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Around the Industry - December 2012

November 30, 2012
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Undercover report targets carwash chain

CRANSTON, RI — Based on a tip from a former employee, Target 12 News here investigated the effectiveness of the undercarriage washes provided by five carwashes. The carwashes were all part of a chain operated by East Side Enterprises, LLC, and based on undercover video that the news team recorded, the channel reported the undercarriage nozzles did not clean cars properly.

Target 12 installed a water-proof hidden camera under a car and drove through a series of washes. The former employee, Richard Houle, reviewed the footage and pointed out rusted and non-functional equipment. Houle worked for the carwash chain for about four years, and he stated that requests to repair the undercarriage systems were made when he was employed there. “When you put in this request for the undercarriages, nobody said anything,” Houle told the reporter. “So, after a while you start asking questions.”

Angelo Ruo, a vice president of operations with East Side Enterprises, said that, to his knowledge, the undercarriage systems at the company’s carwashes worked. Ruo declined to watch the hidden-camera video that Target 12 recorded.

Both Target 12 and Houle contacted the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, and a spokesperson said the complaint would be looked into.

Another NY carwash votes to unionize

NEW YORK CITY — Employees of Webster Car Wash here voted 23-5 to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in late October. The New York Daily News reported that the employees cited low wages and harsh job conditions, and they hope the move will make the carwash “bosses” respect the workers more. The union’s president told the paper the vote was “like David slaying Goliath.”

One employee told the newspaper that he has worked at the carwash for a year, and he makes $6 an hour, and he does not always earn enough tips to take home minimum wage.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also investigating the carwash, one of 10 owned by “city carwash kingpin” John Lage. Lage is being looked at for wage and hours violations. Lage did not return the newspaper’s call for comment, but his son and business associate said in April that the unions were trying to “siphon off a portion of our employees’ hard-earned pay through compulsory union dues.”

Group rolls back gas prices at carwash

ST. LOUIS, MO — A temporary price rollback at Country Club Car Wash here made 200 customers happy on Oct. 27. The Americans for Prosperity, in advance of a political rally, rolled back the price of gas at the carwash to $1.84 a gallon. The first 200 drivers to fill up received 10 gallons of gas at the reduced price.

A radio show broadcast began at 6 a.m., the carwash’s special gas pricing began at 8 a.m. and the rally began a couple of hours later. Brad Luberda with Americans for Prosperity said rallies and gas price events were held at 20 locations around the U.S.

Mister Car Wash adds more locations

TUCSON, AZ — Mister Car Wash and Lube Centers announced the acquisition of a Mr. Zippy’s Express Wash in Springfield, MO, and a Turbo Express wash in Salt Lake City, UT.

The Missouri wash addition gave Mister a total of four carwashes and three lube centers in the Springfield area. “Springfield is a warm and welcoming community, and we are pleased to have another location in the market,” Ron Peterson, CEO of Mister Car Wash and Lube Centers, said. “We’re continuously seeking additional multi-unit conveyor carwash opportunities to help fuel our growth.”

The Salt Lake City acquisition brings the total of Mister locations in the Salt Lake area to six. “We are pleased to be able to further expand our location reach in Salt Lake City. The location has been closed for some time, so it will require a few months’ work to get it in top operating shape” Peterson stated.

With a month left in 2012, Mister Car Wash and Lube Centers had acquired 23 locations marking a new total for the company of 93 carwashes and 30 express lubes nationwide.

Haunted ‘Tunnel of Terror’ a homerun for wash

HOLLAND, MI — Quality Car Wash had customers lined up here waiting to be scared in their “Tunnel of Terror Car Wash” the two weekends before Halloween. The scares at the carwash included glowing soap, strobe lights and more than a dozen employees dressed in costumes that surprised customers around the service station and inside the wash tunnel.

“The response to the Tunnel of Terror has been awesome. We had cars last week backed up around the building and out to the street waiting to get in,” Southside Quality Service Representative Nick Wolters said. “I can’t say what part I play but it involves a chainsaw, and I got to say it’s the most Halloween fun I’ve ever had.”

This is the first year the Washington Avenue Quality location has had the haunted wash. The special wash experience was held on the two weekends before Halloween, and it ran from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday each weekend.

Quality’s general manager said the carwashes are always looking for new ideas to bring people in, and the haunted tunnel “created a buzz.” Families were able to pile into a car and enjoy the experience together.

Carwash family fears local water ‘nightmare’

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, IL — One carwash owner was worried about steep water prices as the city here renegotiated its water contract. Reports indicated that the city’s new contract would increase the water rate from 57 cents per 1,000 gallons to $2.20 per $1,000 gallons. Max Mankiewicz with Udo’s Prairie State Car Wash said the change would negatively affect the business.

“It would be killing us,” Mankiewicz said. “It would put us out. Business isn’t going up. Nobody’s got any extra money, and if they keep adding bills on us and everything keeps going up, we can’t raise prices. Nobody can afford anything anymore.”

According to the story, the city filed for an injunction with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Committee to renegotiate the rates, and the hearing was scheduled for early November.

Mankiewicz hopes his family’s carwash does not have to go to drastic measures to fight the rising prices. “Hopefully it works out,” he said. “In nine years, we raised prices 50 cents. We’re trying to keep it down as much as we can because nobody’s got any extra income. To raise prices, I’m sure we’d lose a lot of customers. If this happens, it would be a nightmare for us.”

Coffee franchise plans national carwash chain

COCKBURN, AUSTRALIA — Muzz Buzz drive-thru coffee chain signed a joint venture deal to develop new sites that will include carwashes, and construction on the first location was scheduled to start in November. Muzz Buzz will partner with Pilbara Car & Truck Rentals founder Brian Brennan on the multi-profit businesses.

“You can drive in, get your cash, get a deal on your carwash, get a deal on your coffee,” Warren Reynolds, Muzz Buzz’s founder and chairman, said. “So all three of them work together really well.”

Reynolds plans to turn the franchise into an international lifestyle brand. The chain currently has about 50 outlets in Australia and New Zealand, and the partners plan to expand the chain throughout Australia. Outlets are planned for Collie, Port Hedland, Melbourne and locations in Queensland. Each site will require a $1.2 million investment. The future may include locations in Asia and Europe as well.

Reynolds explained that there is an opportunity to develop a national brand of carwashes. “All of the carwash industry right now in Australia wide is a bunch of individual outlets: No branding, no real offer, no marketing efforts [and] no capital value established in a brand.”

Potential franchisees may want to rebrand existing carwashes under the Muzz Buzz umbrella as well, according to Reynolds.