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Oh, to educate the masses

October 11, 2010
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It happens a few times a week. I’m sitting at my desk, calmly pecking away at the keyboard, perhaps glancing at the clock or thinking about a mid-afternoon snack when it hits.

Hard. In the gut.

Sometimes the scenario is different. Sometimes I have just plopped back down at my chair after a brief visit to the office kitchen or the copy room. As I settle into a comfortable position to read through some e-mail, I am rudely awakened as I stare at the inbox.

There it is. Incorrect. Misleading. Damaging. Infuriating.

A bad news story from some reporter or another with “tips” to help the consumer wash his car. Tips that are all wrong, tips that hurt professional carwashes. Delivered to my inbox courtesy of Google’s news service.

I suppose it is some small comfort to know I am not alone. A few months ago, while on a field trip with the New England Carwash Association (NECA) to visit some washes, Paul Vercollone, president of the NECA, shared his own tragic story.

Sitting down in a soft armchair to enjoy the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe, he delighted to see a full-length feature on car care. The story even included tips for consumers.

But no, these weren’t ordinary tips. These weren’t tips that talked about the environmental benefits of professional carwashing. These weren’t tips that promoted the advantages of professional carwashing on your vehicle’s finish. These weren’t even tips focusing on the money-saving aspects of using a professional carwash.

No, these were tips that talked about the benefits of HOME washing. In the driveway. With the wastewater freely running down the drain.

These were tips that said professional carwashes were a waste of money and harmful to your vehicle’s finish.

The shock. The horror. The utter chaos.

And to think, these articles pass my desk a few times a week. Indeed, it seems misinformation is rampant among newspapers looking for a human-interest feature story to fill their Sunday edition.

Granted, for every ill-prepared journalist I usually find a few newspaper reporters who have been in communication with an educated carwash professional. The frequency of these well-researched articles seems to be improving, but it does very little to squash the effects of erroneous reporting.

Aside from a small percentage of regular customers who might spread the good word about professional carwashing, the industry is without many advocates. I can’t tell you how many times I am introduced to someone at a party, and when the subject of my career comes up, I am met with, “Oh, I just wash it at home.”

Wouldn’t today be a great time to capitalize on the public’s ever-growing concerns for our environment? Wouldn’t it be the perfect moment to shout from your carwash rooftop, “THIS SITE RECYCLES WATER!”

Why not make today the day you write your local newspaper about the benefits of professional carwashing. Why not contact your regional carwash association and ask for educational pamphlets to distribute at your lot. Better yet, distribute the literature at your local library and school.

Contact your Chamber of Commerce. Call the environmental groups in your area. Write the politicians.

Give them some real “tips:”
  • Professional carwashing saves water by reusing and recycling it throughout the wash process;
  • Professional carwashing protects a vehicle’s finish and the owner’s investment; and
  • Professional carwashing benefits the environment by keeping wastewater out of storm drains and out of our rivers and streams.
Because knowledge is power. And putting power in the hands of the consumer will put money in the hands of your carwash business.

Kate Carr is the editor in chief of Professional Carwashing & Detailing®magazine and a wannabe carwash educator. You can send your grumblings, compliments and suggestions to

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