Maximizing Your Signs’ Effectiveness

This sign that once stood outside one of Paul Russo’s New York City stores is an example of a sign that entertains, he says. “It was so popular that people were walking up and taking pictures of it at least a few times a week.” (Photos courtesy of Paul Russo)

Maximizing Your Signs’ Effectiveness

To grab the attention of thousands of passing New York City motorists and pedestrians, Russo sometimes positioned a person holding a sign on a nearby street corner. One side of the sign was in English, the other side in Chinese.

Maximizing Your Signs’ Effectiveness

Russo posted signs inside his store that displayed washer usage instructions in English (shown) and Chinese.

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Maximizing Your Signs’ Effectiveness (Part 1)

Pointers from Paulie B: Goal is to make customers feel good about your mat

GLENDALE, Ariz. — All businesses must have signs, but laundromats rely on them more than many others.

Mat owners are reminded of this on a regular basis. It seems that often a problem comes up because the customer didn’t read the signs/instructions, or didn’t understand what the sign was saying. How can someone sit in a laundromat for two hours every time they come, yet not read the signs?

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. Just say it in a polite and respectful way. If you humiliate the customer, don’t expect them to come back.

For instance, if a customer complains that her laundry was removed from her machine while she was out shopping, just explain your policy to show why her laundry was removed, and point to the posted sign that reads, “You must be here when your machine stops or your clothes will be removed for the next customer.”

Isn’t it better if more customers would read, understand, and follow your signage so these problems don’t come up in the first place?

The question is, why don’t customers read signs and what can be done about it?

Your signs should be pleasing to the eye. A good sign shop can give you ideas on the sign style, materials, colors, etc., you may want.

You should also know which mat signs are useful, and which are not.

To get ideas, do an internet search for “laundromat signs.” You’ll find every mat sign topic out there!

You’ll also find that the vast majority of mat signs are negative, which is necessary for some topics. But try to keep them polite and instructional rather than confrontational.

If you are going to use the word “don’t,” then once in a while try adding the word “please” in front of it.

You want customers to have a good experience in your mat, and signs can help … to a point.


What do I mean by a well-worded sign? It’s an easy-to-read sign that gets your message across clearly, briefly and politely. It may even be a little entertaining.

Well-worded signs:

  • Help customers (and your mat) avoid problems.
  • Free up your attendants’ time.
  • Educate and instruct new customers.
  • Protect people by warning them of hazards or risks.
  • Help identify equipment, change machines, restrooms, etc.
  • Help customers who can’t read English if they are made bilingual and feature some graphics.
  • Announce various events, sales and promotions.

Ideally, you want to instruct, enlighten, inform and educate people about laundry.

In advertising, feelings are bigger than words. People often make decisions based on emotion instead of logic. Signs can also produce subliminal messages, those that reach the brain below the threshold of consciousness.

Did you know that retail stores selling analog clocks (with hour and minute hands) almost always display the ones they have for sale with the time set at 10 minutes after 10 so the clock look like it’s smiling?

So, take a cue from the big shots. The end goal in creating your store’s signs is to help people feel good about your mat.

Choice of Languages — Be aware of the most common languages in your area besides English, because you may want to make some signs in the predominant second language. Graphics and photos also help. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and can help people who can’t read English.

Sign Location — The main purpose of outdoor signs is to attract attention to your mat, identify it, and to create an inviting feeling about your business. Keep the word count as short as possible so motorists speeding by will have time to read your sign.

Indoor signs are used more to instruct and show store policies.

Do-It-Yourself Signs — If you make a sign using paper and Magic Marker, you could turn off more people than you think.

A handwritten sign is only good for emergencies. It implies laziness, and a business that’s too cheap to offer their customers attractive, professional signs.

That said, I personally printed lots of paper signs created on my computer when I was running my stores, then laminated them so they would last a few months—even years in some cases—before they would start to look faded.

Internal retailers offer good thermal laminators for less than $50. The money is in the laminating pouches (similar to printers and ink). Try using some colored paper to brighten things up.

If you really want to push something important inside the mat, you can choose to print up, say, 12 laminated paper signs and put them all around your mat at key locations, ensuring that more people will have the opportunity to read them. You can also choose to use fluorescent (hot pink?) paper for those really important messages that you want to stand out.

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!

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