Understanding the ‘Broken Window Theory’ (Conclusion)


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Howard Scott |

Ask trusted person to evaluate store for fixable imperfections

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Sometimes, you must borrow from other fields to learn something new.

The “Broken Window Theory” of criminology was championed by William Bratton while he was police commissioner of New York City. It goes like this: If the police makes an issue of trying to prevent small crimes such as breaking windows, vandalism, public drinking, and toll jumping, then that effort will reduce the number of more serious crimes. This “broken window” policy helps create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, which has an effect on criminal minds.

So what does this “Broken Window Theory” have to do with Laundromats?

Appearance matters. A broken window, a door that doesn’t open or close easily, a front that has peeling paint, a ceiling marred by stains, a dirty bathroom, a floor tile that’s chipped, all look unsightly and stick out like a sore thumb to give your establishment a bad name. The effect is to lower the value of the offering.

It is the same principle as in the criminal mind. The criminal sees that small crimes are ignored, so he is more disposed to commit the crimes he has been doing for a while. If those committing “broken window” crimes are punished, then criminals would think more seriously about robbing a convenience store, attempting to pickpocket, or committing fraud. Under the “Broken Window Theory,” there is a stronger aura of lawfulness.

Aura—I like that word. You create the aura of your store. Even if the premises aren’t new, if you attend to all issues, if you keep it as clean as can be, if you don’t allow unsightly imperfections to continue, then you are maintaining a good aura.

If there is graffiti on the outside that you haven’t scrubbed off, if there are cracked tiles on the floor, if the front sign is faded, if the front awnings are torn and shredded, then that’s bad.

It is up to you. But maybe you’re not up to the task. Have someone you trust walk around your shop to point out things that need to be cleaned up or replaced.

If the person says that you need a complete remodeling, then that person is not the person you want. The individual looks for areas that stick out as shoddy, unattractive, offensive and unseemly. Perhaps he or she might point to three or four areas that need attention.

Sometimes you don’t have to replace something; a painting-over or taping-up will do. Sometimes you can scrub out the dirt and grime. Sometimes you can cover over the unsightly area. But pay attention to what the evaluator says.

Sometimes you might have to spend money. For example, if your overhead pipes are visible and ugly, you might consider putting in a drop ceiling. If a front windowsill is rotting, you might consider replacing the board. The object of this effort is not to get you to spend money, but to clean up your act.

If nothing else, this column should get you to replace cracked windows. The presence of cracked windows looks like you don’t care, and such downgrading will infiltrate every business decision you make. It’s the aura that’s important. Likewise, Laundromat customers value their Laundromat according to the care and commitment that the owner puts into his/her establishment.

Take care of unsightly blemishes today.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

About the author

Howard Scott

Industry Writer and Drycleaning Consultant

Howard Scott is a former business owner, longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant. He welcomes questions and comments and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359; by calling 781-293-9027; or via e-mail at [email protected].com.


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