The Customer Experience – exists even at your local carwash

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Maybe my eyes are too wide open.  Maybe I’m seeking out instances where companies over-promise and under-deliver. 

Am I?  You tell me. 

With all the snow that we have had recently in the Northeast,  I had washed my car several times within a short period of time…and it would inevitably snow the very next day after each wash.  So when I pulled up on day 10 for wash #3, everything looked pretty familiar, especially as I had become a regular at this particular car wash over a number of years.  With my coupon for an “external wash only” in hand, I was informed by the greeter that there was new sheriff (oops, owner) in town and that he was no longer accepting this type of coupon. 

I looked down at the coupon.  It hadn’t expired. The name of the carwash was still the same.  I was at the right carwash, on the right day.  So what gives, I asked. 

New owner. He’s using “better ingredients” than the previous owner.  He couldn’t make the desired profit on the $2.99 coupon – which was set to expire shortly – that I was holding. Confident that I was standing upon the moral (and common sense) high ground, I told the kid to sign me up for the wash anyway and I would state my case to a higher power…with some decision-making power and a stake in the long-term health of the business.  In this case, it was the 75-year-old cashier, who – as it turns out – was the new owner’s mom.

Her response – “Didn’t the kid out front tell you of the new policy? Didn’t you see the sign?”  I told her that the kid did, in fact, tell me of the new policy, and I did happen to see the 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper with a scibbled note, taped awkwardly to the door…after the fact. 

What I didn’t see what a Grand Opening banner.  What I didn’t see was the flashing “Under New Ownership – All Bet’s Are Off” sign.  What I didn’t see or feel was anything any different than when I had been there four days prior.  What I didn’t see was the point of making this the first impression of the new ownership for the whole town.   

What she didn’t see was…my point.  She informed me the retail price, with tax, would be $7.49.  I asked if making an extra four bucks today was worth losing my lifetime business, as well as all the lifetime business from everyone else I could tell – my wife, parents, in-laws, neighbors, colleagues, anyone reading this blog, anyone making eye contact with me, etc. 

She said yes, the extra four bucks was worth it.  WOW, welcome to the neighborhood. Or was I officially in the anti-WOW-ing zone. 

Just when the interaction couldn’t get any more nonsensical, I bump into one of the guys drying my car outside…who happens to be the new owner and agrees with his Mom, point for point.   Mom and son had rehearsed their customer-killing story beautifully…and succeeded in killing the relationship with due haste.  I could go on ad nauseum about the shortsightedness of their policy and their strict adherance to it and what obviously seems like bad business on so many levels – but I won’t. 

Suffice it to say that the “experience” does matter and I have found a new local carwash with whom I have committed to a deeper financial relationship by purchasing a gold membership. 

Four bucks today vs. $7.50 a month for the rest of my car-driving, New Jersey-living life…and that of my wife, in-laws, kids, etc.   I’m not sure what the “ingredients” are in a car wash….but that must be some special soap….

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