had to
change the entrance and exit of the driveway. Where
people were used to coming into the entrance, they
now had to exit. And where people were exiting,
theres the entrance.
This was already a pretty nice building. When
they built it back in 2003, I think it was doing about
$240,000 a year in gross sales. When I talked to the
guys, back in 2013, the income had dropped to about
$140,000. Still profitable, but they just wanted out.
They considered building an express or adding a mini
tunnel inside one of the automatic bays. At the same
time, though, I had bought some property down the
street and I was going to build a conveyor. We were literally just three blocks from each other. So they came
to me and said, look, theres no point in us competing
against each other. So we struck a deal and we took the
property over. First, we thought like they did that we
would do a mini tunnel, too, and operate the self serves
and the two automatics. But once we really looked at
it, we said lets just make this a conveyor.

Why was that?

MK: Well,

to be honest, the mini tunnel might have


been a better fit for this particular location than the
big tunnel that we built. But we were already going to
put a conveyor in that market, so we decided lets just
make it a bigger conveyor so we could wash more cars.
We could do more volume.

A few issues back, we talked about the success


youve had in gating your self serve wash. Did you
think about trying that here?

MK: I thought real hard about that, too. I really did. But
there are no conveyors in that market over there. So I
was afraid that if we didnt do it, then somebody would
do a conveyor and then all of a sudden Ive got a gated
self serve thats got to compete with an express. And
Ive got a lot more money in this car wash than I do in
the other one that Ive already gated.

How did the market and


demographics direct your plans?

MK: This location, the demographics were really strong.


We had a lot of house tops in kind of a metro area. This
is a busy area; this is not out in the suburbs. Its funny
were talking about the demographics, because I just

traded a piece of property -- the one I had originally


planned to build this wash on -- for a self serve and
automatic wash thats in an area thats much smaller.
It has four self serves and a touchfree automatic. Were
actually going to put a new automatic in there and a
mini tunnel next to that, and keep the three self serve
bays. So thatll be the next project. And well gate the
bays at the end, so when a self serve customer pays, the
gate will come up and they can go to the free vacuums. That market is extremely small, but its only seven
miles away from my best express, so well just tie into
our loyalty clubs. Thats why were going to do it. Its a
growing market, but it will be a slow volume site.

I know weve discussed this before because of your


involvement with the Association (SECWA) and
because youre a frequent panel member for these
discussions: A lot of self serves are bitter about
the express business. Some of them feel express
washes have come in, dominated the market and
are perhaps leading to the demise of the self serve
industry. Whats your response to those operators?

MK: Im not gonna lie -- Ive had it happen to myself.


I did it to myself! But operators have to understand
-- this does not have to be the end of the game. I think
a lot of operators throw in the towel way too early.
They refuse to spend any more money, and most likely, they werent spending a whole lot of money in the
first place. They werent reinvesting in their business.
But I get this question all the time about that. I say,
listen, you have to make your car wash the best that
you can make it. There is a market out there for self
serves. Now, is it a big market? Is it a growing market?
I dont think it is. Its not something that youre going
to see trending up. Thats why we changed the model
to a gated self serve model. Thats why I want to liven
up these three self serve bays that are in a small town
with a mini tunnel and give them free vacuums with a
self serve. Were changing the model. Our business has
to keep evolving. Keep moving.
The expresses have found themselves in the same
situation. Its been over ten years. Theyre finding they
have to add extra services; flex serve, extra detail, that
sort of thing. You have to constantly be thinking about
whats next. Like what weve done inside the tunnels
now with all the LED lights and all the lava and the hot
wax. The distributors or the manufacturers are doing a
good job right now; the soap manufacturers. Theyre
keeping ideas fresh right now. But everybodys gotta
keep doing that.
You can go to the Mr. Foamer website (www.mrfoamer.net), go there and look at what theyre doing.
Theyre putting hot wax and all these LEDs on all the
automatics. Were going to be doing that to the automatic that weve just acquired. Kleen Rite has a lot of
good information, too. Theyve got an undercarriage
wash for the self serves. Look at your business -- Do
you have air dryers in the bay? Theyve got token dis-

