On The Wash Front

It’s Over - But “It” is not Over

By Prentice St. Clair

01/01/21

How many times have we heard people say, “I just want this year to be over!” referring to the now infamous 2020? Well, guess what, as you read this, it’s over! But, guess what, arguably the biggest issue of 2020 is not over — the pandemic of the Novel Coronavirus. In fact, we are in the midst of (expected) surges in the number of cases across the world.

The current surge has been labelled “the second wave,” and, if previous pandemics are any indicator, it could be the second of three waves. We are also seeing an increase in varying levels of shutdowns and restrictions of activities across the United States and the world.

VACCINE ON THE WAY

Sorry to start on such a bummer note, but my fans know that I am a realist when it comes to this pandemic. Nonetheless, there is great news as well. The vaccines are rolling out and seem to be on the cusp of the beginning stages of mass distribution. This is what we need to solve this problem once and for all — a vaccine that works virtually every time.

Getting real again, however, it is important to realize that the average American will likely not see a vaccine administration until this summer, if not later. The challenge now is creating and managing the logistics of producing, storing, distributing, transporting, and administering hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine.

Logistics aside, there is also the issue of prioritizing the roll-out of vaccine administrations. We have already heard some models that include “front-line” workers, first responders, and the elderly as the recipients of the initial vaccine deliveries. I think we all agree that medical workers and first responders, who are k95 masks are much more effective than cloth masks.exposed to the virus every day, deserve the initial available doses, not only because it seems fair, but also from a practical standpoint of keeping those folks around and safe so that they can take care of us.

Assuming the logistic and prioritizing issues remain untouched by politicization, our American ingenuity should be able to solve these challenges, just like we did with developing a vaccine in less than half the time it usually takes. Nonetheless, historical reality dictates that we should not be surprised if there are some hiccups during the first large-scale vaccinations.

In previous mass administrations of a new vaccine, unexpected side-effects and unexpected results in a small percentage of recipients have caused a halting of vaccinations until the issue could be remedied. I am hopeful, however, that the strenuous modern testing that has occurred with the current round of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will preempt a repeat of this phenomenon.

REMAIN VIGILANT

While we wait for worldwide vaccination, the “stay-safe” protocol continues to be what has been preached at us for months now, including wearing a mask, social distancing, not gathering in enclosed spaces, and frequent hand-washing. In fact, recent research in Japan (source: Reuters) using masked dummy heads inside an enclosure to simulate two people having a conversation within a couple of feet of each other and using actual coronavirus particles, has shown that if both people are wearing masks, the transmission of the virus is reduced by 70 percent. If only one of the heads had a mask on, the transmission of coronavirus was reduced only by 17 percent. And KN95 masks are much more effective at filtering out coronavirus particles than cloth masks, so get your hands on them if you can. It really works, folks.

It is critical that we resist the temptation to ease our safety protocols thinking that, “it’s okay because a vaccine is on the way.” Relaxing our protocols will only lead to increased spread of the virus, which will lead to increased government intervention and restrictions, which none of us want. Moreover, continued spread will lead to needless sickness and deaths. 

AND NOW, MAY I PRESENT . . . 2021

Beginning a new year always has that “fresh start” or “reset” feel to it. It is an undeniable psychological and social phenomenon that we experience every January, regardless of what’s going on. Wouldn’t it be great if that were really true with regard to the pandemic? This year will definitely be a different and, hopefully, much better year than 2020, but it sure looks like it’s going to be much like 2020, at least for the first several months.

Our industry is going to try to re-establish normality. We detailers hate not seeing each other.

The tradeshow organizers are projecting an optimistic outlook on their ability to stage our favorite conventions, but it really depends on the extent of the virus spread and the restrictions ordered because of it. It also depends on the risk tolerance of exhibitors and attendees. For many of us, attending a trade-show involves travel, with which comes the inherent risk of being in crowded quarters with who knows who. Attendees may simply not be willing to take the risk.

Moreover, tradeshows are attended by folks from all over the country and, in some cases, folks from several countries. As we know, this is the easiest way to spread viruses across the globe.

Exhibitors will be hesitant to commit to the thousands of dollars it costs to exhibit at a tradeshow that may not be well-attended. Last year saw each tradeshow and convention cancel in domino-like succession. Some shows waited up until the last minute to do so, but could not ignore the reality. I think it will be months into 2021 before we see a tradeshow that actually takes place.

Most of us operators have settled into new safety procedures so that we can continue to offer service to our customers. It seems also that customers have been quite magnanimous in understanding our limitations and new procedures. I used to take pride in bending over backwards to help customers get their cars to me, offering free pick-up and delivery or free rides, for example. Now, those same customers understand that they need to be willing to jump through hoops so that I can work on the car, for example, by dropping it off the day before and arranging a ride.

SILVER LININGS

It seems like there is still plenty of work for detailers out there. Almost to a one, colleagues from around the country report better revenues than last year — the initial spring shutdown aside. And every major supplier of detail chemicals and supplies that I know has had record sales in the last few months. So, our industry remains strong for most of us. I know my phone continues to ring off the hook.

And some of us have taken up new services like paint work, interior surface repair, wheel repair, dent removal, ceramic coating, tinting, and paint protection film, just to name a few. These services have provided additional revenue when the frequency of detail jobs has wavered. The nice thing is that these adjustments in service offerings will be with us from now on, perhaps to be considered as one of the “silver linings” of the year we love to hate.

Personally, my silver lining has been a much less hectic schedule. As much as I enjoy traveling to provide training and consultation, and to meet with industry colleagues, I have to say, it’s been kind of refreshing to be home most of the time stay true to your safety protocols.this year. To be able to relax on a Sunday, reading the newspaper (yes, the paper one) and watching football is much more fun than being on a plane all day. I’ll be ready to get back to that life, but it’s been a nice break. Not to mention, travel is expensive. The lack of it makes up for some of the lost revenue of this year.

SUMMARY

Stay true to your safety protocols to keep yourself and those around you safe. Continue to make the best of a bad situation and to stay pliable to unexpected opportunities and changes that may come along. Be prepared for the pandemic that shaped our lives in 2020 to continue to shape our lives well into 2021. But be hopeful, optimistic, and prayerful that 2021 will close with a significant reduction of the grip of the Novel Coronavirus.

 

Prentice St. Clair is an International Detailing Association Recognized Trainer and Certified Detailer. As the president of Detail in Progress Inc., he has been providing training and consulting to car washes and detail shops since 1999. He is available at (619) 701-1100 or prentice@detailinprogress.com.

 

 

 

  



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