GLENDALE, Ariz. — All businesses must have signs, but laundromats rely on them more than many others.
Even though many customers don’t read signs, you still need to post signs for their guidance, so you can minimize problems. At the very least, you need signs to point to after a problem occurs. You need to show that the problem happened because they didn’t follow directions.
The question is, why don’t customers read signs and what can be done about it?
Your signs should be pleasing to the eye. You should also know which mat signs are useful, and which are not.
You want customers to have a good experience in your mat, and signs can help … to a point.
In Part 1, I discussed the many benefits of having well-worded signs. I'll conclude today by explaining where signs go wrong.
UNDERSTANDING WHERE SIGNS GO WRONG
Technically, any sign that a customer doesn’t read is useless. Therefore, your signs should be brief, clear, and easy to understand.
If 10% or more of the residents in your market don’t understand English, at least some of your signs should be bilingual. And did you know that, according to Forbes, roughly 8 million people in the United States are functionally illiterate? Logos, graphics and photos can help you communicate with people who can’t read English.
Logos help your mat’s name and identity stand out in people’s memories (I put my logo on many of my store signs). A logo should be easy for any human to recognize and understand in any language.
Graphics and photos spice up your signs, while adding foreign languages helps non-English-speaking people.
They all increase the number of people who will understand your signs.
Any sign that is old and faded, ripped, or otherwise not in great shape should be replaced. Many mats neglect their signs.
If you allow political signs of any kind in your windows, I think you’re asking for trouble. There will always be a percentage of customers who will be offended if you post a political sign.
If your signs are in a dark location, customers are less likely to read them, so make sure there’s enough light to catch their eye.
And, of course, sometimes the public simply ignores signs. “No Loitering” and “Change is for Customers Only” are two that are ignored practically every day, but you must have them. Adding the word “please” to these signs isn’t a great idea because it implies weakness.
The best way to increase compliance with these signs? Place a surveillance camera conspicuously right above them.
SIGNS THAT HELP
I posted a sign outside my store’s drop-off window that read, “Drop Your Pants Here.” That’s a good example of a sign that entertains. It was so popular that people were walking up and taking pictures of it at least a few times a week, making me think that a lot of buzz was created. I hope it was more good than bad.
And the arrow just below the text helped direct attention into the store. You see, arrows can help point people’s eyes in your direction.
In New York City, we had a location where thousands of cars and people passed every day, but our mat was slightly out of view from most of the traffic. So, I placed a guy on the nearest corner, holding a large sign on a pole. The sign on one side was in English, the other side in Chinese.
Talking about bilingual again, I posted signs inside the store that displayed washer instructions in English and Chinese. I brought a copy of the English sign to a local Chinese sign shop for translation. I imagine you can find sign shops in your area that can do translations.
I also posted signs that reminded customers to check their pockets for items like crayons, pens or lip balm before washing them, along with tips about separating whites from colors and proper machine loading. Customer complaints that my machine had ruined their laundry dropped dramatically after those signs went up.
Posting a stain removal chart that carries your store name and encourages customers to take home their own copy can get your business in people’s homes for years. I made such a chart on a nice, smooth card stock back in the ’80s. Today, the instructions would be updated to include newer tips, such as more peroxide, acetone, citrus cleaners, etc.
Outdoor signs that are well-lighted often stand out. The contrast from darkness to a lighted sign can really draw eyeballs!
And not all signs have to be for your customers. I posted a trio of signs in the back room that served to educate my staff about my expectations and as reminders of the tasks that had to be completed each day. I thought it helped a great deal when my crew could easily refer to the sign for my policies.
There are, no doubt, some individual signs that you’ll create yourself because of their content that’s unique to your business. But for those more standard messages, you can buy ready-made laundromat signs from most mat distributors and parts suppliers. They do seem to cover most mat topics, and last for a few years before showing their age.
As you think about your laundry’s next sign, I hope you’re able to get your message across clearly, for the good of your customers and for you.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].