{continued }
WINTER 2015

93

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94 WINTER 2015

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WINTER 2015

95

Express Conversion
pensers that go into the bay so you can offer free vacuums. It just depends on if somebody wants to spend
the money and reinvest in their site.
The problem with self serve guys is theyre not going
to go up on their price. Thats the problem. Theyve got
to go up on the price some. They can get paid for the services theyre offering. Especially if theyre reinvesting in
the site, theyve got to charge the customer for that value.
But I understand the operator concerns. You know, if
I had to depend on my self serve Id be in big trouble.
Thats why we decided to gate it. That was the best
thing I ever did to that particular location. Thats not
for everybody -- not everybodys car wash lays out
that way. But that one does. Youve got to be creative
and youve got to be open-minded. The self serves are
taking a hit, theres no question. But the guys that are
giving up thats not necessary. Theyve got to change
their model some or theyve got to invest in it. Where
self serves and automatics can compete, most of them
are open 24/7, theyre open when it rains. A lot of expresses close. Theres business to be had -- it all depends on how badly you want to be in business. But it
is a tough market. Youve got to be willing to open your
eyes and look at your model and see if you can change
it and make it better.

Lets discuss the operational headaches, because


I think those concerns are also paramount to this
discussion. A lot of operators look at the labor and
that has them shaking in their boots. Theyre not
ready to make that leap.
MK: I actually started in the full serve business back
in 81, when I was a sophomore in high school. Then in
86, a guy came that wanted to build a self serve on a
piece of property that my dad had and he couldnt get
it financed, so my dad and I decided to do it. So I started
in the full serve and got into the self serve really early.
I stayed at work at the full serve and then kept adding
self serves and automatics and then finally, went on my
own. Then back in 2000 and got into the full service
business, and then in 02 got into the express business.
I understand the apprehension with that leap. That is
a huge leap for somebody to take. Because now youre
getting into where you have to have an attendant, and
sometimes you have to have more than one person
there. And then you have damage claims, where a mirror might break off, and then all of a sudden youre
dealing with customers. And then youre dealing with
a whole lot of different things, so I can understand that,
but it depends on what you want to do with the model.
I think the answer for a lot of the self serve operators is probably just adding the mini tunnel. Thats why
they came out with the mini tunnel for self serve guys.
That was the whole point of the mini express. Manufacturers have tried to cater to some of the self serves
with this -- its not like they forgot them. All youre
doing is adding another profit center to your property.
Thats how they have to look at it. Instead of being
overwhelmed with the conveyor and all that; its hey
-- am I willing to add this profit center? Its no different
than an express person deciding if he wants to add flex
serve to an express. Do I want to add this profit center?
If I do, then all of a sudden I have to add people to the
payroll at this site and Ive got to deal with the customer on the inside of their car. Its the same thing the self
serve guys have to decide. Do I want to build this mini
tunnel? Well then, Ive got spend a half million dollars

96 WINTER 2015

to put this in. Do I want to add free vacuums? Youve


just got to commit.

You know, the typical self serve owner usually has a


9-5 job or another role outside of car wash operator.
Do you think its possible for these types of operators
to add a mini tunnel or convert to express and deal
with labor issues?

MK: I think so, if youve got the right person running it.
You can do that. Theres folks that do that with expresses. That can be done. Is it ideal? Probably not, because
theres going to be days your manager doesnt wanna
show up or is sick. Once you bring people into it, then
youre going to have the people problems. Whether
youre full time with them or youre at work. It doesnt
matter, once you incorporate that, youre going to have
the same problems whether youre there or not. The
question is: How will you handle it? You know, can you
handle it from work? Does your job allow you to? If
youre a fireman or a policeman, itd probably be hard
to take care of something. But if youre in an office and
you can handle some phone calls here or there and put
out fires, you could probably have somebody help you
do that. I wouldnt let that be a roadblock not to do it.
I think the upside is too great. I would rather have that
problem then have the problem of losing money on a
self serve to an express coming down the street.

How much customer education and marketing/


branding was involved with your conversion?

MK: It was such an extensive rehab, that wasnt really


a problem. If you drove by, you could see it definitely was going to be different. No automatics there, we
knocked all the walls out. But we did have customers that would ask about the in-bay automatic. They
thought maybe we had it at the end of the car wash
or something. But once they went through, they were
extremely happy. The technology now, the safety
of all our stuff; it does a good job and its very safe.
The customer just wants a clean car. Thats just what
they want. Some of them want touch-free, but even if
theyre getting touch-free, they want a clean car. Thats
never going to change. There wasnt a whole lot (to do
with marketing/rebranding/customer education). The
entrance and exit -- for people who have been coming
to this car wash for a while, you could tell they were
hesitant coming from the street because theyre pulling
into what used to be the exit. You could see the hesitation, Am I in the right spot? We still have people who
pull up to the exit like they want to enter. But once
they see our signage, they see whats going on. But you
can see the ah ha moment when they hit the brakes
and figure it out real quick.

