I get a real kick out of the YouTube videos where laundromat owners show off their collection day treasures. Nothing beats piles of coins and wads of bills to attract clicks. One viral video alone has garnered a mind-boggling 20 million views.
I’m not surprised. Cold hard cash has always been self-service laundry’s big draw.
In the early heydays, turnkey store salesmen closed deals by adding a bathroom scale to the equipment contract. Prospects were told they’d need one to weigh all the heavy coin collection bags and eagerly grabbed a pen to sign.
Cash continues to drive laundromat pay today, even for the so-called cashless crowd. You know them, the loyalty card operators who entice customers to load mo’ money onto plastic with generous big bill bonuses and dollar-for-dollar promos.
But not all forms of cash receive equal treatment. Rectangular bills get love while round coins don’t. Quarters are bashed and their big brother — golden dollars — ignored.
Why? Just follow the money.
Hybrid pay card readers are almost always paired with quarters at the machine. A ten-dollar front loader offers customers the choice of one swipe or 40 quarters. It’s as if they intentionally set up the coin option to look bad.
Exactly. Had a more user-friendly dual $1/25¢ coin mechanism been installed, those 40 coins drop to ten, making cash more appealing and cards less so — something plastic proponents surely want to avoid.
Card system suppliers and distributors are careful not to mention the D-word because the Dollar is their kryptonite. It weakens the pitch to go plastic.
They get the math: One dollar coin replaces four quarters. Poof! Coin’s pain point is gone.
The same holds true for smartphone pay. Dollars dismantle digital’s argument of collecting too many quarters.
Like their card counterparts, phone pay providers have gone to great lengths to quietly lump coinage together and keep the D-word under wraps.
Sadly, phone pay has also tapped into the mudslinging. The platform’s top brand in laundry now spews out on its website: “Washing clothes shouldn’t require dirty coins.”
A quarter mill and a quarter drop
Laundromat owners spend tens — sometimes hundreds — of thousands of dollars to reduce or eliminate quarters. It’s drill baby drill, bolt down readers, absorb fees, eat chargebacks and sweat outages, all for the sake of handling fewer coins.
Nevertheless, operators don’t bat an eyelash taking delivery of $250,000 in equipment fitted with 25¢ coin acceptors. And neither do those who sell them.
I know there are many curious laundry sales professionals who are unfamiliar with the nuances of dollar/quarter dual coin pay. My colleagues and I always welcome the opportunity to bring them and their valued store owner customers up to speed.
Others however take a hardline stance that coin pay stops and ends at the quarter. They see no need to circulate higher denomination coinage — or any at all.
That’s regrettable given the increased workload borne by a low denomination quarter in today’s high-priced vend environment.
Who’s left saddled with the heavy lifting? The majority of America’s laundromat owners whose machines remain quarter-operated and the patrons paying to use them.
History is repeating itself
Self-service laundry stairstepped from nickels & dimes to quarters decades ago. I was there for the first go-around and now bearing witness to a repeat of history.
Today, it’s dollars & quarters — a dynamic duo that’s been in play for years and gaining traction, especially during these challenging times.
While the $1/25¢ coin format is taking hold, laundry’s alternative pay lobby remains in firm control of the industry narrative, pushing back on what should be a natural progression to wider use of dollars in laundromats.
Much of the messaging is funneled through the national trade organization which, ironically, wears the coin label.
Part of the Coin Laundry Association’s mission is to “improve the customer experience.” Here’s an idea: How about acknowledging patrons can start a washer with ten coins instead of forty?
The CLA speaks of elevating the industry through modern stores, clean surroundings and children’s book nooks, yet steers clear of any talk about lifting coin pay up from quarters to higher denomination dollars.
My guess is that leadership shies away from backing the buck because doing so would bite the hand that feeds it.
More dollars circulating in laundromats means fewer quarters. And fewer quarters translates into a much-improved coin pay experience for customers.
That scenario likely wouldn’t sit very well with the many non-coin supporters who enrich the organization.
Offering laundromat patrons multiple ways to pay is a good thing. Why shouldn’t the dollar coin be one of them?