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The Prize Tub

The Prize Tub

  At the Grand Opening of Washin Oxford in Oxford Alabama I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce to provide a smaller version of the ballot bin for use at Chamber events for collecting Business Cards.

       I looked around for something that would work well and be a good advertising tool.

             This is the original bin used at our Grand Openings, I just realized I don’t have a post detailing that promotion…stay tuned for the details. Including all of the steps and costs.

Washin Coin Laundry Ballot Drum

              So after looking at a few options, including a toy washer I have used at various event presentations. This is available HERE

Electronic Toy Washer

           This one would have been great but the drum was too small for more than a few business cards.

              So I ended up buying a Manual Countertop Washin Machine

EasyGo Washer Mobile Hand Powered Washing Machine

               Next it was off to my local graphics shop. FreeStyle Graphics. These guys are great as I can throw some ideas at them and they make the magic happen

Freestyle Graphics- Oxford AL

                   And what we ended up with was the Washin Coin Laundry Prize Tub.

Washin Coin Laundry Prize Tub- Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce

               This tub will be used at the entrance to every monthly event and any special events where names will be collected. These include:
          Business and Biscuits ( 35-60 people monthly )
          Business After Hours  ( 100- 300 people monthly )
          Various Public Events 

               After the first use we have decided it needs some effects when it’s being tumbled so we may add some bells to the inside that make some noise.

   This is a reasonably inexpensive way to get your business in front of other business people in the community and creates a great piece for people to approach you and have a conversation.

       What are some of the out of the ordinary promotions you have run?  Let me know in the comments.

Ken

Ken Barrett and Jock Burgess 979WVOK Oxford AL

Freaky Doll At The Laundromat

Freaky Doll At The Laundromat

          I pulled up to the store one morning and saw a doll on a chair outside. As I walked by I clicked the remote to lock my doors and…..

 

 

 

It’s never boring around here.

Ken Barrett
Multi Store Laundromat Owner, Blogger and Speaker.

MC 100 Bill Acceptor Cover

   It started out as a normal day and then I got a text message ..
” I was in your store and realized someone had ripped your changer apart”.
Picture
Standard ChangeMaker MC100 damaged by thieves.
           If you have ever been the victim of a robbery you know the feeling you get in your stomach when you see this. Feelings of anger, violation, rage, vulnerability all run though your mind and body.
MC 100 Standard Change-Maker Damaged During Breakin

             This was how my day began. Once I arrived at the store I called the police and took some pictures of the area. They took down the information and called the Indent Team to see if they could get any prints. 
            As we watched the video to see if they had touched anything the feelings welled up again as I “witnessed” the crime.   

Picture
Grinding on the MC100 Standard Change-Makers
             They came in prepared early in the morning carrying a grinder and extension cord in a basket of laundry. They work gloves and had long sleeves so there were no fingerprints. They didn’t even cut themselves so there was no chance of a DNA test.
  In this case there were a few things that worked in their favor.  
        They gained entry through the front door as the electronic locks were not working correctly and it was after hours so there was only one light on in the middle of the store.Although the cameras were only a few years old they were already outdated.  
            With the low amount of light we were unable to get a good picture of either suspect.Since that time we have upgraded the security cameras and switched to 24 hours so now the lights are always on.     
     Initially they began to grind the lock, as an owner of a change machine you know this would take hours to grind out the lock mechanism and then they would have to unscrew the lock, but after a minute or two they used the grinder on the exposed plastic of the bill acceptor.
        A few seconds later part of it broke off and they were able to remove the rest with a pry bar.They reached through the opening and removed the cash from the stacker.Total time in the store ….5  Minutes.
Standard Change-Makers MC100 Guard
   I spent the next day calling a number of distributors to order a new, rear mount change machine. This was to a be a future purchase but now I had to buy one from whoever could get it to me. Fixing the existing change machine didn’t make sense as they could come back the next week and do it again, only faster.
 
      As we all know having a change machine sitting in a closet because you’re afraid to use it yet needing a second machine is a frustrating position to be in.
 
