CHICAGO — Collecting a self-service laundry’s coins and currency is important not only because that revenue keeps an operation running, it’s an action that can put the owner or their staff at risk if the routine renders them inattentive.
Taking precautions while collecting and handling monies will make it more difficult for any opportunist looking to take advantage of the situation.
Luke Williford of The Wash House Inc. manages some 18 stores for his family’s growing chain of stores based in Raleigh, N.C.
“We have several quarter-only stores left. We are converting all these stores to loyalty card. Collections are more frequent, less safe and more time-consuming in coin stores,” he says. “We have several loyalty card only stores (customers add value to their loyalty card with cash, credit card or Apple Pay and then use the card on washers and dryers). Collections are less frequent, safer and less time-consuming at these locations.”
Williford takes a number of precautions when collecting, including:
- Always during daylight hours
- With two or more staff – never alone
- Carrying a pistol (concealed or exposed)
- Knowing the surroundings and vetting the people who are in the store
- Checking restrooms, suspicious cars, and any other “hidden” locations before starting the collection process
- Working from the back of the store to the front so his back is never toward the store entrance.
He also favors saying little to nothing about one’s collections practices: “Knowledge is the most vital thing in our business. Once knowledge is let out, it cannot be retracted. Stay discreet.”
Currency from all Wash House stores is only pulled and taken out of a location once per week unless during the holiday season or other circumstances, he says.
“However, coin store coins have to be collected and returned to the change machine two-three times per week depending on the volume of the location. We call this recycling process a ‘pull,’ not a collection.
“Pull vs. collect is just trained internal verbiage. We also never use the word ‘cash.’ We replace the word ‘cash’ with ‘paperwork’ in all conversations. … Card-only stores are collected one time per week.”
What piece of advice might veteran store owners offer to newcomers about collections?
“Always consider who is in the store prior to collecting,” says Randy Land, who owns Lucky Laundry in Santa Clara, California. “Be ready to stop collecting and secure what you’ve collected if you don’t feel comfortable.”
“Know that people are paying attention,” warns Anytime Laundry’s Peter Mayberry, Omaha, Nebraska, who had a dicey encounter as a fledgling store owner.
He’d started his first laundry and because he had a full-time job, he collected at night. One night about three months in, he noticed a man sitting in a car by the front door. A few minutes later, a second man exited the car and walked over and lingered by the laundry’s second entrance.
“Since I had cable TV, a fridge and a comfy office, I counted the cash and then hung out for three hours, eating and watching TV, until they decided to finally leave,” Mayberry says. “This was the day that I decided to seriously step up my collection process and the last time I ever collected a store that was empty.”
“Evil prays upon the weak. You must be honest when accessing your or your staff’s vulnerability and be OK pointing out and swiftly addressing any vulnerabilities,” Williford says. “Each collection, area and store layout is different, (so) approach it as such. Make changes where changes are needed, and I can’t stress enough to not get distracted.”
In the end, if confronted by someone who wants to rob you, give them what they want and survive.
“If threatened with bodily harm, give them the cash,” says Karl Hinrichs, who runs distributor HK Laundry Equipment based in New York state but also owns and operates four Laundromats. “Cash can always be replaced, your health cannot.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.