Overcoming a Common Car Wash Pay Station Mistake
Trevor and Matt Gile just wanted to stop the bleeding.
For 18 years, the Gile family ran successful Honda and Toyota dealerships, but it was quickly becoming apparent that they needed an additional revenue stream. Internet shopping was eroding the profitability of both new and used car sales with no end in sight. Improved vehicle technology reduced necessary maintenance, so they were also seeing customers less on the service side.
Meanwhile, their internal in-bay automatic, which they used to provide customers free washes, was a growing source of frustration and expense. In 2010, they decided to move it offsite and open it to the public as Rainforest Car Wash.
To their surprise, the car wash replaced and exceeded their lost income while increasing efficiency, but it took two failed attempts at POS systems before finding the winning partner.
The Giles found that the car wash business had a steep learning curve, especially when it came to selecting the right equipment.
“We probably spent half a million dollars’ worth on mistakes,” Trevor said.
Point-of-sale proved to be a particularly difficult area to get right. They went through two different point-of-sale solutions before they found the right fit.
The Giles chose Rainforest’s first system based mainly on its low price. It included pay stations, but it was hard for customers to reach the machine to make payments. Employees would assist by feeding money into the kiosks, which was inefficient and created the potential for employee theft. The pay stations also broke down frequently.
Worse yet, the system couldn’t process the 5,000 club members they had through the dealership. They decided to switch to a different system they thought would be better.
But it wasn’t. This time around, sales were processed through handhelds used by attendants. These handhelds were used to scan members’ bar codes, but they didn’t always work.
“At that point, I don’t think we ever got above 65 cars an hour. It took a lot more time. It took a lot more manpower,” Matt said.
The vendor had promised to build the systems the way Rainforest needed, but those promises never came to fruition. Again, they were strapped with a system that couldn’t efficiently process their
members or sell new memberships.
“We just couldn’t ever get them to live up to what they said they were going to do and actually produce the software the way they initially told us it was going to be. We constantly had problems. Our customers were getting frustrated,” Matt said.
Matt finally got fed up and pulled up a quote he previously received from DRB Tunnel Solutions.
“I finally said ‘That’s it!’” he said. “I talked to my dad and brother and said ‘We gotta spend the money and do it right.’”
So, in 2016, Rainforest Car Wash converted its initial location to DRB’s SiteWatch® point-of-sale system with an Xpress Pay Terminal® (XPT®).
The Giles noticed an immediate impact in sales with a 25% increase in the first year and a 50% increase in year two.
“We immediately shot our business up,” Trevor said. “We went from basically 65 cars to up to 112 cars an hour. By using a (DRB) pay station, you wouldn’t think that it would play that big of an impact, but it drastically increased the number of cars that we could get through per hour.”
Now selling and managing memberships is easy. Customers can purchase plans right at the XPT. When they come back for a wash, DRB’s FastPass® reads the barcode sticker applied to their windshields and lets them right through.
Matt is also impressed with the system’s marketing capabilities, allowing them to deploy creative promotions. For example, the XPT’s ability to accept SmartCodes® opens up new opportunities to provide offers on social media.
“Now we actually have a point-of-sale system that’s good for our customers and gives us the ability to really grow the business,” Matt said.
It’s been great for employee morale, too. No longer do they have to go outside to process sales, and there are far fewer problems to address.
“Our employees love it probably more than anybody. Actually, I take that back. We probably love it more because it’s been extremely profitable,” Matt laughed.
With the help of DRB, what began as just a way to recoup decreasing revenue has now become the Giles’ future. They have sold their dealerships and are now focusing on the car wash business. Rainforest’s fourth location was set to open in 2019, and the Giles have made an offer on a fifth site.
Meanwhile, they’ve started a consulting business where they help other dealerships open successful car washes. DRB will be with them every step of the way.
“DRB is going to play a huge part in the next chapter of our lives,” Trevor said. “By having DRB’s pay systems, we’re able to manage accounts across the country and help them be efficient.”
They hope that other newcomers to the industry learn from their mistakes when it comes to purchasing car wash technology.
“Price isn’t everything. You kind of get what you pay for. Get what’s best,” Matt said.