Safety and Security: Keys to Protecting Your Business, Your Customers, Your Money and Yourself
It’s true that some of the most successful laundromats can be found in the sketchiest parts of town, and this creates a catch-22 of sorts; you want your business to be booming and successful, yet feel safe enough for you and your customers to be there.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to protect the Big 4; your Business, your Money, your Customers and Yourself.
Attended / Unattended
An unattended laundromat, while great for your bottom line, can become a magnet for “undesirables” that may cost you business in the long run. To avoid this, you can transition to an attended laundromat.
A good attendant will keep the non-customers from loitering and can immediately address problems your customers have. But this comes at a cost, literally. (Attended vs unattended stores is a big subject that will be covered in another article).
If hiring an attendant is not feasible, the easiest way to keep loitering at bay is to keep your store clean and in good condition. If it’s a filthy mess, or there is paint peeling off the walls, the homeless and “others” will see that no one cares about the store, and they will think they have a safe place to hang out and do business.
When we purchased our first laundry, it was very close to a thrift store that attracted a lot of homeless searching through the trash cans at night. Sometimes they would make their way to our store to wash the treasures they found.
More often than not, they would fill a washer and then head out to beg for money to pay for the wash. After about six months, once we had done a cosmetic overhaul and began showing up to the store randomly, they got the message that our store is not a safe place to hang out.
And the good news? That thrift store has moved two miles away. Right across the street from my closest competition.
A key to keeping customers coming back is making them feel safe, even in an unattended laundry. The cameras and signage indicate that the store is being monitored throughout the day. When asked, we let everyone know that we watch the cameras on a regular basis, using our mobile devices. Customers love it.
One time we caught a homeless “gentleman” on camera pulling one of our washers out because he thought there was a $10 bill behind it. We drove right over, and let him know we were watching him on the cameras.
After we explained that he shouldn’t be trying to pull out our washers, we pulled it out for him and helped him look for the missing money. However, he acted a bit off, like he might have been a few marbles short. He easily may have dropped a ten dollar bill back there, but for all we know it could have been in the seventies and he just remembered it now. We never found it.
Surveillance is also an obvious choice for security of your store from vandalism and theft. A high-definition camera system is especially helpful in this regard. Having good footage to provide the police in case of an incident is priceless.
Safety During Collections
Your own safety when doing collections is also a concern, especially in a not-so-good area of town.
We aim to do our collections when the store has customers, but not packed. No one is likely to mess with you with witnesses around. We also vary the days and times of our collections to avoid creating a pattern; you don’t want your collections to be predictable.
And at the risk of stating the obvious, avoid doing collections after dark or when the area is deserted. Keep cash hidden as much as possible. Slip the cash from the change machine into a non-descript bag, and immediately place the bag somewhere secure while you clean up the collection buckets, scale, etc.
And as always, check your surroundings when leaving the store.
“Packing Heat” – A Controversial Decision
We know it can be a controversial subject, but we carry a gun when we do our collections. We feel better knowing we can defend ourselves. It is a very personal decision that not everyone feels comfortable with.
Soon after acquiring our first store, we were there late on a Sunday night because the change machine ran out. As we were loading the machine, two very big guys walked through and didn’t take their eyes off the bucket of quarters I had. Even as they walked out the door they never lost eye contact with me. That was a little unnerving.
At that point, we said never again. We researched getting our concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit and had it within six months.
From that day on, we have kept close tabs on our changers. We would rather be in control of when we open the changer rather than having to fill it 10 minutes before closing with some sketchy people hanging around on a Saturday night. There are incidents on occasion, like a bill jam, where we may have to open it at odd hours, but we greatly reduce those chances by keeping the changer full.
Safety and security, at it’s most basic level, is common sense.
Having attendants onsite, keeping your store clean and in good condition, using video surveillance and not placing yourself in dangerous situations are basic steps to keep the important things safe; your Business, your Customers, your Money and Yourself.
About Randy Dobbins
Randy is co-creator of Laundromats101.com, and owner of two laundromats in the Sacramento area. In his former life, he spent 25+ years in management across several industries, including commercial laundry. He’s a professed gadget geek and DIY wizard.
To take your research a bit further, check out The Laundromats 101 Complete Guide to Purchasing a Laundromat, which includes several chapters on managing a laundry, and increasing profits.
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