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Dollar Coins or Quarters? Dual Coin Slots Give Customers a Choice

Hannah Miller |

In the 30 washers and 26 dryers at James “Tony” Oxendine’s new laundry in Red Springs, N.C., the clatter of quarters falling into coin slots is mixed with the heavier “thunk” of $1 coins.That’s music to the ears of some customers at the 5,000-square-foot laundry, which Oxendine says is the only one in the area that gives customers a choice between using quarters and $1 coins.“I like [the dollar coins] better,” says Shirley Lowery, a laundry newcomer. Washing for a family of seven, she put most of her load into the 80-pound washer ($7.50) and a 60-pound washer ($5.75). “You don’t have to get as much change,” she adds.A 12-year veteran of the laundry business, Oxendine is not as enthusiastic about the new dual-coin setup (just a few months old) as his customers are. “I don’t particularly like it, but I can put up with it,” he admits.He doesn’t like separating the dollars and quarters from the machines and refilling the coin changers because it’s time-consuming. He estimates that emptying all the coin boxes and refilling the two coin changers takes him an hour and a half, considerably more time than he spends on the same chore at his Lumbee Washerette in Pembroke, N.C., and his 41 Laundromat in Lumberton, N.C.He opted for the dual coin slots with the goal of increasing the use of his bigger machines, and believes that customers feel better about the setup. “They can put six [dollar coins] in there, and it doesn’t seem like much,” he says. “If they have to use that amount of quarters, they think it’s too much. That’s helping us; going the dollar route.”More customers are using quarters rather than dollars, but he expects to see that trend reverse in the next three months. Two coin changers offer a mix of $1 coins and quarters in exchange for bills. Customers can also get four quarters for a $1 coin.Attendants at Red Springs are teaching customers how to use the dollar coins, and are present throughout store hours, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. All of Oxendine’s stores are fully attended.He has a sizeable Spanish-speaking clientele, and though most signs are written in both English and Spanish, a Spanish-speaking attendant, along with other Spanish-speaking customers, help laundry novices navigate the new setup.Those unfamiliar with the language are not the only ones getting help. “A new customer will look at that hard dollar, and sometimes you’ve got to tell them it is a dollar,” he explains. “Once they learn, they will be all right.”DISTRIBUTOR INPUTLamar Thomas, T&L Equipment Sales, Charlotte, N.C., says that he and sales representative Ron Smith suggested using machines with the dual coin slots, although the option adds about $70 to $80 to the price of a machine. Thomas says it encourages the use of the bigger machines and “the large machines give you more dollars per square foot in the store.”Making doing the laundry a more convenient and pleasant experience for the customer is the goal, Thomas says. Though Oxendine is his only customer presently using the dual setup, Thomas thinks most other stores will soon adopt this practice.For the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, Thomas sold machines with dual-slot coin acceptors to several owners in his North and South Carolina regions. That coin turned out to be a flop, he recalls — “They made it too much like a quarter” — and he doesn’t know if those owners are still using the dual slots.This year’s line of presidential $1 coins inspired him to try again. The heavy promotion makes the new coins both more familiar to the general public and more available, he says.Thomas estimates that retrofitting an existing laundry to use the $1 coin would cost $200 to $300 per machine. Only computerized machines can be retrofitted because they can be programmed to recognize the difference in dollars and quarters. Coin changers aren’t a problem because they’re programmed at the factory to work with the $1 coins.FINE-TUNING THE OPERATIONOxendine intends to put up a building in Lumberton and move the 41 Laundromat out of its rented space. The building will be as large as the Red Springs business and use the equipment that’s already in the laundry, plus additional equipment he intends to purchase.Will the new machines at 41 Laundromat take $1 coins? More time would have to pass, he says, before he’ll know if he’s happy with the Red Springs equipment. “It’s still too early,” he says.Another point to consider is that some customers are simply collecting the $1 coins rather than using them at the laundry. One customer says she’s saving these coins to give to her one-year-old grandson when he graduates school.Oxendine is aware that not all of the $1 coins are going back into his machines. “That’s why we have to buy so many of him,” he says resignedly.Before he opened, he told his bank that he was going to be picking up a load of the $1 coins weekly, and they were ready — they supply the coins in packs of 25.He’d prefer that all the dollars go into his equipment rather than be saved, but, he says, “I can’t do anything about that. I’m in business, I just put up with it.” 

About the author

Hannah Miller

Freelance Writer

Hannah Miller is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.

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