      I could fix the old changer but I would always be waiting for the day I found it ripped apart again. And spending $1,800 – $2,000 or more for another one is not in everyone’s budget.
       I looked around for a way to provide better security for this changer but all the options added extra locks ( we all have enough of those to deal with already) and they had a fortress-like look to them.  
    So I decided it was time to design my own. I spent hours working with a local machine shop to design a guard that would be easy to install, not add any more locks or be a burden to work around to empty the changer and, most of all, make it look like it wasn’t even there.    
   After I posted some pictures and videos I started to get overwhelmed with emails and comments from people that had the same changers and were concerned about the potential for damage. Others had already had theirs ripped apart, lost hundreds of dollars and after installing a new bill acceptor laid awake at night dreading that message  ” I was in your store and realized someone had ripped your changer apart”.           
     If you have one of the changers or vending machines, like the Standard ChangeMakers MC100 go ahead and order now and get some sleep at night.
 

ORDER YOUR SECURITY COVER NOW

Standard Change-Makers MC100 Guard

Book Arch

          I know this has nothing to do with Laundromats but it was a fun project for my daughters room.

            A few years ago we saw something similar in a store and she loved it and wanted one in her room. Sure, a simple task.

 

             Well it took me a couple of years for a few reasons.
   1- How to make it stable without damaging the books
    2- As a book lover, I prefer to hold and read a book over an electronic book any day. I have read hundreds of books in my life, so far, and I don’t plan on stopping, I had to get past the idea that I would destroy the book in the process.
    3- How to make it work and be stable.

           These are all things a teenager never thinks about but I did lay awake at night thinking about it.

                 Finally I came across a store that was literally giving the books away as they were closing down. So I loaded the car and took them home. This pile was actually stored under her bed for awhile and was really bugging her. I added more books that were left in a rental house and finally made the move.

               First step was to find a base that would work. I ended up cutting some pieces from an old TV mount.

 

               Next I drilled a couple of holes to connect the metal conduit through.

 

             The top arch was just a 4′ piece for conduit that I used a bender in the store to round the ends.

 

             For support I connected the upright pieces to the wall with some threaded rod and some heavy weight wall anchors.I just used the threaded part of the wall anchors and used 3″ screws into the wall studs.

               One of the hardest parts was lifting the loaded arch on to the uprights and sitting it in place. The holes in the books on this section were drilled closer to the edges so they would hang down and not hit the roof.

   The holes were drilled using a 1″ wood bit. The paperbacks were hard as they fluffed up a lot. I found by clamping the books together, drilling a few pages at a time and cleaning the bit a lot it worked OK. I did drill a small pilot hole through first so I could drill from both sides.

 

Another challenge was how to cover the connections. The uprights were filled up to the wall support and then the top arch was filled on the floor and lifted into place.

What I ended up doing was to cut some slots into some large, hardcover books and just slide them into place after everything was tight.

 

 

First I drilled the holes like normal and then used a reciprocation saw to do most of the cutting. 

 

          An oscillating saw helped finish up the corners.

 

              And there it is. It was actually in another room for a couple of months before we switched rooms. I did find that the books “settled” after a while as the fluffed up pages were compressed by the weight.

 

 

 

Not your normal project but t turned out great.

 

Ken 

Ken Barrett

P.S. This is the link to starting your online business. Click Here

Donations

Donations

          Whether you run an Unattended, Partially or Fully Attended chances are you will have some clothes left behind from your customers.

               You would be surprised the amount of items we have left in our Drop Off Service. We make sure that we always get the phone number of the customers, especially if they are dropping a comforter.

              We will start making calls about 2 weeks after they were dropped off unless we start to run out of storage space and then it is sooner. Each call is documented on the ticket with the date, initials of who called and the results. Left Message, Will Pick Up on ____, Wrong number etc.

                We keep the items for at least 30 days as that is what is printed on the tickets. After a reasonable amount of time the items are moved to the office/ storage area in the next unit. This is a separate store front and has limited access.

            Once things start to pile up I make a donation trip. Any towels get donated to the local Animal Shelter. Other items are sometimes split between other charities or Thrift Stores. I have made many donations to the Salvation Army as well.

                Recently I was talking to my accountant about it and she said I could just drop the items off at her office and she would take them to a local charity. I asked her about what they could use and it turns out it is a real, grassroots, local community charity. They have a food pantry where people can pick up limited items for free. They do have a Thrift Store where they sell some of the items to raise money for the organization but many of the items are just given to people that really need them. Also in cases where people have had fires or floods they will provide the items for free.

                 This seemed like the best place to make some donations.

