drop off pickup window for russo column web

Author Paul Russo installed this walk-up window for drop-off and pickup service, manned here by employee Jay, in one of his New York City stores in 2008. Russo says convenience is an important drop-off selling point. (Photo: Paul Russo)

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Fine-Tuning Drop-Off Laundry Service (Part 1)

Convince the doubters you can do their laundry better than they can

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A healthy drop-off laundry service can pay for your employees’ salaries, really boost your bottom line, and more. Some localities that have a lot of working professionals can be fertile grounds for a well-run drop-off service, but you’ll have to work much harder to get a good flow of drop-offs in other areas.

It’s all about trust.

Trust is the biggest factor that convinces a customer to leave their laundry (actually, their property) with you at your establishment.

Drop-off service is not for everyone. You will never capture more than a fraction of your local population. Many people do not have the extra money. They see it as a luxury they can’t afford.

Others simply don’t want any “strangers” handling their personal clothing. They may also see it as something that they can do better.

That said, we all know that there are lots of people who want and need a quality drop-off service, and there’s a nice market out there!

So how can you convince the doubters that your place can do their laundry better than they can? Simple. Just do it better.

Here’s how:


People with disposable income will search for a quality drop-off service first (think 5-star ratings in their searches).

Sure, everyone wants a deal here and there. That’s what your promos and sales events are for. So make sure you charge a fair price for high-quality work, and give new customers a deal on their first couple of drop-offs to get them in the habit of using your service.

To achieve quality, you must present to the customer a series of pleasant surprises.

Having friendly, smiling employees gets you halfway there. I’ve always said that if the customer likes the crew, they will tend to like the quality of the work. Customers want to like the person who is handling his/her laundry. (Remember, you are handling their personal effects.)

However, the finished product is very important. Whites must come out white, and most stains should be automatically removed, because both of these conditions are the most obvious to the customer’s eyes. Folding is also an important factor, and it must be better than what the customer can do themselves.

If they can see that their favorite shirt came back with the spaghetti sauce stain removed and they didn’t even ask you to remove it, you just may have a customer for life. This is also true if they see their whites come back whiter than ever.

I always kept two top loaders in each of my mats solely for employees to wash whites in. Yes, top loaders! Most (not all) brands will allow you to open the lid and stop the cycle to allow your crew to soak the whites in lower concentrations of bleach, and to allow them to open the washer to work a stain or two, then drop the lid and let the cycle continue. If soaked correctly, the whites will come out terrific after soaking!

Some mats will soak the whites in a 5-gallon bucket. This works, but it’s messy and not nearly as convenient for stain removal and whitening as a top loader can be. I did really well with this because all my competitors used only front loaders. I highly doubt that any of my competitors were doing any soaking at all, so we had a unique system for getting the whites really white that our competitors could not or would not be able to match!

My problem-solving mind says you may be able to rig a toggle switch to a circuit that simply stops a front loader’s motor and timer from operating, yet keeps the drain valve shut to hold the water in. Should you attempt this, it should be done only on washers that are dedicated solely to employee use.

Also, as far as whitening is concerned, I always chose a quality detergent, and one that was usually a blue color so we could get an optical whitening effect. Whites tend to look less yellow and more white with a touch of blue. The same applies to softener.


Don’t let your customers lug their laundry very far. If you are in an active drop-off market and can install a drop-off window in your storefront, along with a doorbell to alert you when someone needs service, you can easily double your drop-off business from this one tip alone!

A great thing about the window is that people passing by can actually see a drop-off transaction taking place right in front of the store! This creates a powerful subconscious endorsement of your Laundromat from the customer at the window in the eyes of passersby, one more powerful than any sign or written message can create.

Second best is to locate your drop-off counter in the front of the store, not in the back where I see so many mats in New York City place it.

What’s next best? If you can’t install a window, and you can’t locate your counter at the front of the store, then install some automatic sliding doors (all of your customers will love this).

In lieu of any structural changes, you may still want to install a doorbell (with a sign, of course) to alert your crew when a customer needs help bringing in laundry. To have your employees meet the customer even just halfway and call them by name is powerful customer service! And don’t forget to tell them to smile when they do that.

Check back Thursday for Part 2: A professional look, quality packaging, and good stain removal


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