We’ve all heard the expression, “making hay while the sun is shining” or some variation of it. Nowhere is this expression more apt then in our industry.

When the sun is shining, we’re all washing cars and making money. When it’s not, we’re not. At least we weren’t. Selling monthly club washes has changed the game, but that’s an article for another day.

After a recently concluded repair class, I got an email from one of the attendees. This gentleman converted an inbay to a mini tunnel a couple of years ago. He shared some volume numbers with me that I found quite astounding. But again, that too is a story for another day.

While he was very self-deprecating  throughout, this paragraph summed it all up nicely: 

“In the few days that I’ve been back, I have only had to turn away about 25 trucks full of crap (I got lenient there for a while trying to make a buck), so if you need examples of what not to wash, just let me know. Did you know that when a truck pulls through the dryers with hay in the bed, it takes three days to clean out of a carwash?”

If nothing else, you have to admire his honesty. He readily admits he let his own standards slip to make a few extra bucks, but to what end?

In CarWash College classes, we talk about the importance of pickup beds being clean and free of debris to which we often hear, “If I turn away all pickups, I won’t have any business.”

So, what’s the alternative? Do you send the fisherman with lures in the bed down the conveyor so that they can get entangled in the cloth, potentially damaging every car behind it until discovered? How about the ones with dirt or oil in the bed that contaminate cloth? Do you send those? What if they purchased your top package? Does that sway your decision? How about the construction guy that has chunks of drywall, small pieces of wood and nails in the bed that will become projectiles when under the dryer? Do you send him down the conveyor or down the road? And finally, the farmer that has some hay in the back? What could it hurt, right? Well, three days later, they were still picking up the pieces. Was the $10 worth it?

Understanding that pickup trucks represent a good portion of today’s volumes, some washes make accommodations by having a truck clean-out area supplied with trash cans and brooms.

If you have the room, it’s a great idea. If you don’t have the room, what then?

Customer education. Educate the customers about the dangers of washing their trucks with items in the back. Some will see the light, some won’t. One of the best lines I heard was an operator asking a truck owner, “Would you like your truck to be behind your truck going through the wash with all of that in the back?” Crickets.

Carwashes, and most all businesses for that matter, are managed by the 80/20 rule. In this case, 80 percent of your customers will be reasonable and enter the facility with clean beds or clean them out before pulling in line. Twenty percent won’t, and most likely, they’ll also let you hear about how you’re there to wash their vehicles and that the bed is part of the vehicle. While technically they’re correct, you can point out to them that while the bed is part of the vehicle, the crap they have sliding around in that bed isn’t. Hopefully, you can tell them this before they make it past your auto tellers and into your queue.

The bottom line is, allowing open truck beds with debris in them can lead to a host of problems.

Making hay when the sun is shining is what we all aspire to do. Cleaning up hay three days after it blew out of a truck bed isn’t.


Bob Fox has over 30 years industry experience and is an instructor at CarWash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected] For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.

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