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Waiting in Style

October 11, 2010
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In today’s fast paced society, patience is something that many Americans lack.

With everything from food to television on demand, people expect things done quickly and precisely, and this is no different when it comes to such services as carwashing and quick lube tasks.

But, as all carwash or lube owners know, professional car-care cannot always be completed at the snap of a finger, especially if such services are to be done properly.

Keeping customers at bay
So what can a wash owner do with impatient people waiting to get their cars back from a full-service carwash or an oil change?

There is a simple answer — give them something to do while waiting, so they stay entertained while increasing profits and giving consumers a reason to come back.

Jamie Nestor, vice president of operations for the Colonial Heights, VA-based Flag Stop Car Wash chain, said it is extremely important to keep customers entertained as well as at ease while their car is being serviced, so his company offers clients a variety of options while they wait.

Here are some simple ideas that can be incorporated into any carwash or lube with a waiting area:

Quench your thirst
Many people use their one hour lunch break in the afternoon to get their oil changed or a quick carwash, so selling refreshments can be an easy way to keep them entertained and bring more money in.

For around $1,000, a basic, commercial refrigerator can be purchased which can be loaded with drinks to sell; look for one with a clear, glass front so customers can see the variety of refreshments within.

Business owners can attain a business card from a grocery wholesaler and purchase food and beverages there to fill the fridge for fairly cheap while making a nice profit.

  • One example is a 36-pack (12 oz. can) of cola which costs $8.30. If each can was sold at $1, that would be a $27.70 profit for each 36-pack sold.
  • There is almost as big a profit in selling water. A 32-pack of spring water (16 oz.) costs $4.94. If each one were sold at $1, that would be a profit of $27.06 for each 32-pack sold.
  • Potato chips are the biggest grosser. A 50-pack of potato chips (individual serving) sells for $9.68. If each bag were sold at $.75, that would be a profit of $28.82 for 50-pack sold.*

If a business sold two packages of soda, two packages of water and one pack of potato chips each month, that would be a profit of $138.34 and an extra $1,660 a year that could be made without putting forth much effort, and those are low estimates.

Flag Stop Car Wash and Quick Lube sells an average of 30 to 40 bottled drinks a day to customers and even more to their employees. They also have a fountain soda machine, which is another great moneymaker.

If there is no one willing to make trips to the store, call a local vending company. Not only will they fill the machine for you, but they will maintain it as well.

Convenience pays off
It seems like there is a holiday every month of the year, so greeting cards are a big seller all year long.

For only $129, a rack of cards can be purchased online (a simple search will bring up multiple companies to chose from) that includes 720 assorted greeting cards for every occasion from birthdays to weddings. If these cards are sold at the suggested retail value of $2, that is a profit of $1, 311.

A gift shop is also something that can keep clients entertained and put money in an owner’s pockets. The gift shop should sell a variety of things such as:

  • Retail car detailing equipment;
  • Car steering wheel covers;
  • Novelty items such as candles or small statues;
  • Toys for children;
  • Air fresheners; or even
  • Local sports team paraphernalia.

Foam & Wash, a New York State chain that has carwashes, gas stations, and lubes in various locations, offers mini-marts, delis, snack shops and even a laundromat at one location, according to their Web site.

While impatient customers can be a nuisance, impatient children can make everyone in the waiting room have an unpleasant experience, so give the children their own forms of entertainment like Coach Works Car Wash in Bee Cave, TX does.

Amelia Marin, manager of Coach Works Car Wash, thinks the children’s room has been a great concept. It easily keeps children entertained with coloring books, crayons, TV with cartoons and toys.

Or take it a step further and purchase a video game system, which older children can pump quarters into, bringing your profits up.

Just like children, adults need to be entertained as well. Something as simple as a 20-inch TV can do the job.

Another idea for entertainment is a pool table. Foam & Wash Car Wash offers this at their Wappingers Falls, NY location.

For one dollar a game, and hardly any maintenance, a pool table could bring in hundreds of dollars a year and take up only a few feet.

Reading material is another form of entertainment that should be present in a waiting area.

Get multiple magazine subscriptions so there is one for every demographic, including sports, gardening, women and men’s interests, and cars.

Ben MacMichael, manager of Landis Car Wash & Lube in Lititz, PA, which is affiliated with Valvoline, believes that adding these little things to your waiting area, such as magazines or TV’s will increase business.

Creating a business center
Since the seven-to-seven business day seems to have taken over the nine-to-five business day, allowing people to work while getting their car serviced could bring in extra business.

Have a business room with a fax machine, phone lines, and Internet access (wireless preferably). If businessmen and women can come in and act like they never left the office, it will only encourage them to come in more because they will not be missing a beat at work.

This room should look professional as well, so try adding novelties such as a fireplace, soothing music, and a coffee machine to give it the full effect.

*All prices taken from Sam’s Club in Latham, NY as of press time.

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