GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you’ve owned a laundromat for a while, you know the stress of receiving emergency calls. They can come at any time, and often when you least desire them: weekends, vacations, at night when you’re sleeping, or even you’re just sitting down for dinner.
The reason behind a call can vary, from an angry customer demanding to speak to the owner, the sewer is backing up, all the way to there being a raging fire.
My column this month is intended to help you deal with the emergency calls you receive related to your laundromat business. We can’t eliminate them, but there are ways to cut them down dramatically.
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Most of the calls received concern equipment failure. The good news is they are the issues that are most under your control. The bad news is that solving them requires time, effort, and some money.
Change Machine or VTM — An out-of-order change machine or VTM (Value Transfer Machine for laundry cards) can become a pinch point that will shut down your operation. If you can’t give change, or process a laundry/credit card, you’ll be hemorrhaging customers that day. Hence, an emergency. And these things always seem to happen on a weekend.
The solution is simple: you should have more than one changer or VTM.
Yes, they’re expensive, but you’ll sleep better. Even though your crew will call you about the one machine, you won’t have to immediately drop everything to come and fix it.
If you can’t afford a second machine, or have no place to install one, then stock as many modular parts as necessary. This allows you to direct someone else to swap out the bad part.
Usually, it’s your coin hoppers or bill acceptors jamming up. If you have a new (or rebuilt) one ready to go, it’s not hard for someone to swap it out for you.
“But what about the key needed to unlock the machine?” you ask.
Keep the key in an envelope and store it discreetly in a safe with digital lock. When needed, you give a trusted, pre-trained employee the combination and they can do the rest. The next time you come in, return the key to the safe and change the combination.
Nip Things in the Bud with Routine Inspections — These inspections can be simple as listening for and addressing unusual noises and sounds coming from your equipment. If something sounds off, it usually leads to a bigger issue down the line, which could generate an emergency call.
Better yet is to visually inspect every machine when you visit your mat. (Yes, I said every machine.) For instance, using a flashlight to peer through the holes in the bottom of a washer basket will often reveal some object like a credit card or bra underwire loitering around the top of the drum’s drain hole.
If you don’t remove the object right away, it will work its way down into the drain valve. Drain valve blockages have been known to cause a nice flood when the customer opens the washer door, creating not only a mess but a slip hazard and a possible shock hazard.
And don’t forget to check for lint and loose baskets.
Log All of Your Repairs — A repair log can be useful in helping you spot trends with your equipment. For example, if you notice that you’ve been changing a lot of washer valve diaphragms, then you may want to change them all so you won’t have to deal with a water valve failure every couple weeks.
Change Your Washer Hoses — If you have inexpensive washer hoses that are more than five years old, change them all.
Mat machines are not home washers. Consider that the water valves are snapping on and off hundreds of thousands of times during that five-year period (it’s called water hammer and is stressful on hoses).
A hose splitting or popping off the washer is a great way to ruin everyone’s day, especially yours.
Buy the best hoses you can find. I switched to 3/4-inch hoses with solid brass fittings and 200 psi rubber. They deliver water faster into your washers, which allows the cycle to finish a minute or two sooner. The hoses will pay for themselves by giving your machines a slightly faster turnover, which comes in handy during busy times.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].