CHICAGO — For as long as people have been bringing their dirty clothes to self-service laundries, they’ve sought ways to ease the task of transporting their belongings from washer to dryer. Laundry carts simplify the movement of goods from here to there so there’s less heavy lifting/carrying.
“I think, for good reason, the cart of choice is a wire cart, an elevated wire basket, with or without a hanger,” says Cindy Lapidakis, VP of sales and marketing for Royal Basket Trucks, a Wisconsin-based producer of carts, trucks and containers that builds to order. “There are different styles of an elevated cart but the wire offers the clientele the ability to see if there’s something in that cart and not miss part of their belongings.”
“The standard cart has always been a chrome cart,” says Frank Rowe, VP of sales and marketing for R&B Wire Products, a diversified manufacturer of laundry and linen transportation equipment in business since 1946. The California-based company is capable of vinyl-dipping carts in various colors, he adds, and also makes cart products with antimicrobial or rust-resistant properties.
Why are laundry carts sized and made in the fashion they are? Why are dimensions so important?
“Years ago, the stores were probably smaller, with tighter aisles, so people wanted to maximize the revenue opportunity they had with machines,” Rowe says. “That meant there were different needs that people would have as far as the size of a cart.”
R&B’s most popular basic model is one that stands 27 inches high, measures roughly 22 by 27 inches, and has an 11-inch-deep basket, according to Rowe.
“Part of it is just pure environment,” Lapidakis says of cart dimension standards and options. “How much room is there between rows of equipment? Do the carts nest up to the front of a piece of (laundry) equipment and give enough room for the door to swing? … You also want (to consider) your cart height and your (folding) tables so that carts can be stored underneath them. It can be neat and tidy when it needs to be.”
Trends show many laundries with the available space offering washers and dryers exceeding 50 pounds in capacity. So is the larger machine size also impacting cart sizing and options?
“Not in a manner that it’s raised a huge flag and that we track it,” says Lapidakis. “We’re aware of it but, primarily, these types of operations are still going to the traditional 27- or 33-inch size wire carts, even though the equipment is larger.”
Rowe says the growth in equipment size influenced R&B to add a 6-bushel “mega” cart to go with its “standard” 2.5-bushel and “large” 4.5-bushel models.
“If you try to train your customers that these standard carts belong with the 30- and 40-pound machines, the large with the 50- and 60-pound machines, and the 70s and 90s belong with these mega carts … it just makes the flow and the availability of carts better,” he says.
The maneuverability of laundry carts also means that they’re susceptible to theft. Do today’s carts incorporate any sort of anti-theft features or devices?
“Standard carts do not,” says Lapidakis. “We’ve done many projects with specific customers in other industries with RFID tags and tracking. Some of those kinds of technologies have been incorporated, primarily in the waste-hauling industries more than in this type of environment.”
She’s seen some owners purchase carts that are physically larger than their store’s doorways when assembled to deter thievery.
“There’s not a lot you can do, other than changing the size of the cart, to keep it from, unfortunately, going elsewhere,” she adds.
“Constantly, people ask us about the shopping carts, the ones that have the locking wheels,” Rowe says. “The problem with those is … it takes you burying a cable out in the parking lot to be able to trip that caster to lock. So, you spend 10 grand to trench your parking lot to make sure someone’s not leaving (with a cart), but if someone wants it, they’re going to take it anyway.”
He’s seen store owners affix Bluetooth-enabled “tiles” to carts and try tracking them using a smartphone app.
Some owners have their laundry’s name engraved on cart bases as a deterrent: “People are less likely to steal something with a name on it than one that doesn’t,” Rowe suggests.
R&B is looking into the possibility of burying a trackable chip within a cart that would transmit location, he adds.
But for now, store owners will have to make the most of low-tech solutions to keep their laundry carts handy for the next customer.