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Gas gripes and gimmicks

October 11, 2010
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With gas prices reaching record highs many gas stations are feeling the monetary strains as consumers try to conserve by filling up less frequently.

However, carwashes with gas stations seem to have a head above the rest by offering customers numerous services and drawing earnings from multiple profit centers.

Smart carwash/gas station owners have found that, in these tighter times, the carwash has become the gas station owner's greatest asset and new best friend.

Discount on gas

Not many gas station owners can afford to discount their gas prices these days without losing money.

However, at Quality Car Wash, Grand Rapids, MI, Manager Dan Wenger has found that the wash's discount has made the site money.

Quality Car Wash offers gas customers a 10 cent discount on every gallon of gas when they purchase a wash and pump at least 10 gallons of gas.

Wenger told Professional Carwashing & Detailing that business did slump a bit when the gas prices began to rise, but once the site started offering the combination discount about a month ago business picked up steadily.

Prior to the price jump, the wash/gas station offered a $1 discount on a carwash with the purchase of five gallons of gas or more.

According to Wenger, the new discount has proved more profitable despite the higher gas prices. The site is selling more washes and gas overall.

Discount on washes

Dave's Express Lube & Oil in Helena, MT, took the opposite approach on discounting. According to owner Dave Clemens, the site decided to offer a $2 discount off a carwash with the purchase of gas or other merchandise available in the convenience store.

When gas prices began to climb, Clemens' area competitors started to drop their gas prices, however, Clemens said he was not in a position to sell gas below cost like the other stations were doing.

Instead, he's found that his carwash discount has made up for his 10 cent higher gas prices. According to Clemens, Dave's sells about 10,000 more gallons of gas a month than his lower priced competitors, and he attributes the difference to his discount.

Clemens believes that carwashes with gas stations have a very big advantage over regular gas stations. Not only does his carwash attract customers, but Clemens also has a very busy lube bay that keeps traffic circulating.

Clemens noted that other area carwashes have begun to offer a similar discount. The next carwash/gas station is located about 10 miles from Clemens' site and they now offer $2 off a carwash with the purchase of gas as well.

Clemens' said that even if gas prices continue to escalate he will not lower his prices, he can't afford to do it, and he thinks that the combination discount will be enough to keep sales steady.

The wash advantage

At a time when gas station owners are struggling to retain and attract customers, the carwash/gas station owners need to recognize the advantage they have over their single service competitors.

Wenger said that in Grand Rapids the local news station thought his wash's combination discount was a newsworthy story, which gave him added exposure and free advertising.

Promoting and advertising gas discounts is extremely important when consumers are looking high and low for cheaper prices.

Wenger also noted that discount promotions need to be clearly explained and posted to avoid confusion concerning combining discounts. With soaring gas prices, there will always be those few customers who will look for more ways to maximize their savings, so to safeguard against this; owners need to clarify the discount policy.

In the future, even if gas prices begin to decline Wenger said that Quality Car Wash will most likely continue to offer the combination discount. The program has been such a success that Wenger said the wash doesn't want to just abandon it.

Not a new idea

Carwash/gas station owners who are taking advantage of the elevated gas prices and are cross marketing by offering combination discounts aren't starting anything new.

Most carwash owners with multiple profits centers recognized the benefit of linking the service areas together a long time ago.

However, if a carwash owner with a gas station has not yet learned to capitalize on his or her various points of sale there is no better time than the present to join the ranks of owners using the gas increase to the best of their abilities.