GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are times that Laundromats are so busy that customers must wait for machines to open up, making them angry and frustrated. Other times, there are no customers in the store.

While it can be a great feeling to come in and see your mat operating at full capacity, most likely this is occurring only a few hours a week. And more importantly, it’s likely that you’re losing customers due to their unpleasant experience of having to compete for machines!

Worse, fights between customers can break out. I’ve seen some really bad fights that required us to call police and ambulances. It’s something that no normal person likes.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could smooth out these peaks and valleys?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could shift some of the “herd” from these busy times to the slow times?

Wouldn’t it be great if your mat operated consistently at, say, 75% capacity for much of the time it’s open? (That would be a win for you and a win for your customers.)

To come anywhere close to achieving this requires more than just one solution. Here are my suggestions:

OFFER A SENIOR DISCOUNT DAY

Retirees can usually come to the laundry any time they wish. Don’t you get frustrated to see these customers show up on a Saturday afternoon?

Supermarkets, which have similar customer-flow patterns as those of Laundromats, offer “Senior Discounts” on their slowest days, usually a Tuesday or Wednesday.

They offer this discount because it works. I’m a senior citizen myself, and shop at my supermarket on its senior day. Why would I want to come on a Friday evening and wait in long supermarket lines, when I can breeze through the store on a Wednesday morning and get a discount for doing so?

The parameters of the discount are totally up to you, but even just a 5% discount every Wednesday, for instance, can motivate seniors to show up on that day. Or, you can offer a “buck off” your slowest group of washers.

Don’t forget that many seniors have not prepared adequately for their retirement, according to a senior living blog post at aplaceformom.com, and are looking to save wherever they can.

Some operators don’t believe in offering discounts, thinking it will hurt their profits.

If you already have a healthy price structure in place at your mat, offering a dollar off on your slowest group of machines will accomplish a few things. How much does it actually cost to offer a discount to a specific group of seniors for just one day? I’ll answer that: not much. Chalk it up to advertising.

And don’t forget, many seniors have friends who are seniors as well, so you will get valuable “word of mouth” advertising. This is the best kind of advertising you can get because they will be endorsing your mat to their friends. Some of them may even post positive online reviews.

Not only will the promotion help you to level out your customer flow, it will help to level out usage on your machines! I would much rather have a machine break down on a Tuesday than a Sunday, and I would rather a machine from a slow washer group break down than one from a busy group.

You will attract new senior customers who are always on the lookout for a senior discount, and you will be drawing them in on your slowest day, making it easy to absorb them and to assist them in using your machines. Attendants often are too busy on weekends to give new customers the proper help on their first visit.

Also, since the discount will be shifting seniors away from your busiest days, the other customers on those days will be more likely to have a happy experience, not dreading going to your mat to compete with others for a machine. Therefore, the customer attrition rate on a Saturday, for instance, will drop.

As your business’ peaks and valleys smooth out with happy customers, you will be able to easily compensate the cost of the discounts by raising prices on other things. It could be something as simple as raising your soap vending supplies by a quarter. You may “lose” $50 on your senior day, but you may win back that money by having slightly higher soap prices 24/7.

It’s also worth noting that most seniors these days are baby boomers, which is the largest demographic group in America.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!