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The Straight Soap

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Editor Phillip Lawless isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and give you the straight soap on what he sees and hears in the world of carwashing.

What is up with the weather?

June 8, 2012
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I hear it often in my hometown of Birmingham, AL: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes, it’ll change.” It is an old saying that people from these parts frequently share at grocery stores, ballparks and family gatherings. For us, it perfectly sums up the frustration of sometimes experiencing all four seasons within a single work week. And, over the past year, as I have read about weather patterns in the rest of the U.S. and around the world, it looks like we may not be alone.

From sandstorms in the Southwest to droughts in Texas, from water restrictions in the U.K. to an almost snowless winter in New England — it’s almost like Mother Nature got together with Aeolus and El Nino and they are all playing a yearlong prank. But, like many pranks, the weather over the last year has been anything but funny.

In the carwash world, the recent weather upheaval makes it hard for an owner to properly plan. In the winter, many washes in the Northeast U.S. stood ready to remove the road salts and sludge left behind by icy streets. But wait, where was the snow? In some areas of Texas, owners prepared for a spring-time burst of business based on widespread water-use restrictions. Instead, their plans are all wet after weeks of much-needed rain.

Now, as we move into a summer, not even Nostradamus could tell us what to expect. Will we see an extremely hot summer built on the above average temperatures of last winter? Or, will the weather go completely wonky and “bless” us with a mild, comfortable summer? (Thankfully, pollen and lovebugs appeared right on schedule, or else I’d recommend stocking up that apocalypse shelter.)

At this point, the only thing a carwash owner or operator can do is make plans while remembering to stay flexible. Pile up bottled water and expect employees to take frequent breaks in instances of hot weather, but keep in mind that mild temperatures may make this plan null and void. Remind employees of that summer dress code, but recommend that they keep long pants and jackets in their trunks, just in case.

Further, savvy owners could even work the weird weather angle into their marketing and advertisements. Catch customer attention by planning “spring specials” in August, remind drivers of your 24-hour rain check policies a day or two before storms roll in, have employees wear raincoats on a sunny day — the unpredictable sky is the limit.

And, no matter what, try your best not to worry about the weather fluctuations. The carwash business has stood tall in strange years before, and it will continue years into the future. After all, if the world’s most educated meteorologists are confused and befuddled by the weather over the past year, what good would worrying really do for any of us?