GLENDALE, Ariz. — Managing the Laundromat’s safety seems almost like an afterthought to some owners, but there are several areas in and around your mat that can be potential hazards for customers and employees. Knowing how and when to manage these potential hazards can reduce the odds of someone getting seriously hurt and lower your legal exposure.
Clothing, Jewelry, Rings and Long Hair — When I first started in this business a long time ago, I positioned myself behind a row of very old dryers while I was wearing a down vest. The previous owner did not have the safety panels on the backs of the dryers, so all the pulleys were exposed. All the dryers were going on this busy Saturday and, you guessed it, my vest got caught in a pulley!
Luckily, it went up and around only once and came back out. It could have twisted me all up, causing serious injury or death! I came very close to quitting the business that day!
So, when working on machines, try not to wear loose clothing. Remove loose jewelry, even rings. And put that long hair up.
And, I know it’s a pain, but keep the pulley guards on—they are there for a reason.
Always shut off the power when working on a machine. And if you are behind the washers, it’s not a bad idea to shut off the power and water to adjacent washers as well in case you accidentally dislodge a water hose. You don’t want to get electrocuted!
Handling Cash — As the owner of a mat, you might as well have a target on your back, because some people will look at you as “the rich person” who handles a lot of cash. I remember being surrounded by a bunch of drunk guys as I was putting the trash in my bin out back. “Hey man, we don’t like how you are taking our money out of our neighborhood,” one of them slurred. Funny thing was I had had that mat for many years, way before any of them ever moved in! Luckily, I was able to talk them down and we all walked away calmly.
I like how some mats are now being built so that the owner enters using a separate door, right into an office where all doors to rear-loading change machines or value transfer machines are located. The owner can enter and exit undetected.
Still, with stores like this, having a camera installed outside this door would help the owner see if/when it’s safe to leave.
I believe mat owners are most vulnerable when they exit the mat to go to their car. Make sure you always check outside before walking out to see if it’s safe to go. Also, change up the times that you come and go to throw off anyone who may be staking you out.
Pro tip: A nice trick is to put your cash inside a big bag of laundry before you leave the store so you look like a customer rather than the owner. Always keep a “decoy” amount of money on your person so you can satisfy any robber who gets the drop on you. Your real money will be in the laundry bag.
Always take a route home that includes a few twists and turns so you can see if someone is following your car. I had a friend who owned a pharmacy and he once got robbed in his driveway at home, 19 miles away from his store. He admitted that he never paid attention to anyone following him.
If the laws in your state allow it, should you get a concealed carry permit for a firearm for your self-defense? I had one for 31 years, and it saved me on three separate occasions. But this is a personal decision and only someone who can safely and lawfully handle a gun should consider it.
There have been many books written about handguns and self-defense. I think In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection by Massad F. Ayoob is an excellent book on the subject; the author addresses experiences before, during and after an armed confrontation.
I happened to be lucky on the three occasions I mentioned, but I understand that a pistol can also get you killed. If the bad guys “have the drop on you” and you can’t pull it out to shoot first, they will surely find your pistol when they search you. And they will search you! Constant vigilance is in order, and don’t forget that innocent people could get hit during a gunfight.
So whether it’s for your customers or for you, always be on the lookout for potential danger areas in and around your store and how you can best address them to keep your operation running safely and smoothly.