Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Vending myths debunked

March 21, 2013

Technology has exploded many long held “truths” about vending centers at self-serve and express exterior wash sites over the past six years.

A self-serve survey done by this magazine that was published in March 2002 indicated the average monthly revenue from vending was $472. Another survey published in May 2008 stated the average monthly vending volume was $465. What a comparison! Essentially there was a zero change in revenue when all the other revenues at a wash had increased over that six-year period due to many advances in technology.

Taking a look back
A search was made of all Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s® archives to find all the published articles that address vending as a specific subject.

The earliest I could find was conducted in November 1997. The article cites, “the right products, location and marketing are the key to heavenly returns” as paramount choices that needed to be addressed by the operator. The equipment that operators had available was a mechanical, painted or stainless, drop shelf box vendor that was usually installed on a wall or post and product choices to fill the vendors were few in number. (The electronic drop shelf and the computer-controlled multi-vendor were yet to be developed and marketed to wash operators.)

There were few products packaged for vending, the delivery to customers was not very convenient and/or reliable, security was very problematic, and the vendor was dependent on a bill changer to provide coins for its operation. We were asking customers to buy products without being able to see what the product looked like other than a decal picture of the product. Therefore, vending as a percentage of total carwash site revenues did not contribute very much to the site’s cash flow compared to the effort required.

Since there was not very much carwash vending revenue to create a viable market demand, neither the wash operators nor equipment manufacturers spent much time or energy trying to find a better way to vend products.

Introducing the glass-front snack vendor
Some operators had experimented individually with glass-front snack vendors starting in the 1980s, but they were not very reliable and security was a big problem. Carwash products were not easy to vend consistently because the helix (spiral) only turned 360-degrees before stopping. A small 16-18 selection glass-front vendor was marketed in the ‘90s, but it, too, had the same delivery problems as the full-sized snack vendors.

In 1998, a glass-front snack vendor was manufactured for the larger vending industry with a new patented guaranteed delivery system that provided the key ingredient to move carwash vending systems to a new technology-driven level. Security systems were designed to protect the vendor from theft and vandalism, so sales volumes began to increase 200-400 percent over the old drop shelf systems at many wash sites.

Those early day vending experiences that were published and/or passed from person-to-person at carwash shows created many myths about vending that persist to this day despite all the secure and reliable new equipment that has been developed with the new technologies and aggressively marketed to wash operators during these past six years.

Myths vs. facts
Myth: All wash sites offer customers many choices in vending products.

Fact: There are still new wash sites that offer no vending at all or just a few selections.

Myth: The vending center is best located near the bill changer (which used to provide coins for the drop shelves) which is usually in the front of the wash.

Fact: The new computer-controlled multi-vendor has its own bill and coin acceptor as well as credit card systems that can be remotely monitored in real time or connected wirelessly to computers for card verification and daily reports of vendor sales (both cash and credit) emailed to the operator. This vending center should be located in or near the vacuum area of the wash site. The vacuum area of a wash is the only place where the customer can spend un-metered time cleaning his/her car.

Myth: There are a limited number of carwash products that sell at a wash site.

Fact: If you look in any catalog you will see hundreds of items to sell and many new and unusual ones to “liven” up the selections offered.

Myth: Security is difficult or impossible to achieve for a computer-controlled vending center with a glass window.

Fact: The new security structures and money handling protection along with video surveillance make the computer-controlled vending center very secure.

Myth: The $3 price point for vending products is as high as one can go in pricing vending products.

Fact: The bill validator and credit card acceptance provided in a multi-vendor makes the vending of token packs and token note packs very easy and profitable. The values for these packs can be upwards of $20-$80 per vend.

Myth: The income from vending sales is not a significant contributor to the wash site cash flow.

Fact: When properly secured and located, the computer-controlled multi-vendor can contribute 12-15 percent of the gross revenue at a carwash site.

Myth: The computer-controlled multi-vendor is a big investment and the ROI is not acceptable when
compared to an investment in drop shelves.

Fact: The investment in the new stainless vendor islands, i.e. grouping 10 electronic drop shelf vendors together with coin/token only pay systems, requires the same investment as a secured, computer-controlled multi-vendor that offers 18-51 selections and all the pay systems now available (approximately $6,000-$7,000). This allows the multi-vendor to attain very high sales volumes ($1,000-$1,500 per month) and show a better ROI than the vendor islands.

In conclusion, owners and/or operators of self serve and express exterior carwash sites should take a good, hard look at the new computer-controlled multi-vendors as a vending profit center located in or near the vacuum island area of the wash. These can contribute significant amounts of cash flow to the wash site and create customer satisfaction and value for the carwash owner. It is an investment that can return big dividends when planned and located correctly.

James H. Holve is the owner of ShurVendPlus Vendors and has been involved in the carwash industry for over 18 years. Holve can be reached at: or 1-866-748-7836.