Preventing Abuse of Laundry Equipment, Furnishings

Author Paul Russo says this sign helped to cut down on instances of children being in carts in his laundromats but, sadly, didn’t eliminate them. (Photo courtesy Paul Russo)

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Preventing Abuse of Laundry Equipment, Furnishings (Part 1)

Understanding the mindset behind the misuse

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sooner or later, some people will abuse your laundromat, either from general rough treatment or even deliberately.

Kids can also be a steady source of abuse, from climbing on carts and swinging on doors or more. (I even had a kid pull down his pants and defecate right in the middle of an aisle and his mother did nothing about it!)


Most people would not treat things so badly in their own homes, but because your property is not theirs, many simply don’t care. Some may be miserable with their own lives and, out of sheer jealousy, seek to take the “rich laundromat owner” down a peg or two with a little vandalism that helps them “even the score” a little. It’s a sad state of mentality that occurs in our society nowadays.

There are a lot of angry people out there walking among us, and not many people enjoy having to do their laundry in the first place, so some may come to your mat already in a bad mood.

So even if they’re not consciously thinking about damaging your mat, sometimes people just get frustrated. Maybe they’re in a rush but are running late. Maybe they get into an argument with another customer. Maybe they put too much soap in a washer and their laundry comes out wet. Maybe it’s just too hot or cold in your mat, which can make people edgy. If it’s too crowded, tempers can flare as customers compete for machines.

All these things can lead to your mat getting damaged. Carts are pushed too hard and machine doors slammed. (I had a couple times where angry customers slammed the dryer doors so hard, the glass popped right out!)


Aside from doing what you can to get the best “people-proofed” equipment and furnishings, here are some ideas.

Effective Communication is Key — Post clear, bilingual instructions to avoid unpleasant customer experiences. If they know how to use the equipment, there will be more happy customers and less abuse. It’s a no-brainer.

You want to help your customers have a smooth, easy and satisfying customer experience, so your signage is important. Great signage should use as many visual aids as possible to make it simple and easy to get the message across.

There are two common customer abuses: too much soap, and overloading machines.

About the soap, aside from wall signs, get some stickers made up with a visual that shows the proper amount in a standard cup, and place one on each washer. Your distributor may already have them for you.

Regarding equipment loading, I made a sign that explained that, in order to get them really clean, laundry items need to be loose enough in the tub to rub against each other.

Another problem area is customers putting their kids in laundry baskets that then tip over, endangering the children and damaging the cart or whatever it may strike. So, you need a warning sign for that as well.

Rather than make the signs read like commands, it’s better to display these things as “Tips for a Better Wash,” because you want to be helpful. You’ll have fewer frustrated customers who can lose their cool and break something. Besides, you’ll earn more income because people will learn to use more washers to achieve better results.

Cameras and Monitors Always Help — Cameras make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons, especially to deter bad customer behavior while also recording it. To me, cameras are the next best thing to having an employee standing right in front of them.

People often forget they are “on camera,” so they need to be reminded with monitors that show them. I believe monitors work better than warning signs to deter bad behavior. They get the point across in a subtle, more effective way.

Check back Thursday for Part 2...

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