What about your before and after numbers?

MK: I only operated it for like a month before the renovation. But they started out at like $240,000 a year.
When I took it over, it was on pace to do $140,000,
I think, based on the numbers I got. So now, where
we were doing, lets say $10,000 a month, now were
doing, $40,000 and $50,000 a month. Im not going to
say it was a no brainer, but Im glad we did it.

Lets talk about your next project, this 4/1 in a smaller


market area. How have you been working through
the options there?
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WINTER 2015

97

Express Conversion
MK: You know, it really is just a perfect project that I
was able to trade that other property for. And I have
been looking at this like a self serve guy -- not an express guy. Ive had to ask myself especially since I
dont want to spend too much money how I can improve the bays and the automatics and then Ive had
to consider if I should double up on the automatics or
make the jump to a conveyor. Do I want my cake and
to eat it, too? Ive been working through all that decision making the last few months. Because this is a small
market; this is not a big market at all.
The difference with us is that we already have the infrastructure for the labor. Well pull that from our other
express washes. Weve got that piece of the puzzle. But
we do still have to worry about the return on investment -- so is it worth doing it? Thats where Im at right
now: Is it worth the conveyor? Or, can I have a better
return, not as much money in it, with just a couple automatics and a gated self serve with free vacuums?
Ive got $285k in this site that I traded for; so now
Im saying: If I want to go all out, Ill have to invest
$500k, so now Ive got $800k, maybe almost $900k in
this thing. Can I make it work with a conveyor/automatic in that? Or can I invest maybe just $250k? Dress
up my self serve. Add a new automatic. Add some free
vacuums. But then I have to worry about an express
coming in down the street later on.
Expresses are moving into smaller and smaller markets. Theyre coming. You know, my son is 17 years old.
And Ive been in the car wash business forever; the self
serve, the full serve, the express. But all he knows is the
express. He doesnt know the other types of washes.
And thats what youre seeing. A 16-year-old can go to
an express and get their car washed for $5 or $6, such a
great value, and they only gave up three minutes of not
texting or talking on their phone, because theyre in
the free vacuum cleaning out their car. They only gave
up a few minutes of their time.
I understand the self serve guy dilemma. Thats
why Ive decided, listen, were probably just going to
put a mini conveyor down at this wash that we traded
for. Whether I spend $250k or $500k, I think that we
will get the better return for adding the mini, because
were completely changing the model of that car wash.
Were keeping some of the old, were keeping the self
serve, but were going to Superman it. Were going to
come in and put air dryers in the bays. Were going to
put undercarriage in there for the customer to use.
Were going to give you a way so that if you pay $5,
you can go back as long as you want for free vacuums.
This is how weve decided we have to do this in order
to keep up with me -- because Im the closest competition. Ive got to compete with Marc-1. So how can I
do that? How can I keep Goo Goo or somebody else
from coming in on top of me? And thats how we can
do it. Thats when the decision gets made. Some people dont want to go to the expense of spending a half
million dollars, and I completely understand that, too.
But if youre not willing to play the game, you cant
complain about somebody that is.

What are the options for operators who arent


ready to make that leap or maybe they dont need
to worry about that kind of competition just yet.
Whats their plan?

