At a seminar I once attended, the keynote speaker mentioned, “Customers expect to be entertained. Customers will leave you for more fun elsewhere.” He also asked, “Why should someone do business with you rather than with one of your competitors?”

With carwashes being built on top of each other these days, it is imperative that your business provides more than a quality wash. In visiting carwashes across the country, I rarely notice a carwash with a jazzed-up tunnel, promoting a real fun experience for the entire family.

Seasonal opportunities

So how can you promote a fun experience? By jazzing and dressing up your express tunnel or your full-service waiting room on all major holidays. For instance, starting with Easter, you can locate Easter Bunnies in different areas of your tunnel or waiting room.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are also perfect holidays to promote, market and sell gift certificates for washes, club memberships, detailing services or gift shop merchandise by locating these seasonal images throughout your tunnel or waiting room. The images should include a gift certificate with the proper verbiage, such as, “A gift certificate makes a perfect gift for your parents or a spouse. A gift certificate is an ideal gift for any occasion.” Also include, “Gift certificates may be used for a carwash, an unlimited monthly carwash club or a detailing service.”

Highlighting these holidays and giving the customer the idea that this will make a great gift for any parent or spouse is a great way to increase your income. The same can be repeated at graduation time with an image, which includes the proper verbiage, of a graduate and a parent. A gift certificate makes a great gift for the graduate and helps the parent decide what to give to the graduating student.

On the 4th of July, a display of American flags should be located down the length of your tunnel or in your waiting room.

One of the really fun holidays is Halloween. I have seen some carwashes really dress up their tunnels, making them into haunted tunnels or waiting rooms with employees dressed up in costumes, while the customers enjoy the show. Repeating this year after year, you could possibly get newspaper or television attention, as we have seen in the past. Some people believe that consumers will spend more money around Halloween than any other holiday. You want to be sure to give the kids candy, balloons and anything else that you think they would enjoy and be happy with.

Next comes Veterans Day. This is when you want to dress up your waiting room or tunnel with several American flags with the message, “With respect, honor and gratitude. Thank you, veterans.” On this special day, hundreds of carwashes across the nation are giving veterans and active military a free carwash.
The International Carwash Association (ICA) sponsors a program called Grace for Vets. It is now estimated that over 250,000 free carwashes are given each year. What a fantastic way to show your patriotism and appreciation for those who are keeping us safe. I personally would not ask for identification — if someone states that he or she is a veteran or active military, give him or her a free wash. Market this holiday several days prior to Veterans Day.

The following holiday is Thanksgiving, which is a great time to line up a few turkey images in your tunnel or waiting room. It helps get your customers in the proper spirit of celebrating this special day.

A month later comes the most lucrative and fun holiday of all: Christmas. It’s imperative that you have Santa Claus images (two or three) placed down the length of your tunnel or in several places in your full service waiting room. In Santa’s hand, there has to be a large gift certificate with Santa saying, “A great stocking stuffer for anyone in your family or for your friends.”

This really solves a customer’s dilemma of getting a special person a great gift. Think about it: How many times do you or your spouse think, “What can I get so-and-so for Christmas?” I remember offering a complimentary $25 certificate with a purchase of a $100 certificate. We sold thousands of dollars of gift certificates during the one-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Santa Claus images with the appropriate verbiage should start at Thanksgiving and continue through Christmas Eve. If applied properly and professionally, you should sell thousands of dollars of certificates during this month.

Adding a touch of fun

As mentioned, all of these holidays can be celebrated in your customer waiting room as well as your express exterior or flex service tunnels. Express carwashes can also market each of these holidays with advertisements on their carwash gates. This gives your customers the opportunity to view your promotions before entering the tunnel; then, as they ride through the tunnel, they will continually be reminded of your specials. Obviously, images, signs and flags placed in your tunnel will have to be waterproof not only from water but also to protect from chemical exposure. All of these items and images can be stored and used year after year.

The dress-up and celebration of each of the holidays should commence approximately seven to 10 days prior to each holiday, with the exception of the Santa Claus promotion. These celebrations should continue a couple of days after each of the holidays.

Balloons and candy should also be given to children during these holidays either in your queuing lanes, tunnel entrance or in your waiting room. Jazzing up your carwash tunnel can be accomplished with such additions as flashing LEDs, animated stuffed animals, cartoons as well as multi-color soaps and waxes.

Also, for year-round benefits, mirrors mounted on tunnel walls near the exit should be installed so customers can view their clean vehicles and custom flashing signs, featuring packages and extra services that were purchased and which also show the customer that the product is being applied, should also be included. Many of these items can also be applied in your full service waiting room.

The wow factor

Dressing up your facility is really the most outstanding way to have a family-friendly, fun and most importantly, a “wow” experience for anyone in the customer’s family. With this experience and continuous yearly policy, you will have your customers leaving with smiles on their faces, happy about not only receiving a quality wash but also an experience that they did not expect. Your customers will certainly look forward to returning and telling their families and friends about your fun, quality carwash. Believe me, this will go a long way in outperforming the competition.

A quality wash is a given. Customers not only expect it but certainly require it. What else is there to give that exceeds customers’ expectations? This could very well be a marketing game-changer, especially for the express exterior model. Day after day, you have a captured audience in your tunnel or waiting room. The additional income that will be generated by selling gift certificates will far exceed the cost of sign images and other materials for marketing these holidays.

After all, is there a better advertisement than “word of mouth,” which is absolutely free? In addition to washing vehicles, we are also in the business of creating friendly and fun experiences.

As Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, once stated, “We’re in the business of making fun. If you can’t have fun making fun, you need your head examined.”

As such, there is no better time than this year for your business to create the real “wow” facility.


Harvey M. Miller is the owner of Car Wash Consultants. He travels nationally to perform site selection services as well as to analyze existing facilities. Miller has owned and operated 32 carwashes and detailing centers. He has been performing consulting services for the past 33 years. His carwashes have been recognized eight times as No. 1 Carwashes. He is the past president of the Western Carwash Association (WCA) and the International Carwash Association (ICA). Miller can be reached at carwashconslt@aol.com or (949) 230-3623.