CHICAGO — Most store owners and operators make inspecting or checking their self-service laundry for safety or security risks a common practice. This makes perfect sense because a customer will choose a store in which they feel safe over a store where they don’t. Plus, the owner wants to make certain any cash flowing into the business is kept secure.
But as we take a look at store security, where are the danger areas? American Coin-Op polled a handful of store owners, both new and veteran, about their approaches to store security and the tools they use.
In Part 1, we introduced the owners who were interviewed and briefly summarized their approaches to store security.
In Part 2, the store owners pointed out some areas of safety emphasis and described how having attendants impacts store security.
Let’s conclude today by discussing effective security tools and the decision to arm one’s self.
DO YOU HAVE AN EFFECTIVE TOOL OR PRACTICE?
Have you implemented a tool or practice that has proven effective in keeping your store safe and secure?
“If I had to choose one practice, it would be our intense focus on security,” says Cincinnati multi-store owner Dave Menz. “The best Laundromats have a few core traits: They are safe, attended and clean, but safety must come first, so we’re kind of obsessed. This constant focus comes through in everything that we do. Over time, our stores develop a reputation as being a place that you want to stay away from if you’re a bad guy.”
“I can’t remember the name of the study, but it showed the correlation of cleanliness and order with improved safety and security within a rough area of a city,” says Memphis store owner Elizabeth Wilson. “When we remodeled last year, we focused on creating the cleanest and brightest Laundromat we could. … Our staff use a cleaning checklist per shift which I monitor. And they also know that keeping the store clean is one of the most important aspects that customers want in their Laundromat.”
“I am constantly upgrading as I identify new weak points in our security,” Colorado’s John Giambrone says. “When a security upgrade will not address the problem, I work with the property manager and police to address the concern in a proactive way.”
Procedurally, he teaches his employees to circle the store before opening, looking for any problems before getting out of the car. He expects them to walk the store, bathrooms and the front sidewalk. “They pick up trash and make themselves noticed, interacting with customers using our picnic tables while looking for things that are out of place.”
As night falls, Giambrone’s employees move their cars up to the front of the store. When two staff members are closing, one leaves the store and starts their car while the second stands by the phone, monitoring their co-worker’s safety before leaving the parking lot. If one person is closing, they’re encouraged to walk out with the last customer.
Last load is at 7:30. If there are no customers in the store after 8 p.m., Giambrone’s employees are encouraged to leave once closing tasks are completed; he pays them until their shift ends no matter what. “This does two things: it encourages the employee to stay on top of the tidiness of the store so that they may leave early and get paid; it also makes it much safer because they are not waiting alone for any length of time.”
“I have recently begun locking the doors to my bathrooms in the evenings,” says new store owner Steve Andrews from Nashville, Tennessee. “I have a sign posted that states we lock the doors at 10 p.m. and unlock at 8 a.m. I use a smart lock that allows me to control the locks remotely. While some late-night customers have been upset about the locked bathrooms, I explain to them that we lock the doors for their safety. It keeps bad characters from using out bathrooms as a destination for their bad actions.”
ARMING ONE’S SELF
Every one of the store owners interviewed says they have brought a firearm to their laundry.
“Yes, I do while collecting,” says New York state multi-store owner Tim Kerstetter. “As for an attendant or manager (being armed), I can’t see much of a need due to them not having keys or access to cash.”
“I am armed, particularly while collecting,” Giambrone says, “but I do not allow my staff members to be armed. I discourage open weapon carry by customers.”
“Yes, but I often carry,” Wilson explains. “I neither encourage nor discourage my staff or customers to carry. Honestly, I would be more apt to use wasp or bear spray if I needed to defend myself, staff, or customers. I think there are too many unnecessary risks, but I also defer to Tennessee state law.”
“Yes, I carry a firearm at times,” says Menz. “I would allow our GM to carry if she chose to and was properly licensed. If an attendant had that desire, we would likely speak with them about any specific concerns that they have. If there’s something that we can improve or mitigate, we welcome that feedback. However, if it’s just paranoia, then we would likely encourage them to carry mace or something like that.”
To Andrews, store security is just as important as machine maintenance and customer service: “It’s something that your customers are going to desire (require even) as a prerequisite for patronizing your store. Don’t take it lightly, and don’t expect others to do as good a job as you would do.”
“We believe some of the best security that a Laundromat can receive is to simply be a busy store and to enhance the community around you,” Menz says. “Because we go the extra mile and heavily invest in our stores, the local community notices and appreciates it. They understand that not all Laundromats are as nice as ours, so they look out for us and take personal ownership over the store.”
“My biggest suggestion to other Laundromat owners is to get as involved in your community and neighborhood as possible,” says Wilson. “There are not many Laundromats who do this and the feedback from neighbors and their support are worth the time and effort. If they know you really care about the neighborhood, they will also keep an eye on your property.”
If you missed either of the earlier parts of this story, you can read them here: Part 1 or Part 2.