The Brutal Truth About Laundry Payment
It should come as no surprise that the mere mention of wash and dry payment stirs up laundry operators. After all, their livelihood is at stake.
The Great Laundry Payment Debate pits cash against cashless. Most owners stand on the sidelines, preferring to keep their quarter-only format in place awaiting arrival of the perfect system.
Something everyone agrees on is that self-service laundry ownership offers an attractive lifestyle. No receivables to worry about and no requirement to be onsite. You supply machinery and customers supply the labor. Give them a clean facility with working equipment and they’ll beat a path to your door.
The resulting cashflow — or, more specifically, coin flow — is where the debate takes shape. To a very vocal minority, coin circulating through a coin laundry is its Achilles heel, an old school format that needs to go if operators want to attract trade in an evolving cashless society.
They have long championed breaking the shackles of quarter-only dependence with kiosks and hybrids built around sophisticated networks of value-added loyalty cards, credit cards and smartphones. Bid coins farewell, they advise, and retool for a world of digital pay.
Despite the propaganda, rumors of cash’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It’s worth noting that the Federal Reserve’s recently published Diary of Consumer Payment Choice report again ranked cash as the most-used payment option, topping debit cards and credit cards.
And the survey says
The Coin Laundry Association, which extolls the virtues of any payment system that doesn’t embrace its namesake coin, downplays the trade group’s own national industry survey findings revealing 86% of washers and dryers accept quarters, and that six in ten are quarter-only.
When it comes to laundry, cash is king and new payment methods have failed to unseat it from the throne. Therein lies the brutal truth about laundry payment: Coin always wins.
The beauty of a coin-operated transaction is that it’s frictionless. Customers carry in coins or get change. It’s easy, intuitive and fast.
Interacting with coin acceptors and bill changers is synonymous with self-service laundry. There’s no special training involved and no language barrier. Simply put, patrons just get it.
I grew up in coin-ops and appreciate the industry’s cyclical pattern when it comes to single coin and multi-coin payment. Sometimes there were coins to sort, other times not.
Back in the 1960s when I held my dad’s collection bucket, it was dimes only with 20-cent washes and ten-cent dries.
Later on, it was a mix of dimes, nickels and quarters at top loaders and dime dryers. Less than two decades later, we reverted back to a single coin — the quarter — on every machine.
So how did coin become a dirty four-letter word in this squeaky clean business? Read Part 2 here to see what’s to blame for the backlash.