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Laundromats Moving Away From Coins: Will Cashless Car Wash Systems Sweep The Industry?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

For the companies that count their revenue in quarters — car wash businesses, laundromats, arcades (are there still arcades?) — cashless marks a drastic departure from the old order. Yet many are successfully making the transition, and there is a growing industry of vending machine suppliers coming up with the trend.

One recent article in American Coin-Op talked to the laundromat owners who went coinless, and those owners seem unlikely to switch back. Here are some of the things they said:

  • “I can go to the system and look up each machine, what it did, what time, and how much money was generated. It makes life so much easier.”

  • “We used to measure turns per day by machine by putting the quarters in a bucket and weighing the bucket. We would estimate, based on the vend price, how many turns a day that machine, or that particular size machine … were doing a day. The system was so labor-intensive, we did that only maybe three times a year. Now I can do it in five minutes.”

  • “Some laundry owners are operating on a really tight profit margin, so I can see why [the installation cost] might be a deterrent. But a lot of times, you have to think outside the box. You have to think, ‘Am I going to get increased business because of it?’”

There’s likely to be a learning curve for customers when any coin-operated business switches over to vending machines. In that sense, it may be easier for new businesses to start cashless than for existing businesses to convert. But many vending machines are fairly straightforward, and with everything from soda vending machines to parking meters going coinless, consumers are becoming more acquainted with the technology, and many find it more convenient.

There are many different suppliers to choose from using different technology that they say is best. ExpressKEY accepts cash or cards and loads value onto an electronic key. “ExpressKEY is a high-security cashless system that uses pre-programmed keys to operate all the car wash services you offer,” the company says.

Another, from Ryko Manufacturing, uses a more standard card. Other than the benefits the laundromat owners talked about, another benefit of coinless technology is the ease of integrating the cards with marketing, promotions, and loyalty programs. Your card in their wallet is a constant advertisement, and a reminder. More, you can incentivize their return by offering monthly memberships and similar promotions that become easier to track using a card.

Have you gone cashless? Was it a waste of money, or would you recommend it?

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