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Survey: Self-Service Laundries No Stranger to Staffing Challenges

Nearly 40% of stores are understaffed, owners say

CHICAGO — Now more than 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses are struggling to fill open jobs. Recent polling shows that nearly 90% rate hiring as “somewhat or very difficult,” and two-thirds of businesses report having unfilled positions.

Things aren’t quite as stark among self-service laundries, based on the results of this quarter’s American Coin-Op Your Views survey, but it’s still been a significant challenge for ownership.

Roughly 58% of store owners polled say they’re “properly staffed,” but 37.5% say they’re either “slightly understaffed” (29.2%) or “severely understaffed” (8.3%). The remaining 4.2% are “severely overstaffed.”

Most respondents blame the labor shortage on the government assistance that’s been in place since COVID-19 has gripped the country. “No one wants to work. Can make enough money staying home, doing nothing,” offers one.

Another camp says the health risk from continual face-to-face contact with customers has applicants expecting premium pay.

Online job search sites (37.5%) and word of mouth/referrals (33.3%) are the primary methods that laundry operators use to find and hire employees today. Another 25% rely on in-store displays.

Among those who use an online jobs board, Indeed.com is most favored; no one taking the survey said they use Monster, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Facebook and a state job site were identified as other recruitment tools used.

Respondents were asked about changes they have put in place to make their laundry more attractive to potential employees or to retain current staff. Here are some of their answers:

  • “Offering higher wages and adding company-paid benefits such as (insurance).”
  • “Higher salaries, free employee wash, and monthly bonuses.”
  • “More frequent cleaning. Paper towels, spray bottles with cleaner and hand sanitizer available as soon as you walk in.”
  • “We haven’t made any changes to our hiring practices. While the numbers of applicants are down when a position is available, we are seeing more qualified candidates applying.”

The pandemic-related government programs will have to end before the labor shortage gets any better, several respondents believe. But a laundry still needs workers, so it’s just a matter of try and try again.

“Treat staff fairly, train (them) well, work on the rough spots and praise them when they do well,” suggests one operator, while another says, “Keep trying. You will get people but it takes effort.”

American Coin-Op’s Your Views survey presents an unscientific snapshot of the trade audience’s viewpoints. Subscribers to American Coin-Op emails are invited to participate anonymously. To better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends, the entire trade audience is encouraged to take part.