From break-ins to robbery, vehicle damage and employee issues, carwash owners and operators face a myriad of threats to their businesses. Similar to homeownership, carwashes carry insurance policies to protect themselves to cover damages to the business. But, when flood lights, rolling gates and physical barriers like bollards around pay stations and fencing around the property aren’t enough, security and surveillance systems add another layer of protection.
Related: How to protect your pay stations
All carwash owners and operators — especially new investors and those considering entering the carwashing business — should have security and surveillance systems to protect their investments.
Curtis Ray, vice president of Acquire Video Security, explains, “It’s important not to skimp on a surveillance system. Many first-time operators don’t think twice about splurging on their landscaping or fancy signage. While those are necessary, they will not protect your carwashing business.” After seeing how invaluable a good security and surveillance system can be, many operators do not hesitate to invest much more in additional locations, adds Ray.
Here are the top five ways effective carwash security and surveillance systems can benefit your carwash.
Deter and reduce theft, loss and vandalism
When properly placed, security and surveillance systems can help deter and reduce theft, loss and vandalism. According to a recent Harvard study, knowing that crimes will be punished, people will act differently and self-censor when surveillance is in use — a basic psychological reaction of human conditioning.1
We’ve all heard stories of unfortunate carwash owners who’ve had their ATMs ripped from the wall or vandalized in some shape or form. Thieves are stepping up their game and targeting automated pay stations. In February 2018, police in Indiana and five other states sought a thief, nicknamed the “Car Wash Bandit,” who stole thousands of dollars from carwash pay stations. It only became obvious something was wrong when one carwash owner received complaints from paying customers stating the machine was empty of coins.2 With the aid of the carwash owner’s surveillance system, police were able to identify the vehicle that belonged to the thief.
In addition to the physical theft of cash from carwash pay stations or ATMs, thieves are targeting the credit card information of paying customers. The technology used to commit these crimes is easily obtainable and inexpensive. These devices, often called skimmers — due to the fact that they skim information off cards like scum from a pond — are often installed on ATMs or point-of-sale (POS) systems that are not busy and are not under video surveillance.
Because this is such a common crime, new legislation has been approved to help carwash owners and operators fight back. In March 2018, for instance, the Iowa Senate approved legislation that punishes those who illegally obtain information encoded on a credit card with up to five years in prison.3 In order to assist police in catching these thieves, carwash owners and operators need to have video surveillance in place.
Vandalism can often be found in the self-serve carwash sector where the business is often not monitored and no employees are present. Graffiti, broken windows, damaged bay doors, equipment theft, arson, squatters, property defacement and landscape sabotage are just some examples of vandalism that carwash owners face. No matter its form or intention, vandalism is unsightly and causes unnecessary expense. It can damage your image and carwash message. Noticeable security cameras and surveillance signage act as visual clues and can help curb vandalism.
Protect your business
When you are not physically at your business, how do you know what really goes on when you can’t see it for yourself? Security cameras are one of the best ways to deter crime and keep you informed.
Security cameras can monitor stock rooms, keeping a watchful eye when chemicals are being replaced, for instance. Cameras in these often isolated locations can also increase employee safety when they are working alone, away from the main hub of the carwash.
Carwash businesses often have back doors that open into parking areas, and these are often targets for criminals looking to gain access to back offices or a location where money is handled. Cameras at these locations help record any attempts for illegal access but also provide security to employees, allowing them to check the safety of the area before opening the door.
Reduce insurance costs
A video security system can save your carwash business money in multiple ways. “In addition to preventing loss of property and cash, cameras can help prevent acts of theft and vandalism by outside individuals, which would require reimbursement payouts from your insurance company,” according to Ray.
In a recent study, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud found that New Yorkers allegedly made $31 million of false slip-and-fall claims.4 Consumers who file false claims can cost tens of thousands of dollars in claims against a business’ general liability insurance policy. In order to save on insurance costs, carwash owners can use surveillance cameras as preventative methods to stop theft and falsified injuries. Some insurance companies offer insurance discounts for security and prevention devices.
“The number one complaint friction-based carwash operators hear is, ‘You scratched my car,’” Ray notes. Carwash operators often need to refute false claims of vehicle damage or bogus claims by individuals who allegedly have slip-and-fall accidents. Video surveillance systems that record all actions inside the wash can provide proof that the claim may have been falsified, negating that fraudulent lawsuit and dismissing the claim.
Improve employee productivity
Do you ever wonder what your employees are doing (or not doing) when you’re not around? If you are not physically present at your carwash, video surveillance can be an easy and effective way to monitor on-the-job employee conduct. Have you noticed that productivity decreases late in the afternoon? It might be worth it to know if employees are actually returning to work to finish their shift. Properly placed cameras can help you keep track of how often your employees leave the building, how long they’re gone and when they return from break.
Employees neglecting to perform their work duties can also take other forms, such as unproductive work habits. Cell phones provide access to social media, for example, and should not be accessed while on the clock.
If you are just starting to investigate security and surveillance systems or add on to an existing security plan, remember that preventative measures are much less expensive in the long run than lawsuits or claims that cannot be properly refuted.
“Don’t buy low-end, off-the-shelf systems and expect them to be reliable or withstand the harsh carwash environment,” Ray adds. It’s worth reaching out to your insurance broker/agent to learn more about the effects of installing security for your carwash as well as an established security company that specializes or has experience working with carwash owners/operators to find out what system is right for your business.
Kristen Corbisiero is a freelance writer, project manager, social media manager as well as former managing editor for Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine. Kristen lives in Niskayuna, New York, with her family. She can be reached at [email protected] or (518) 635-0375.