Convenience Can Mean Profitability


(Photo: ©

D. Michael Davis |

CHICAGO — In virtually every retail outlet across America, consumers are given the option to use credit or debit cards to pay for their purchases. But in about 99 percent of self-service laundries, paying for washing and drying with these types of cards is not an option.

Previously, the technology either wasn’t available or it was too expensive. But times have changed. If you’re looking for a competitive edge or a revenue booster, retrofitting your store equipment with credit/debit readers may be a great way to boost your business.

By the end of 2010, MasterCard and VISA® had more than 960 million credit and debit cards in circulation in the United States, according to the companies. And, consumers are more likely to purchase more when paying with credit and debit cards compared to cash, according to “The Survey of Consumer Payment Choice” issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

With this in mind, it’s time to examine how updating your equipment will have a positive impact on your business.


Retrofitting your machines with credit- and debit-card readers is simple, and will not inconvenience your customers. You’ll want to work with a vendor that offers card machines that send and receive information using encrypted wireless technology and operate on web-based software. This way, there’s no backhouse programming or computer software needed.

The card systems I’ve installed are user-friendly, have several unique features and, more importantly, are cost-effective.

You will need to do your homework before deciding on a card system. Stores can start with a minimum of 20 credit/debit card readers. The cost varies. There is also the cost of installation, which varies based on the distributor.

This is a reasonable cost for a modern business upgrade, especially when compared to the traditional card-only Laundromats. It’s important to have enough credit-card readers in your store so that when credit-card customers come in, there is a machine available for them to use. The advantage of installing readers on all your machines is that you will now have full accountability of all your transactions, including coin.

Existing store owners who didn’t have the capital outright and have retrofitted their machines with credit/debit card readers have been funding the cost of this technology with business loans. Some manufacturers also offer in-house financing. If you’re opening a new store, the distributor may let you roll the credit/debit reader expenses into the cost of your new equipment — allowing you to only have to carry one loan.

Credit and debit transaction fees are also minimal. Some manufacturers bundle each swipe into one transaction, as long as the cardholder doesn’t exceed a $15 limit. If more than $15 is spent, the process repeats itself.

The store owners I work with who are using this technology say their transaction fees are somewhere between 20 and 30 cents per user and don’t have a great impact on profits. Laundry owners using the credit/debit card system report that customers use more expensive cycles when they have the option to pay with their credit or debit cards. This not only pays for the transaction costs, but it also helps fund the card readers and increases profits.

On average, stores using credit/debit card systems generate 30 percent of their sales from the cards, and 70 percent of sales from coins.


Self-service laundry operators who are using the credit/debit cards are seeing increased profits. Customers are more likely to use more expensive cycles because they no longer have to carry the payment in coins. When card options are available, store owners have also noticed that customers break up larger loads and use multiple machines instead of larger machines. New customers will come to your store because of the convenience of being able to use their cards.

Adding credit/debit card readers will give you a competitive advantage. The laundry process is streamlined with card options because people no longer need to take the time to get cash or coins for the machines. Parents appreciate this, especially when they are watching their children.

Your geographic reach will also expand as people learn about the card option. In today’s economy, many people live check-to-check, and don’t always have cash available. But they might have credit available, allowing them to wash clothing, should they need to do so before payday.

As an operator, you will save money. Credit/debit machines cost about one-third of what a traditional card machine costs. In addition, if your laundry has been running out of change during the weekends, and you’re considering adding another changer, you won’t have to purchase one if you have credit/debit systems. Based on the number of people who have access to credit/debit cards, they’ll more likely use that method of payment rather than coins.

Some systems will also accept loyalty cards. These cards are perfect for attendants to do drop-off work. You will now be able to track your attendant’s work.


There has never been a better time to upgrade your store with new technology. It’s a natural step to incorporate credit/debit readers onto your machines. With user-friendly equipment, low costs and the chance to increase profits, it makes perfect sense.

With Clean 2011 approaching, take time to learn more about credit/debit options. There will be many vendors at the show that can provide insight, recommendations and general information on your options. And don’t forget to talk with your distributor. Your distributor should be a good resource of information if you’re seriously considering the upgrade.

About the author

D. Michael Davis

Star Distributing Commercial Laundry Equipment


D. Michael Davis is president of Star Distributing Commercial Laundry Equipment in Nashville, Tenn. If you have any questions about this column, contact Davis at 615-620-0911.


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