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Business Operations

Taking off the rose colored glasses

October 11, 2010
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Dear Editor:

I’ve just read the article entitled “Auto Cashiers Save the Day” by Brian Bath of ICS in the August issue and despite the rosy picture he paints, I’ve got a few bones to pick. I agree that auto cashiers can eliminate the headaches of cash management; provide a more consistent message to try to get customers to upgrade their wash packages; and, offer opportunities for pre-paid washes and monthly wash plans. No doubt, there are many marketing benefits which can add to the bottom line.

However, the article also downplays the highly technological nature of the auto cashiers themselves. They will require daily maintenance/attention, not to mention technical support when things go wrong (which they will). Also, for an express exterior that does more than 50 cars an hour, one auto cashier will not suffice, thus requiring a doubling of the investment.

Next, he assumes that once the auto cashier is put in, labor can be eliminated as in the conveyor can be unattended. Not only that, but that it can easily save $50,000 in labor costs. Horsehockey!

Unattended IBAs are one thing, but unattended conveyors are quite another. People know that the quality of the washing, rinsing and drying with an IBA are nowhere near what they expect from a conveyor carwash. At the conveyor they expect the bugs, mud, bird droppings, snow or ice to be removed, whereas they do not at an IBA.

The threadbare argument that as high a quality wash can be delivered by an unattended conveyor as by one that is attended and preps for the abovementioned conditions is ludicrous at best and deceitful at worst.

Lastly, at unattended conveyors, customers are not going to load their vehicle directly behind the car in front of them, resulting in large gaps between vehicles and lower hourly and daily wash volumes.

Next, at a conveyor carwash, there will be instances where having attendants on site and involved in the wash process are critical, even for an express exterior wash. Invariably customers do stupid things like put the car in park, take their foot off the brake, turn the wheel or hit the brake. This is not to mention the inevitable equipment malfunction, damage claims, or simply an unhappy customer.

Lastly, I’ve never seen an auto cashier that can hand out an informational newsletter or other educational/informational notices. They can’t hand out a litter bag or moist disposable towel for the customer to wipe off the dashboard. They can’t ensure recessed areas like license plates or the area between the hood and the windshield wiper blades gets cleaned. To be sure, even an unattended conveyor can produce a cleaner, better rinsed and drier vehicle than an IBA, but customers still like and appreciate a more personal touch over an impersonal one.

I think that pretty much covers it. I’m not trying to rain on the parade of auto cashiers at conveyor washes, just trying to point out that there are many things that they cannot do.

Bill Consolo
Chief’s Auto Wash