I don't wash my car

by francine Hardaway on March 3, 2006

I don’t wash my car often enough. It’s black, I have two dogs, and it never looks clean. But every once in a while I get embarrassed and take it to the car salon to be washed, brushed, and styled.

The car wash I went to this morning was a new one, the QuicknClean. It has taken the place of an old cheap car wash in my neighborhood and I was attracted to the $3.00 wash sign, even though I knew I would never order the $3.00 wash.

Driving up from the street, I didn’t see the usual car wash attendant/salesperson. Cool. Instead, I drove straight up to a machine that allowed me to choose,order and pay for my wash automatically, without receiving the usual offers of a hand wax, paintless dent repair, or windshield repair that I always have to turn down. I chose the $13.00 wash (because I needed the interior done), put a credit card in, and pulled up to the wash line. I could tell from the screen that if I had had a “wash code,” I could have just entered my wash code. More about that later.

No cashier, no impulse buying toys, candy, and auto accessories I will never use. I liked that. Clean and futuristic-looking. I liked that, too. The car wash business is very labor intensive, and the labor usually doesn�t enjoy the job. So the fewer people I see, the happier I am.

When I got to the front of the wash line, I didn’t get out of the car. Instead, I put it in neutral, took my foot off the brake and my hands off the wheel and accompanied my car through the procedure. If you have ever had an MRI, you will know what it felt like–a little claustrophobic, a little noisy, but on the whole interesting. Once before I�d gone with the car through a car wash, but it was pretty primitive compared to this one.

First the car is flailed by flapping pieces of (I assume) sponge, while soapy water is applied. Then my car and I moved along the moving belt while the wheels and undercarriage were washed, and then on to the rinse. Just when I thought I knew what was coming next, we came to the coolest part: the triple color protectant. I have no clue what it is, but it comes down on the windshield in three colors — red, white, and blue. It’s like a drug-induced hallucination. It may do nothing to the car, but it certainly makes the experience of staying in your vehicle worthwhile.

As you might expect, the last step is the blow dry.

When the car comes to the end of the procedure, you start it up again and you see a sign with two choices: if you have chosen the express wash, you�re done, but you can stay and vacuum your own car in the right lane. If you have chosen full service, you take the left lane, and the interior of the car is cleaned (carefully) for you, which takes about three minutes. It reminded me of 10k runs where I didn�t register and got shunted off to the left a few feet short of the finish line.

I have to say I was in and out of the whole experience in ten minutes, and the car looked great. So I went home and visited www.quicknclean.net to find out how to buy the discount card. Because this seemed by its equipment to be a technology-focused company, I wasn’t surprised to find out that I could buy a series of washes online, paying by credit card. This generated my “wash code,” which I type into the screen at the head of the wash line next time.

So QuicknClean met the criteria for good use of automation: faster, better, cheaper. It has only a few sites in Arizona right now, and I couldn�t find out if it�s trying to become a franchise or build itself from scratch by buying and converting old carwash sites. I have written to the company for its investor relations information, just in case I can find a place for it in my portfolio. In the mean time, I hope it succeeds. The world could use a fast $3.00 car wash.

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