MK: They need to look at: How can I improve the self

98 WINTER 2015

serve experience for my self serve customers? Thats


the key. You know, the express guys are having to
spend money to do extra stuff, too. When they add
the lights and the lava and all the other stuff, its not
free. You do have to spend money. But I can see the
hesitation, the reluctance from the self serve guys. Ive
been there and done that. I used to be one. But I do
know the importance of changing. There are some self
serves that are just good ol self serve sites. They do
good. Theyre in a good market. And theyre doing just
fine. They might want to do better, but right now, if
theyll just touch up what theyve got, spend a little bit
more to make sure its safe for customers to come in
You know, self serves -- weve done this to ourselves.
With no lighting at night. With no attendants. Stuff not
working. Just taking your money. Everybody that you
talk to can give you a bad car wash story. Whether its a
rollover at a gas station that didn't work, broke the antenna and beat the car up and the attendant didnt take
care of it; or a self serve where someone put the money
in and the soap didnt come out. You know, how many
times have you put money in a self serve vacuum and
it just doesnt work? It comes on, but it just doesnt
work? Youve got the attendant over there just kicking
at rocks. Im not trying to knock anybody, but we have
put our own selves in this box. And so we are having to
change it. And it is painful to change.
I would encourage them to take a hard look at their
business -- go take a picture of your car wash. Its the
best medicine. Go take a picture of it. Look at it as if
you were the customer. I mean, once you take a picture of it and put it on paper, all the ugly things start
to stand out. I would encourage operators to do that.
Every month, we do that, we take pictures of our car
wash, self service included. And we see what looks terrible. We change that sign or we touch up the paint. Take
a picture -- that will tell you a lot right there. Dont just
do it once -- take a picture every month. And after that,
I promise, you'll start working on things to make it better. Whether its a self serve or a gas station or an automatic or whatever weve got. You know, some of these
automatics out there are 15 years old. Its time to go.
Its time to get a new one. You dont have to change up
the model; reinvest in the model that you like. Borrow
some money if you have to. You get into this business,
its expensive to get into, but you need to reinvest. A
lot of these new automatics are pretty gosh darn cool.
Theyre fast. Some of these friction units do a phenomenal job on a car. Then make sure you price your menu
where youre getting priced for your services.
Im preaching the same things Ive heard distributors
and manufacturers preach for a number of years. They
say theyre giving us the options were just not taking
them.
What is best for the customer? That is what you need
to ask. Take yourself out of the equation. And if you
put in a new automatic, do a price increase. When we
do the self serve, were probably going to be charging
$5 for 10 minutes. Were going to get paid for our service. But when people put their money in, theyre going to get a great job. If somebody wants to go down
the street because of what we charge, thats fine. But at
least well be making money on the customers that are
coming in. Customers will pay you for a good service.
Go to Chik Fil A. Theyre not cheap.
Youre going to get the people that complain, but

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Express Conversion
look at all the customers that are loving it. We went
up to $6 at all our washes last January, and to be
honest, between all four sites, I dont think we heard
from more than 5 people. All we did, when they complained, was give them a free car wash. And that shut
down all the complaints. Ive had no problems. Thats
how we need to operate. Its definitely a big decision.
I can understand that. When you add the mini tunnel, youve got to upgrade your electrical service and
theres a lot of work in that. Youre labor headaches, all
that, your expenses are going to go up. But Ive never
known anyone thats put in a mini tunnel and wanted
to take it out. No ones gone back the other way. The
guys that have made the improvements, theyre not
pulling em out. That tells you something there. But
like, Tim Jones, he loves the mini tunnel. Hes going
to keep making the tunnels longer and longer. But he
loved that model -- that in-bay and the mini tunnel at
the SS. Thats why Im going to copy that. Because if
it works for him, maybe I can make it work, too. The
guys that are changing are the ones that are making
things happen.

To that point, thank you for always being so open and


for always sharing your knowledge and experiences
with us, both in the pages of SSCWN and at the
regional trade shows.

MK: Well, I love the car wash industry. And Im into helping out. And Ive always said, if you want to come see my
sites, come on over. Matter of fact, well be meeting some
people on Monday who are flying into town.
We're in a competitive marketplace here in Birmingham, weve got really good operators everywhere, in
express and in self serve. It has made us better operators. Do I like it that Ive got competition building
here and there? No. But theres nothing I can do about
that. But I can change what I can do; or I can say were
going to do better in this area or were going to keep
this cleaner or were going to make sure the customer
wins when he puts his money in or were gonna pay for
an antenna if we break it. Were going to do things in
the right way, and hopefully in the end, that pays off.
So far, it has.
You take, Charlie Bell in the Carolinas. Charlie has
done a phenomenal job in his carwashes. He probably
runs the best self serves and automatics of anyone I
know of. Everything has to be perfect at his sites. Hes
now on his fourth mini tunnel added to his car wash.
Hes been a very successful self serve and in-bay guy,
and all hes doing is adding this one component to his
very successful self serve and his very successful in-bay
and adding a little labor to it. Theyre just 50 foot tunnels. So thats another good self serve operator who
says, Hey, Im going to add this, to expand the model
for the customer, so they dont have to wait in lines.

In my conversation with Marc Wilson, he mentioned


that operators who have expanded their model
who have added tunnels to existing self serves
have found their self serve business has gone up
as a result. Is there a lot of crossover between the
customers? Do the self serve customers want an
express option or is it two separate customer bases?

