Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Plastic or… plastic?

October 11, 2010
I don’t carry cash. Ever.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I pulled up to an ATM to withdraw some crisp $20 bills.

What I can remember is being slightly embarrassed at the most recent Car Care World Expo when my colleagues were forced to foot the bill for my share in all of our taxi trips around Las Vegas.

And I can remember being admonished by a New York State Thruway toll collector who thought I was “an incredibly silly girl” for not carrying around the necessary $2 needed to get me onto I-90 and to the NECA Carwash Tour.

Indeed, I can even remember writing a check for a hotel chambermaid while I was visiting some carwashes in Florida.

But I most definitely cannot remember the last time I carried cash in my wallet. And so you would think my opinion on the matter of credit-card-only carwashes would be pretty much decided. (In case you missed it, several carwash owners have been debating the merits of accepting only plastic at recent trade shows and on the Internet.)

Although I am a true Generation-Y’er and my purse is locked and loaded with plastic, I also happen to be the older sister to a Generation Y’er who refuses to give into the Plastic Gods That Be.

Meet my brother Bill. Cold Cash Bill. He is 21-years-old and addicted to the inconveniences of cash. He never uses his debit card (in fact, I’m not even sure he has a debit card). He has never filled out a credit card application and probably never will. In fact, when he showed up at my apartment the other week in a brand new car, I was pretty sure he had paid for it with the pennies and nickels he keeps in a large pickle jar by his bed.

But even though Cold Cash Bill is an anomaly for his generation, he is not an anomaly when it comes to the average consumer. Although I firmly believe the day will come when plastic inevitably becomes the only method of payment, I also know that today my elderly neighbor is probably tipping our paperboy with a few dollar bills. And while standing in line at the local grocery store, I will probably be inconvenienced by a harassed mother shuffling through her ones and tens to find a twenty for the groceries.

And today, at your carwash, Cold Cash Bill is about to pay to wash his new car with a crisp, clean $20 bill.

So, yes, your customer’s time is money. And faster transaction time is a huge plus. (And I mean huge, some operators claim to save nearly a minute of time with plastic transactions.) But a slight inconvenience (say, by forcing your customer to use a credit or debit card) is also a big negative.

Not to mention, if you’re a carwash operator like one of those who spoke up at a recent SECWA Carwash Tour, you’d be stuck dealing with all of the customers who can’t even manage to swipe their American Express card correctly – even though Miss Georgia has been calmly explaining the entire process on the auto cashier screen for the past five minutes.

And so, when it comes to the plastic debate, let’s give Cold Cash Bill a few more years to turnaround. Besides, you can’t hold fistfuls of plastic when you’re going mad and need to remind yourself while you’re in this business.