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Enlightened carwash owners can easily see the potential financial rewards of having a wide array of products just a few feet away from their steady flow of customers. Especially in the 24-hour carwash environment, a vending machine packed with pertinent product can be an ever-vigilant salesperson.
Sure, some carwash owners will wince thinking of old style vending machines — clanking, troublesome creatures that lurked in dark lobby corners. But today’s vending machines offer customers a plethora of products, and new “guaranteed delivery” technology makes them a boon for any business. Jim Holve with ShurVend spoke with us about the conveniences that modern vending machines now offer.
Holve said that vending machines with “guaranteed delivery” technology were introduced to the carwash market at the 1999 Western Car Wash show, and the technology used in the machines has improved every year since.
Today’s “guaranteed delivery” vending machines use an infra-red sensing system that covers the top of the machine’s drop box. When a product drops through this infra-red field, it disturbs the sensing system. This disturbance allows the control board in the vendor to “see” the vend.
“The control board then knows the vend was completed and sets up for the next customer,” Holve said. “If the control board does not see the disturbance, the machine will try three more times to vend a product. After three tries, the control board gives the customer a chance to vend another product or push the refund button to get (his or her) money back.”
In addition, today’s vending machines also support a wide array of payment options. According to Holve, machines can accept payments by:
- Credit cards;
- Exacta; and
“They are very reliable and easy to use in their present state of technology,” Holve said. “There will be some tweaking of existing technology in the coming years, but nothing major in payment options or security of the merchandisers.”
Selection and upkeep
Vending machines are available for in-the-wall or stand-alone installations, and they can merchandise from 18-selections to 51-selections per machine. Holve said a list of popular carwash vending machine selections includes:
- ArmorAll protectant,
- Sponges and tire foam,
- Wet towels;
- Glass cleaner;
- Paper towels;
- Cloth, microfiber and terry towels;
- BlackJack; and
- Multiple scents of fragrance trees.
There are even some machines that are refrigerated so they can dispense cold sodas, water and Gatorade. “Every wash is different so (the products) will change from wash to wash depending on the demographics, but these are a good starting point,” Holve explained.
Holve also said that upkeep is a breeze. “There is very little upkeep involved other than keeping them clean, servicing the coin changer and bill validator, and filling the machine with product to sell.”
“Security for the machine demands that they be secured to a concrete pad or to a wall,” Holve said. Since the vending machines are out in the open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they have to be secured against vandalism and theft. The vendors designed for the carwash environment offer extra security for the money in the machine. “(Security) has been and is our specialty and has made this style of vendor the success that it is in the carwash business.”
There are also commercial vendors that don’t offer quite as much security. These machines were designed and developed to be installed inside a building in a controlled and secure environment and not outside in the tough carwash environment.
Even so, securing most full-sized vending machines from the cold weather is not a problem. The full-sized machines are insulated with 1 inch of polyurethane insulation.
Smaller vending machines are not insulated because they are usually installed in the equipment room wall or in a place where cold cannot affect the products or operation of the machine.
Location and profit
When it comes to placement of the vending machines, being close to the customer is key. “If a wash customer has to walk more than 40 to 50 feet to buy a product, they most likely will not buy anything,” Holve said.
Vending machines are most commonly placed in the vacuum area of a carwash because it is convenient for customers, Holve continued. This location makes it easy for customers to satisfy their impulse buying urge and purchase a product to fix a problem with their car.
Holve said a properly located and stocked vending machine can add $500 to $1,200 per month in revenue to a carwash. Approximately 50 percent of this total would be profit, so a carwash could receive $250 to $600 net profit per month.