MK: You know, express changed the game. I remember


when we did it; we were one of the first washes to do
that. We didnt know what we were doing. But I had

100 WINTER 2015

Thinking about
adding a mini
tunnel? Answer
these questions:
Do you have the space?
A mini tunnel can potentially fit in an existing self serve bay
or replace an in-bay automatic, but self serve operators
also need to consider ingress/egress and stacking space
for throughput. Most of the operators weve spoken with
through the years have insisted a 40-50 conveyor is ideal.

Do you have the funds?


A mini tunnel will set you back about $250,000 depending
on the bells and whistles you choose. If that seems steep,
youll want to research your IBA options. While a tunnel
requires labor expenses, IBAs potentially use more water
and have slower throughput, so youll want to factor those
costs into your calculations.

Do you have the potential volume?


Mini tunnels can process 40-50 cars per hour. To
compare, an in-bay automatic will max out around 12
cars per hour. If youre not routinely seeing lines at your
in-bay automatic, you might want to consider a traffic and
market area study to make sure you have the potential
volume to maximize ROI.

Are you comfortable managing labor?


Ideally, youll want an employee on site to open the tunnel
in the morning, and one to close at night. Some operators
find having a third employee who can fill in the gaps or
help during peak volume is extremely helpful, too.

been to Bennys, and I thought, Man, I like this deal.


You know, I actually wanted to look at his full serves. I
had just bought a car wash and I wanted to copy what
he did. But he said, How about you come over to my
new place? We were there on a cloudy day, it was raining, and the cars were piling up! I called my contractor
and said, Stop what youre doing. Were getting ready
to redo this car wash. And we stopped right in the
middle of it, in the middle of construction. And we
completely re-did it as an express. I wasnt afraid to
take the dive; I was going to do a flex serve, but then I
decided on express. Thats what you have to be willing
to do.
Charlie Bell does a phenomenal job, and all he did
was add some free vacuums and a mini tunnel, and its
just set the world on fire out there in Carolina. I think
the guys have to look at adding the components that
way. Not think theyre changing the whole model -but maybe youre just adding an additional profit center. But that profit center is going to make a lot more
money, but youve got to manage a lot more. Theres
no question about that.
Look at your car wash: What can I do here? Would
somebody come by this site and build an express here?

There are some guys that have just demolished their


self serves and built theirs. In my case, the building was
already a nice building and it laid out perfectly. Even
if I had knocked it down, we probably would have put
the building almost in the exact same footprint. So
we saved some money, I dont even know how much,
maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars, maybe a little more than that, maybe a little less than that. Where
we really saved was in the city planning and zoning.
Nothing had to be redone or rezoned since we kept the
same footprint. The same with Marc Wilsons. Marc
probably had the most traditional self serve/automatic
conversion. His was like a 4/1 and mine was a 3/3. It
was a big wash. All the walls were 35 long. Mine just
worked out great, but not every self serves built like
that. But it can be done -- Marc proved it.
For the guy who doesnt want to mess with that; ask
yourself: Can you gate it? When we gated our car wash
it literally cut our trash in half and our revenue has
doubled. Or do you want the mini-tunnel. Can you
get an attendant there? All those headaches start going
away. Thats why Tim Jones has been successful -- because he has that attendant there. Crunch the numbers. Probably $4,000 on that labor, but if youre doing $30,000 a month just through your mini tunnel, I
think it pays for it. Id rather complain about the labor,
then complain about no business.
The difference between the self serve and express
guys -- the self serve guy is not looking to build another site. The express operator is. Thats the different
approach you have to take. Thats a mindset difference.
Ive got a couple guys that complain to me all the time.
I say, Listen, when you stop grumbling and youre
ready to sell out, just let me know. Cause Ill convert it
to express and show you what to do. And if you dont
want to sell, but if you finally decide you want to do
this, Ill help you do this. But if you're not ready, just let
me know when you want to sell. Cause Ill jump in and
do it and then youll call me and say, Why didnt I do
this? Thats the mindset difference. I want the best for
you, the operator, whether you convert to an express
or add a mini tunnel or gate it -- doing something is
better than doing nothing. If you want your business
to change, you have to change your business. Thats
the bottom line. Youve got to do it yourself. Whether
an express came in down the street or not, if youre
grumbling about how the business is doing now without any competition -- just think about how it will be
when you do have some competition. Cause theyre
coming. Thats what is making it easier for us to justify
putting in a mini tunnel; we know its coming. So, Im
going to spend a bit more, but now I can wash five
times more cars per hour. People dont want to wait.
Thats what they need to understand -- the self serve
customer that wants to spend a lot of time in that bay;
you need to charge him for it. Your touchfree needs
to be priced that way, too. Were going to a $7, 10, 15,
and 18 price point in an automatic. But were going to
have free vacuums, and were going to do hot wax and
the LED lights and everything else. Were only going to
get 7-8 cars per hour, but were going to get paid for
those cars. And then well have the mini tunnel next
to it priced the same way. Get paid for your services
and put services out there that people want to pay for.
Thats the trick. Charge for the value and offer a good
value. Its simple.

