Finishing Line

Love Thy Labor

By Stefan Budricks

03/01/19

I have wanted to give a relatively new express exterior car wash a try for some time. It was under construction about three years ago, just as I was moving out of the neighborhood. At the time I thought it had a good chance to succeed, as there were no competitors within miles. Moreover, the busy intersection already featured several traffic generators.

The southeast corner houses a long-established Fry’s supermarket, a couple of fast-food restaurants, and the usual strip-mall merchants including a convenience store/gas station. Across the street, on the northeast corner, a more recent Walmart neighborhood store anchors another strip mall. The northwest corner is taken up by a subdivision of single-family homes.

For much of the time that I resided in the area, the southwest corner was undeveloped dirt. First came a Quick Trip convenience store and gas station. Soon after, construction of the car wash began just to the south. Since then whatever vacant land was available has been taken up by other businesses including restaurants, an auto-parts store, and an urgent-care center.

I finally got around to washing my car there a few Saturdays ago — the first sunny day after two consecutive days of rain. As expected, it was busy. The car wash and Quick Trip share an entrance off the north-south roadway, leading to dual lanes to the three automated pay stations, the first of which is dedicated to customers who have prepaid, i.e., fast-pass holders and in-app purchasers. There were four cars lined up for the second pay station and another three at the third. I joined this last line. Seven minutes later, I was able to make my purchase.

The menu offered a choice of four packages, ranging from the $5 basic to the $16 top package, which included a five-day clean-car guarantee. I opted for the latter.

I was approached by an employee and offered an opportunity to join the unlimited wash club at a promotional monthly cost of $14.99 for the first four months and $29.99 thereafter for the top package. It is a deal, but as this was my first visit I declined.

Once I paid for the wash, everything seemed to happen at breakneck speed. I was guided onto the conveyor, handed an air freshener and a damp disposable towel to wipe the dash, and had the car sprayed down. The trip through the tunnel was a foam and light show, and just short of the dryers, a final reminder flashed not to apply brakes. The next flashing sign instructed me to Go! Go!

There were only a few slots open among the 30 or so free-vacuum spaces. Here I was in for a pleasant surprise. Not only were the vacuums highly efficient despite the heavy usage, but each slot also provided a compressed-air line to blow out crevices like door handles and side mirrors Drying towels were provided on a rack with a bin on top for used towels.

I was impressed with this operation. The end product was excellent. What sticks most in my mind, though, is the young man at the tunnel entrance waving me onto the conveyor. I don’t know how many cars he had guided that morning, but he directed me with a big smile as if I were one of the first. I could swear he was having fun. This much is clear: no matter how limited the labor requirement, it pays to hire right.



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