CHICAGO — In the world of personal laundry, absent having a washer and dryer at home, the self-service laundromat represents the do-it-yourself option. Meanwhile, there are a wide variety of laundry services vying for the wash/dry/fold (WDF) business of those uninterested in doing their own laundry, either in home or at a laundromat.
A laundry services subscription enables a customer to pay a fee (usually monthly) in exchange for receiving the service continually during the time period of their choosing. As long as they continue to pay the charge when due, they can take advantage of the service.
Sometimes, these service arrangements are called membership plans. And they are a growth sector within the laundry industry.
UNLOCKING MEMBERSHIP PERKS
Not every laundry subscription or membership model is based on service frequency and load size. In Portland, Oregon, laundromat owner Jeff Dood created his Clean-O-Rama Laundry Club as a way to provide vetted members with exclusive after-hours access to one of his two unattended Clean-O-Rama! Laundromats.
His stores are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but the free membership offers pre-approved customers the means to do their laundry outside those operating hours at a time when it’s convenient for them.
When someone is accepted as a Laundry Club member, they alone are granted private and secure access to Clean-O-Rama! Northwest through a unique access code that unlocks one entrance.
Dood consulted an attorney before introducing the concept to make certain he wasn’t “crossing any lines I shouldn’t be crossing,” he says.
At present, club access is available only at the northwest location on Thurman Street (the other Clean-O-Rama! is in southeast Portland, roughly 10 miles away). The 1,800-square-foot store has a secondary, residential-style rear entrance that lends itself to the special controlled access, the owner says.
“I didn’t have to do any elaborate card system or anything like that,” says Dood, who bought his first laundromat in 2011. “I looked into that, it was exorbitantly expensive. I have a simple Wi-Fi lock on the back.”
Once inside, the Laundry Club member has his or her pick of 30 washers and 13 dryers.
Members don’t have to schedule a time slot, and because Laundry Club membership is limited, it’s likely they will have the entire laundromat to themselves. Dood tracks the after-hours comings and goings via the special lock and his store’s cameras.
He calls the group an exclusive club of screened and approved laundry aficionados, saying “dozens upon dozens of people have signed up.” Of the members to date, he says about half signed up because their schedule didn’t mesh with the store’s, and the other half became members for the added security of knowing that no else could be in the store with them.
A spinning graphic on the home page of his business website promotes the Laundry Club. Posting a sign inside the laundromat for a week or two after the club launched really got the ball rolling and word-of-mouth continues to support it, Dood says.
When a person submits the online application seeking Laundry Club membership, they agree to the following:
- Will immediately email to ownership a copy of their photo ID, along with a selfie of them holding this ID
- Will not reveal their access code to any other person
- Will do their laundry alone and not bring any other person in with them
- Will not let anyone else into the store while they are doing laundry
- Will clean up after themselves (throw away dryer sheets, leave nothing behind, etc.)
- Will exit immediately upon finishing their laundry and will not loiter
- Will notify Clean-O-Rama management of any other members violating these terms (can do so anonymously)
Applicants are also asked to share why they want to become a club member. Not everyone is accepted for membership, according to Dood. And even if accepted, the new member must continually meet his club standards or else.
“I can take away their code anytime they misbehave,” he says. “I make it clear that it’s a privilege, not a right.”
Only one member’s privileges have been revoked in the 18 months or so that he’s offered club access.
Dood likes the concept he’s developed and is looking for ways “to take it further.” He mentions free soap, special vend pricing, or perhaps club-member-only days as options to be considered.
“If it’s done in the right way, I could probably start charging a little nominal membership fee, if people felt they were getting a value for that. There could be a social aspect to it as well. The sky’s the limit.”
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].