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Around the industry - August 2012

August 01, 2012
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Employees hit carwash with federal lawsuit

NEW YORK CITY — Seventeen current and former employees here filed a federal lawsuit against Hi-Tek Car Wash alleging that they did not receive overtime or minimum wage pay.

The lawsuit claims they earned less than minimum wage with tips factored in. Also, the employees said that they worked more than 40 hours a week without getting overtime, and managers often withheld tips to pay for damage to vehicles.

One former employee, Aaron Morales Romero, 23, said he worked at Hi-Tek for five years, but he eventually quit because he only earned about $5.25 an hour with few tips. The work is good, he told the press, but what isn’t good is the salary and the mistreatment. He said they would even call him on his days off, but not give him overtime.

A Hi-Tek manager, Gary Pinkus, said the claims made about improper payment were untrue and said the WASH New York campaign was “brainwashing” the immigrant employees.

This lawsuit follows a similar suit at a different carwash in the Bronx. The suits are the latest part of the WASH New York campaign that is run by non-profit agencies and backed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

NASCAR Car Wash chain expanding to 17 washes

CHICAGO — NASCAR Car Wash (NCW) announced plans to add 14 more carwashes to their chain.

NCW launched three branded carwashes in the Chicago market in September of 2011. Now, the company has plans for nine more new builds and five acquisition and remodeling projects.

New-build NCW locations are planned in Naperville, Aurora, Woodridge, Bolingbrook and St. Charles. There also are plans for two new locations in Joliet and two more in Chicago. When the company finalizes the five additional acquisitions, NCW should have a total of 17 branded facilities by the end of 2012.

To help unify the locations under one brand, the company formed a new marketing division, Amazing Racing Communications (ARC). ARC will manage and oversee all the marketing, advertising, public relations, media and social/viral media for the NCW properties, working in conjunction with NASCAR.

Dan Dyer, chairman and CEO of NCW, said they are bringing together their various partners in order to grow their carwash locations as quickly as possible in 2012 and 2013 on a national scale.

The new division will be headed by President Cheryl Snapp Conner, managing partner of Snapp Conner PR. This agency has handled all PR and social media for NCW properties nationwide.

Driver dies after late-night crash into carwash

OMAHA, NE — A man died early in the morning here after crashing his car into a carwash. Benjamin Botkin, 23, was the only passenger in the 2003 Honda Civic that hit the carwash, and he was declared dead at the scene.

Police investigators said it appears Botkin was speeding when he lost control of the Honda. He was ejected from the car as it careened off the road and crashed into Fantasy’s Car Wash.

The crash remains under investigation.

Exploring the economy’s effect on carwashing

LOS ANGELES — Drivers interested in gauging the current economy need look no further than the cars around them. If cars are dirty, budgets are tight; if cars are nice and clean, the economy is picking up.

Christopher Thornberg, an economist and founding partner of Beacon Economics, said the little luxuries in life go first, such as carwashes. Therefore, if people are washing their cars, things must be turning around.

HWB Car Wash in Burbank was moving along fairly well until the recession hit five years ago. Owner Sander Romick said business is better now than it was during the deepest part of the recession, but it’s still 20 percent below the good times.

Now, customers who used to wash their cars weekly come in about every three weeks. Those that came in once or twice a month are now waiting five or six weeks between washes, according to Romick.

Carwash owners say they feel every bump in the economic road, especially when the price of gas goes up. Jason Johnson of the Quick Quack chain of carwashes said it's absolutely correlated.

Carwashing’s hopes lie in little upward ticks that show the economy slowly expanding. Some reasons for hope could be falling gas prices as well as recent increases in the sales of new automobiles.

Did a lost contract cause carwash bankruptcy?

FAIRFIELD, CT — After a carwash declared bankruptcy here, a customer was left with $200 in worthless prepaid washes and a police department was left without a contract wash.

The Villa Avenue Car Wash was a longtime institution in the city, and for more than 30 years the family-run carwash held contracts to wash municipal and police vehicles in Fairfield and Easton.

The wash lost the Fairfield contract in 2008, won it back in 2010, and lost it again in 2011. Many customers think that was the beginning of the carwash’s demise. Before 2011 ended, the carwash filed for bankruptcy revealing it owed landlord Tunxis Hill Associates almost $148,000 for back rent and other charges.

Diane McGeady, who received $200 in prepaid wash vouchers to Villa as a stocking stuffer last Christmas, now feels like she’s been taken. McGready said she doesn't know if she’ll ever buy prepaid carwashes again.

No one associated with the carwash returned phone calls left by the Connecticut Post, who first reported the story.

Three dead after carwash chemical poisoning

CHANGSHA, CHINA — Three of four people who were exposed to toxic fumes inside a chemical truck at a carwash here have died.

A sanitation worker was cleaning the inside of the truck’s tank when he fainted. The tanker truck’s driver and two onlookers rushed in to rescue the worker, and all four were poisoned by the toxic fumes.

Firefighters took all four people to a local hospital for treatment, and there three of them died, according to municipal authorities in the city of Hengyang.

The fire department said proper equipment and protective outfits are required to clean chemical tanks, and carwashes do not typically possess this equipment.

Man swipes FBI vehicle from carwash

CINCINNATI — A car thief here will be sentenced for stealing an FBI SUV from a carwash last December as soon as police can catch him.

Lloyd Sill, 40, was at the Parkway Auto Wash on Dec. 12 of last year when he jumped into a 2010 GMC Acadia that had just emerged from the wash. The door was open and the keys were in vehicle.

But this wasn’t the typical family cruiser. Instead, it belonged to the FBI and included emergency lights, an FBI radio and there was an FBI jacket inside.

After Sill drove away, he stole license plates from another vehicle and put them on the SUV. It took police three weeks to catch up with Sill, and when they finally did he was still driving the SUV.

He was charged with and convicted of three counts of stolen property, and he was supposed to be sentenced in June. But, the bumbling thief was a no-show. When he is caught again, Sill will face punishment from probation to three and a-half years in prison.

County offers wash coupons

SAN BERNARDINO, CA ― The San Bernardino County's storm-water pollution prevention launched a carwash discount campaign in the hopes that residents will go to commercial carwashes instead of washing their vehicles at home.

Pavlova Vitale, the county's areawide stormwater program manager, said that arranging for carwash discounts is a good way to direct dangerous water to treatment facilities and away from their fragile ecosystem.

The program will run until August 31. Residents have to download a coupon from the program's website.

So far, 11 carwashes have partnered with the program. The county is working to get other carwashes on board.