CHICAGO — While industry surveys continue to show that the vast majority of self-service laundries in the United States are coin-based, it’s clear that the share of cashless stores—“coinless” may actually be a more apt description in many cases—is growing larger by the year.
American Coin-Op interviewed store owners from around the country whose operations use cashless systems offered by some of the industry’s best known vendors. Depending on the system, customers can transfer a dollar amount to a “store card” or “loyalty card” (using cash or a credit/debit card; systems vary) which is then used to start the vended washers/dryers in that particular store, or can use a credit, debit or EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card to start a machine. Some systems enable stores to accept coins, credit card, loyalty card, or any combination.
A card-based system may not be right for every self-service laundry, but the store owners who were interviewed on this topic can’t see running their businesses any other way.
Adopting a cashless payment system, particularly in an established coin-based store, isn’t without its challenges. Implementing a card system requires extra effort to “sell” customers on its benefits and to help them learn how to use it.
Brian Brunckhorst owns four Advantage Laundry stores in the San Francisco Bay area and is currently building out a fifth store. He utilizes a cashless payment system offered by Standard Change-Makers/BCC Payments at his Pleasant Hill store, and a WashCard system on the larger machines at his Oakland store; the new store will feature a CCI (Card Concepts) system on all machines when it opens soon.
“Initially, the customers liked it. They liked the ability to pay with credit,” he says of the Pleasant Hill location. “It took them a little bit of time to get used to the functionality of the system, but it really wasn’t very difficult. We have attendants in the store who helped walk the customers through the process.”
Joe Silvaugh Jr.’s Soap Suds in York, Pa., utilizes a WashCard payment system, according to store manager Julia Sandridge. Having once housed a furniture store, the laundry just opened in January.
Sandridge makes a point to greet customers, exchange their quarters for dollar bills, and show them how to use a kiosk to place value on the store card.
“About 80% of the people that do come here absolutely love it,” Sandridge says. “They love the fact they don’t have to mess with any quarters. Then you have your old-timers … they love their quarters, they’re ‘old school.’ That’s what they’re used to. They don’t want to learn another way and they walk out.”
One way that store owners soften the transition from coins to cards a bit is by offering a bonus when customers place value on a store card. For example, Bovarnick gives a customer placing $20 on a Speedwash Laundromat card an extra $2.
Check back Thursday for Part 3, the finale!