WINTER 2015

101

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WINTER 2015

103

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Highlights from WCA Show 2014 -- the Associations last ever solo show!
ICA CEO Eric Wulf comments on ICA/WCA Expo Partnership, delivered at the show:
Thanks to Brad for that introduction and overview. I just want to reiterate a couple of things he said. Number one, that this truly is a
partnership and thats how this has been approached for several years. In fact, I really give credit to Brad Hooper, Chris Buscaglia,
Ross Hutchings, and others. This really began, if you go back I think, 3 or 4 years to the Water Savers Program when we began
offering the program to WCA members you neednt only be an ICA member. And the reason we did that was because we felt like
thats an example of a program thats good for the industry. So lets not be parochial lets not fight over this program versus that
program. Its a similar strategy with trade shows. The vision that Brad and his team and the board has put forth for WCA becoming
very impactful locally and for them to not have to handle and give the resources to managing a 3 day trade show every year. And
instead saying, We want to participate in a trade show with ICA we really want to focus on the members and their states, and their
cities, and their counties on water issues or whatever else it might be that impact their business. Thats an exciting vision and its
one that were really happy to support. And so when you see the show in April at the convention center here in Las Vegas, you will see
a true partnership. Youll see the ICA and the WCA booths together, youll see an area where WCA education continues. So we think
this is truly an exciting model for a way that we can both add value and do things best and support each others organizations. But at
the end of the day, its really about supporting operators and suppliers where we can both be impactful. So kudos to this whole team
for driving that vision, and thank you and enjoy your show!

104 WINTER 2015

Eric
Wulf

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WCA SHOW 2014

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107

Darwin
Carwash

Who among us cant recall


the frustration of standing
in front of a vending
machine that just wont let
go of that Kit Kat bar?

at the

A collection of the most asinine antics and unusual criminal


events to be reported at carwashes around the country.
Want to murder your ex-lover?
At least one Australian defense lawyer thinks
you had better avoid the self serve car wash. Tim
Heffernan, the attorney for a woman found guilty of
murdering her former boyfriend at the Big Bucket
carwash in Parafield, Australia, argued a self serve
wash was the last place on Earth anyone would
want to carry out a murder because it was open
24 hours, had bright lights, and was monitored by
security cameras. Heffernan was hoping to prove
the murder was not premeditated, but a jury
found otherwise. The woman, Tristan Castle, was
implicated along with her more recent boyfriend,
Jason Bucca, in the murder of Adrian Castle last
February. Castle apparently lured Castle to the car
wash with promises of reconciliation, when Bucca
emerged from the cars trunk to shoot the man at
close range in a car wash bay. Sentencing for the
couple will occur later this month

Castle and Bucca arent the


only ones finding alternative
purposes for self serve bays.
Two men in Greeneville, SC, were arrested after
police officers became suspicious of their late night
business at a local car wash. Officers observed
the vehicle sitting in a self serve bay for over five
minutes without seeing any scrubbing going on,
so they approached the two men. The suspects
jumped back in their vehicle and made to getaway,
but an officer stopped their movement. While the
passenger was instructed to place his hands on the
self serve bay wall, the driver tried to lock the officers
out of the SUV, but wasnt successful. According to
a local newspaper report, the police found several
items of drug paraphernalia, some bags containing
methamphetamine, several pills, and a concealed
firearm after searching the vehicle and the suspects.
One of the men had three active arrest warrants on
file, the report said, and an investigation is ongoing.