         Today I had my Expedition loaded with a bunch of items from around the house. I have two teenage daughters and we recently had to empty their rooms to install new carpet so we told them nothing goes back until it gets sorted. This ended up with about 4 garbage bags worth of clothes that didn’t fit or they just weren’t going to wear. Tell me if you have seen this before….some still had the tags on them!!

                  So I showed up and told them I had some donations. They grabbed a shopping cart and I said that wouldn’t be enough so they grabbed one more. I said Still not enough. When I opened the back of the truck they were a little speechless and then I told them this was just the first load.

                       Here is a picture of the second load. This was all left at the laundry and it was spring cleaning time.

 

                 I told my attendants that if anyone came in that had left their items a few months ago to say sorry but the donations will be appreciated and give to people in need.

                 If you run an unattended laundromat you could also have a bin for “Un-Needed But Usable Clothes”. Some people may take some or all of them but 

 

 

Play Safe and Be A Good Neighbor

Ken

Episode 27 – Stolen Clothes and Social Media

Stolen Clothes and The Power Of Social Media

 

      A couple of nights ago I received a call from the Police Department of the town where one of my stores is located. A customer had completed her wash and moved the clothes to two of the dryers. She then had to go and pick up her kids from school so she left the store. One the way back she had a flat tire and changed it about a block from the store.

      When she returned her clothes were gone. She checked with two other women in the store and was told that another lady had just taken them.

      Her husband left in the direction the women had indicated.

      As the lady called the police the other women left the store.

      I was called to see if I could come up and look at the cameras and see if we could determine who took the clothes. After reviewing the video we found out it was the two women that were in the store and the clothes were actually in their truck when they were asked about it.

      I told her it would take me a little while to get the video reviewed and pull out the parts that may show who they were and I would post it on the Laundromats Facebook Page.

      I returned home with the saved video and found out I had saved the information for the wrong date.

      I posted on Facebook that the issue had happened and pictures and video would follow. The customer that had lost the clothes had already made some posts on her Facebook page about the issue.

      The next morning I went back to the store to collect and edit the video. I captured some still pictures and posted them on the page and then uploaded 3 videos.

      The page views for one of the videos was over 100 within the hour. I saved all of the video and pictures and created a “How To” page for the video player and dropped off the file to the Police station. We did a quick review to make sure the files were OK and I left it up to them.

      During the day I checked on the Facebook Analytics.

 

      The reach, page likes and shares just kept increasing.  The City had a population of just over 5,000 people but the posts had a total reach of over 8,600 by late in the day.

      Around 7pm I was looking at some comments and someone had asked about the post that the suspects had been found.

      I looked at the original customers status and saw

      “The police caught the girls who stole our clothes and recovered all our property!!!!!!! Girls are both in custody and warrants being sworn out by the sheriff tomorrow to send them to jail for term!! GOD IS SOOOOO STINKING AMAZING!!!!! Thanks to all who prayed and shared our status!!!!”

      It seems the vehicle had been spotted and was followed. The suspects dumped the clothes into a dumpster. The bags were then retrieved.

      Once they were arrested it turned out they lied about that and the clothes were still at their house.

      All of this happened in about 24 hours.

 

      At the time of writing this post they are still sorting things out and I’m sure there will be some charges against the suspects but fortunately the customer got most of her items back.      

      There are a few things that come up in this story we can learn from for our businesses.      
– Have cameras that work and know how to get the information out. In this particular store I had some problems with squirrels getting in the attic and eating the camera wires. I made sure I had at least a couple working until I could get things fixed.      
– Make sure you camera angles cover your important areas (the change machine is number one) but also consider what will support the police in an investigation. (parking lots)      
– Have a Facebook and or other Social Media page. Be ready to use it and be able to post the information.      – Work with your customers quickly if they have an issue. Some have the thoughts that they don’t want to post bad information about their stores on their pages. You can always take it down later but in this case the page was seen by more than the population of the city and my page Likes increased by over 10%.      
– Make it easy for the Police. I provided them a copy of all the raw video including the required Player file, still pictures of the suspects and vehicle, “ready to play” mp4 files of the best angle and the actual crime of them leaving the store and a “How To” page to explain the file names of the video files.     
      Check back soon and I will post a video showing how I made the information for the Facebook posts and what I provided to the Police.
Please Comment, Like and share if you got some value from this.If you have any comments, please post them below.
Ken

Episode 24 – HARO and Retiring Early

 HARO and Retiring Early

  Help A Reporter Out (HelpAReporter.com) is a site that connects reporters and other writers to experts and sources for their stories. This can be a great opportunity to get your business and experience in front of a new or enlarged market. Most articles will provide links back to your sites

         In this article I provided some information on investing in a new business and how being able to do what you want is the best form of retirement.

