What’s driving hybrid laundry pay?


Laundromats are awash with coin and cash.

Two-in-three operators say coinage drives the majority of self-service transactions at their store’s washers and dryers.

How about pay station card and app loads? Online poll data again at Facebook’s Laundromat Owners Showcase has 74% getting the lion’s share of that revenue in cash.  

Even those touting plastic know where the real money is. Laundroworks, a value-added card system supplier, notes on its website that “laundromat clients see Cash-to-Credit-Card payment ratios of 2:1 or 3:1” at kiosks and proclaims “Cash is still king at Laundroworks.”

That jives with the Federal Reserve Bank’s newly-released Diary of Consumer Payment Choice study of 4,453 Americans, which found cash the most-used payment instrument in households making less than $25,000 — a key self-service laundry demographic. 

And for the seventh year in a row, cash remained atop transactions under $25.

Perhaps the most telling Diary stat: A whopping 93% of Americans have no plans to stop using cash in the near future. 

So, if money keeps on flowing, what’s with all the talk about it getting washed out at the laundromat? 

Simple. It fits the long-running industry narrative that coin is going away. 

In reality, coin operation isn’t disappearing, it’s evolving. Cold hard cash is alive and well in self-service laundry. Look no further than the hybrid pay experience, where cash and cashless mix it up at the point of sale.

More choices, less coinage 

Like a hybrid electric vehicle, hybrid laundry pay puts consumers in the driver’s seat to choose between traditional or non-traditional. Just replace gas or electric with coin or card.

While car owners want to maximize fuel economy and lower emissions, store owners seek a revenue boost and collection relief. 

From the very start hybrid laundry pay was all about more choices and less coinage. Operators wanted in on credit cards and out of frequent money box pulls.

Ironically, laundromat hybrids were popularized by those who once sought to eliminate the industry’s most conventional means of pay — coinage.

Decades ago, stored-value card pioneers designed strictly coin-free operations, yet nearly every one responded to market forces by rolling out new generations of coin-friendly multi-card readers. Like the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Today, nearly half of the nation’s operators offer more than one payment type, according to American Coin-op’s 2022-23 State of the Industry Survey.

It comes as no surprise that coin alternative payment companies — both legacy providers and newcomers — have been at the forefront of the hybrid movement. Their hardware and software are at work up and down the aisles. 

Technology-driven hybrid components complete transactions and often compete with their equally sophisticated coin-based counterparts in a bid to lure customers away from feeding quarters. 

Operators bought into the hybrid concept with high hopes something shiny and new would finally move patrons off coin. While a number of owners have succeeded, many others discovered consumers largely stuck to their old habit, especially when paying at the machine. 

Owners left bewildered

Consider pay-by-phone, a platform rolled out in vended laundry less than a decade ago by digital entrepreneurs that has since been tapped into by machinery manufacturers and distributors. Although adoption is growing, data shows there’s a long road ahead. 

Nearly two-thirds of owners achieve less than 30% of washer and dryer revenue from customers utilizing apps or digital wallets, while only one-in-ten gets 50% or more, according to Facebook polling last month.

Those figures — together with the poll results mentioned at the very top of the blog — underscore coin’s resilience. 

Many owners are bewildered. Despite hard fought campaigns to promote alternative pay, they’re left running what amounts to an enhanced quarter store. 

One solution: Eliminate coin as a competitor by keeping the tech, not the mech. 

Take a look-see at the new wave of high-profile chain operators going all-in on laundry card-app hybrids just as the world’s largest laundry equipment manufacturer is franchising stores designed around central pay and a proprietary mobile app. 

None accept coinage at kiosks and machines. Cash stops at the dollar bill.

Laundry’s high value hybrid

On the other side of the coin is a simple and cost-efficient hybrid that’s also the best-kept secret in laundry pay. 

Quarter coin-dollar token is a cash-cashless hybrid that reduces coin handling by way of substitution. Circulating the higher denomination dollar-valued token has been field-proven to cut quarter volume by up to 80%.

It doesn’t require interactive kiosks or individual machine readers. It’s frictionless pay without the registration process, multi-step instructions, card fees and app downloads. 

Hybrid quarter coin-dollar token can be set up by changer dispensing the duo or strictly big brass, while welcoming customers to insert any combination of the house payout and carry-in quarters at every machine’s high-value/low-value multi-coin acceptance drop.

The format also caters to credit and debit cardholders at either an in-store ATM or changer modified for card-to-token operation.

Most importantly, hybrid coin-token mirrors the easy coin experience consumers have grown comfortable with when visiting a laundromat.

History repeats itself

Ditching coin altogether is a decades-old response to lots of quarters. It ignores the simplicity of employing higher denomination coinage to both elevate the customer experience and streamline owner collections.

Hybrid continues to be dominated by cash. Removing its coin component just serves to take out a competing platform. 

We’ve seen this all play out before. In the end, it’s the laundromat consumer who holds the purse strings and ultimately drives payment. 

As always, coin will be there for them.

Imonexology - Laurance Cohen

Laurance Cohen is part of the Imonex team and welcomes inquiries on innovative payment solutions for your business.
(954) 999-7785

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