Developing Other Business to Co-Exist with Self-Service

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Developing Other Business to Co-Exist with Self-Service (Conclusion)

Pointers from Paulie B: Fewer service peaks/valleys on weekends means less competition for machines

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you want to maximize your mat’s income, drop-off wash-dry-fold (WDF) service, pickup and delivery (PUD), and commercial work (smoke removal, restaurant linens, hair salon towels, etc.) are the popular income streams many owners use.

You can pull in thousands of pounds a week, but how do you manage your space and not interfere with your bread-and-butter self-service customers? How do you not compete with them for machines, folding tables and carts?

If your self-service volume is hopelessly slow after you’ve tried boosting it by installing new equipment, cleaning up your mat’s appearance, and securing adequate customer parking, you’re left with doing some kind of service work. The good part is that you don’t have many customers to bump carts with, so to speak.

Alternately, if your store is typically full of customers, doing service work there can be more daunting. When customers routinely see most of the machines occupied with other service work, they will go somewhere else. Your crew will have to wait to use some machines that are occupied by customers, but time is money. If they have work that must get out quickly, they will be forced to use the wrong machines for the job. So what can be done to lessen that impact?

I suggested my favorite solutions for performing other service work without interfering with your self-service business in Part 1.

Part 2’s focus was on storage solutions. In today’s conclusion, I want to talk about a service’s ebb and flow:


If you can smooth out the peaks and valleys in your front lobby on the “dreaded” weekends, you’ll lower the odds of competition for machines. And this applies not only to crew members vs. customers but also to customers vs. customers.

I believe the best strategies involve shunting customers from busy times to slow times, and can apply to both service and self-service business.

Senior Day — Retirees can usually come any day of the week. Why not give them a discount to show up on your slowest day(s)? You could extend this to other groups—first responders, students—as well.

Post Your Busy and Slow Hours — If you don’t tell your customers the best times for them to come, how will they know?

The 20% Discount — This is a strategy that worked well for me over the years. It’s bad enough to have customers competing with each other on a Saturday or Sunday. Add a lot of service work that requires your crew members to take any available machines and tempers will flare!

Our drop-off business got so busy, we ran out of storage room at times. The workload was often overwhelming. A nice problem to have, yes, but headaches abounded. These headaches were primarily on the weekends because customers would drop off their laundry on Saturday morning and expect their clean clothes back by that night so they go out partying wearing their best threads.

To make things worse, Saturdays and Sundays are “wash days” for self-service customers who don’t work on weekends. This convergence of self-service customers and heavy drop-off demand service became too much to bear.

So, I decided it was time to increase prices, but in a different way. I began raising washer prices group by group. We lost some customers, but there were still plenty remaining who were willing to pay the increases that offset the loss of volume.

However, that was far from enough to balance the mat. I had to do more, so I increased the drop-off prices by 10% on weekends, and discounted the price by 10% on weekdays.

This started a small shift of weekend drop-off customers to weekdays when we could handle the work more easily. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. They simply showed up on Friday, demanding their laundry back that night or on Saturday. It was still a burden, plus many drop-off customers didn’t care about paying 10% less Monday through Friday.

I eventually landed on the right solution for my mat: 20% off Monday through Thursday.

Those four days then became our heaviest drop-off days, but they were much easier to handle because the lobby wasn’t quite as busy. Plus, it was also much easier to bring in extra workers on those days. Drop-off customers looking for a deal were happy to visit then. Those who still wanted quick service simply paid the extra 20%; I was always amazed at how many people didn’t care about the price!

One thing about pricing service work: Drop-off customers are different than self-service customers. They often make a good living. They want quality, and are willing to pay for it. So service success rests much more heavily on giving them high-quality work; fast, friendly service; and professionalism. 

Never forget, you are handling their property. And their clothing are a reflection of who they are, so they often care a great deal about them. It’s an ego thing.

It’s also an ego thing when they tell their friends that they leave their laundry with the “best,” most expensive laundry service in town. It’s a boast, sure, but also a recommendation for your service.

On a final note, keep in mind that my suggestions here can be applied to most any other service. I wish you well in your efforts to develop services that complement your self-service operation without compromising it.

Miss an earlier part of this article? You read it here: Part 1Part 2

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].