        Being in the Coin Laundry Business many of the items on the list are available long before you actually “retire”.

 

Ken

Episode 22 – Burn Your Boats, Not Your Bridges

Burn Your Boats, Not Your Bridges

 

           I wanted to share a story about the difference between burning your boats and bridges.

           I can only go into general terms but I believe I can still make the point in this video. It’s not one of my smoothest videos as I was trying to cover the points I wanted to make and skip over the specifics.  As you know I own some Laundromats and one of my stores has a Drop Off Service. People bring in their clothes and for a per pound rate we wash, dry, fold and package them for pickup.

          This particular situation involved a large order that was dropped off and my attendants agreed to the amount offered before getting all the weights done.

Here is the story….

 

Ken

Episode 16 – Time For A Kitchen Renovation

  Episode 16 – Time For A Kitchen Renovation

              What does a Laundromat Owner do day to day? That varies a lot between owners and their business plans. In this episode we look at a few weeks of activity in and around the laundromats.

 

Some Before pictures of the kitchen. We always found that the kitchen felt very dark

               The first step was to replace the old window and let in the light. I hired a contractor for this job. When the house was built the windows were installed before the brick. In many cases the brick overlaps the window so in order for it to be removed the glass is taken out and the frame pulled out in pieces.


            Nice clean lines and lots of light.
The window faces North so it never gets direct sunlight. The view is the back yard and a bunch of trees. Plus a great view of the oak tree that provided a non-stop, barrage of acorns through out the project. When the back door was open some even bounced into the kitchen.


Once that was complete it was time for the removal of everything but the cabinet bases and flooring.
The countertop was unscrewed and moved around as needed to provide work bench space.
The section along the window was cut on either side of the sink to allow use of the sink and taps for as long as possible.


      The original drawers were about 12″ deep and used a single slider in the middle. They were not very smooth to operate and occasionally came out of the track.

      We had new drawers built that were 22″ deep and installed full extension drawer slides on each side. There were no supports for the new slides so 1″ x 6″ pine was installed on each side of the opening.

 

Hauling home the new drawers

 

The old tile pulled a lot of the drywall off so it was replaced as well.


And then it was a trip to Seattle for a few days. Originally my plan was to be done before this trip but it was not to be.

      Under this pile of tools is the 3′ x 9′ dining room table. It was covered in plastic and cardboard and was invaluable to keep thing organised.

      I have found with projects like this that it’s good to do a bit of a clean up everyday and after each major step stop, organize and move to the next part. It really helps prevent the frustration of looking for tools and parts and helps clear your head.

 

     Once back from Seattle it was time for counter top, tile, and a list of little steps that took a lot of time to work through.

Time for the old counter to go…

 

      The longest section of the new counter was around 12″. I used some 14′ 2″x4″ to build a ladder type frame to support the counter for the trip home.

 

        Installing the new counter took a few trials fits and a small adjustment to the face of the cabinets so the counter would be flush along the wall. The screws in the back corner were a little tough to get at.

 

 

           Matching panels were installed on the exposed cabinet ends and the back of the bar. The panel on the right has a hinge to allow access to the back of the cabinet. A hole was cut and framed in the bar wall.

 

              In many cabinet doors the panel is inserted into the frame and depending on the tolerance, temperature and humidity may make a rattling sound when the door is shut.
A small bead of caulking around the inside edge firms up the door and it makes a nice solid sound when closing.

 

And finally….

 

 

 

So that’s how I spent the last few weeks. 

 Resources:
 Counter Top: Top Products, Irondale (Birmingham), AL
Drawers: Lott Cabinet Shop, Anniston, AL
Backsplash, cabinet handles, sink and many other ietms: Home Depot, Pell City, AL
Dishwasher: Lowes.com
Cabinet Doors: KitchenReface.com
Window: Home Depot
LED Undercabinet Lights: 724Light.com

Play Safe.

Ken

P.S. Here is a link to the book mentioned on Amazon

Want a free copy? Email a screen shot of your iTunes Review to Ken@WashinCoinLaundry.com and I’ll send you a copy.