But Im willing to bet the majority of you


didnt go as far as the man recorded on
Stop & Go Car Wash security cameras in
Larksville, PA. According to a local news
report, police are now looking for the
suspect who (after washing his vehicle in a
self serve bay) got out to use the carwashs
centrally-located vending machine. The
customer apparently got frustrated and
decided to punch the machine to teach it
a lesson. Not content with just abusing the
main vendor, he then returned to his vehicle
and backed into the self serve bays wallmounted vendor. With car and knuckles
properly damaged (and car wash properly
vandalized), he fled the scene. Police are
asking the public to review surveillance
images in order to identify the suspect.

Its not just thecustomersthat


are acting suspicious at the car
wash this month -- sometimes
its the owners. (And out of respect for
all upstanding car wash operators, which we imagine includes our entire readership, we will invoke a
heavy amount of quotation marks to indicate the
car wash operator in this case.)

Heartland Carwash Associations 32nd Annual

PRODUCT AND EQUIPMENT


INDUSTRY SHOW
MARCH 16TH & 17TH, 2015

Prairie Meadows Conference Center, Hotel and Casino | Des Moines, IA


Registration
Now Open!

Come and Visit with over 60 Exhibitors, Speak with Industry


Professionals and Take a Carwash Tour around Des Moines

Admissions start as low as $25!

www.TheCarWashShow.com

Discount Hotel Rates Available for a Limited Time!

Call 888.873.9735 or email


info@heartlandcarwash.org for more details!

108 WINTER 2015

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109

Thats not all -- Darwin


sometimes works as a
Corrections Officer. At
least in Canada, where
the possibilities seem
endless for a Darwin on
Career Day.
According to a CBC report, Canadian
federal prison staff set up a car wash,
oil change and vehicle repair business
by misusing federal facilities, supplies
and even inmate workers. One prison
staffer eventually decided enough was
enough and called out his supervisor,
who has been found to have committed
a serious breach of code of conduct,
although the government declined to
reveal any specific disciplinary action.
Results of the investigation have been
shared throughout regional offices in
hopes they might prevent similar abuses.

According to a local TV station, complaints and


tips from local residents gave away the shady dealings at Right Choice Car Wash in Valdosta, GA,
where police caught operator Jacob Mitchell
red-handed as he handed off a package to two
men, which was later revealed to be two pounds
of marijuana and $7,300 in cash. A subsequent
search of the business turned up bags, scales, and
items commonly associated with packaging and
weighing marijuana. Police also confiscated a
large number of counterfeit DVDs.

Youre not stupid.

You just have bad luck when you think.

And when
Darwin isnt
wearing his
customer
hat or operator hat, hes
sometimes in
a postmans
uniform.
At least thats the story out of
Brampton, Canada, where the manager
of New Image Car Wash found several garbage cans
stuffed full of ad mail over a weekend in October,
and then another estimated 1,900 pieces of mail the
following Tuesday. The local newspaper wrote about
manager Adam Tassones discovery and he even contacted the local post office -- but that didnt stop the
rogue mailman.
This guys pissing me off, Tassone told the
newspaper. Im not a dump site. People seem to
think that at a coin car wash, people can do whatever they want, that they can dump whatever they
want. The mail included flyers from a local orthodontics office, a pizza shop and a campaign postcards for a recent political race.
According to comments made by a Canada Post
spokesman, the person responsible has been identified, but no disciplinary measures were revealed.

I guess this is one way to make


your car wash profitable. Another
so-called car wash operator in Akron, OH, managed to keep Perfect Touch Ultimate Cleaning in the
green by running a thriving cocaine business out the
car wash. According to a local newspaper, Louis H.
Johnson told police he became a Perfect Touch franchisee in 2005, along the same time that he began
buying and selling cocaine. Federal authorities began an investigation in 2012 and have since seized
more than $80,000 from the washs bank account,
although no criminal charges have been filed as of
yet. Johnson was previously convicted for cocaine
dealing in 1997 and was sentenced to over 7 years
and eight months in federal prison in that case.

Finally, a terribly frustrating


report out of Beaufort, SC, where
a Tiger Express car wash was robbed twice in
mere hours by armed gunmen. The first robbery
happened just after 10 p.m. when an armed man
pointed a handgun at two employees and demanded they empty the cash registers. Three hours later,
three men wearing black masks and armed with
handguns robbed the business in a similar fashion,
this time also demanding the employees empty out
the stores safe -- which they were unable to do.
Police have not determined if the incidents are related, but are conducting an ongoing investigation.

SOFTGLOSS XS
NEOGLIDE
BRUSHES

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