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Tips from the greats

October 11, 2010
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Professional Carwashing & Detailing is recognizing 12 super-sized and super-profitable carwashes (listed below) in its 2008 Self-Serve Industry Leaders Review. This year, the magazine used a points system to establish a top ten list (which in this case, turned out to be a top twelve due to a four-way tie).

Points were awarded based on the grandeur of a site (how many vacuums, self-serve bays and in-bay automatics were present), how many washes the company managed, and also on the operator’s performance (number of washes sold in a year, amount of money spent on physical improvements).

PC&D contacted these carwashes and asked for their secrets on managing the “biggest and best” carwashes in the nation. We figured they knew better than anyone else how to operate a world-class carwash.

Top Twelve Self-Serves:
  1. Adirondack Car Wash, Queensbury, NY;
  2. Saskatoon Wash World Inc, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan;
  3. Wash 'N Vac Car Wash, Salisbury, MD;
  4. Hoffman Car Wash, Albany, NY;
  5. Freedom Car Wash, Virginia Beach, VA;
  6. Splash & Shine Auto Bath, Poland, OH;
  7. Buff Car Wash, Hays, KS;
  8. Weiss Guys Express Wash, Phoenix, AZ;
  9. Splash N Dash, Haltom City, TX;
  10. Grand Ave Car Wash, Bloomington, MN;
  11. Eastern Express Car Wash, Chelsea, MA;
  12. Randy’s Car Wash, Watertown, MA.

From Freedom Wash:
“Freedom Wash® is a forward thinking business committed to providing state of the art technology and services to our customers. We are using a combination of approaches with our products including in-bay express, conveyors and self service bays.

“What sets us apart as a business is our high commitment to the quality of our product, consumer convenience, and above all, excellent customer service. Additionally, we are very involved with supporting local charities in the community with our products and services.

“Freedom Wash® is a company that is looking to rapidly expand in the mid-Atlantic area and beyond. We are opening our third location this spring and our fourth and fifth sites are soon to follow.

Our one recommendation to all operators would be to choose to be excellent in the product you sell and the way you run your business. If you go the extra mile for your customers, they will travel the extra mile to get to you.”

From Weiss Car Wash:
“We believe that if we are successful, it probably comes from two old rules of business and life that have been around for a long time.

“First and foremost is RESPECT. Treat people as you would want to be treated especially your customers and your employees. We could not be in business without either one of them. We have little employee turnover and one worker, Norris Brown, has been with us since our inception, 46 years ago. Terry McDonald, who began with Weiss Guys while still a high school student, is now an owner of the company. That in itself speaks volumes.

“Secondly, is service, service, service. Customers have a choice. We are not doing them a favor; they are doing us a favor by spending their money with us. In this day of big business, it is important to give the customers personal attention and make them want to come back.”

From Buff’s Car Wash:
“The main thing is you want to always provide the best service out there and explore all of the opportunities available. My philosophy is even when the customer is wrong, he’s still right. So if there’s ever a doubt about the quality, I’ll say ‘Let’s do it over again, on me.’

“I think sometimes people think if they buy the leading seller, that they are buying the best. A lot of that holds true with the carwash industry. A lot of the new investors don’t know a darned thing about carwashing, so they come in and buy the newest or most popular piece of equipment. And they’re surprised when it doesn’t work like they thought it would. You have to apply it. You have to have good equipment that works.

“I’ve always thought if you give the customer the biggest bang for his buck, he’ll be back. You see a lot of places where they’re skimping on soap, or they’re skimping on pressure. Well, you come to any of my carwashes and I’ll give you a foam brush that takes you twenty minutes to wash it off. My customers really enjoy it and it makes me money. That’s why we have customers come back all the time.

“I also use WashCard [a loyalty/fleet card program] for my fleet card, and that works very, very well. It retains loyalty. During a poor month, you can always depend on that cash receivable coming in from the prior months. And it definitely does make them drive across town for the carwash. I have customers asking all the time, ‘How do I get one of those cards?’ It’s almost to the point where you’re not anybody unless you have one of those cards.”