While having employees allows you to grow a car wash business there is also a huge downside due to having a largely all cash business. Most owners just trust their people, get sloppy and make crooks out of usually honest people. This even includes hiring the proverbial “trusted family member”. If you have cash that an employee has access to then they can and will eventually steal. How should you handle and minimize car wash employee theft?
As a small car wash operation, it’s easy to be the only one to personally handle the cash, but this system will limit the ability to grow. No owner is immune to employee theft, regardless of systems in place. The best you can do is hire good people, take care of them properly and fairly, and put good accounting systems in place. But it will never be foolproof.
You’ll never find perfect help in any industry. If you can get someone to show up not drunk and do the job about 85% of the way that you would do it, you’ve done well. Nobody is going to do it as fast or as good as you since this is your investment and not theirs. In addition it is hard to keep people motivated while working at minimum wage.
The guys that are the best help are using retirees, usually people who grew up doing an honest day’s work and taught how to be respectful at a young age. The only “kid” we’ve tried actually came in, punched his time card and left again, only to come back and punch out. That was if he didn’t spend all day playing his Game Boy.
If employees can access the wiring, they can disconnect non-resettable counters without disabling the bay functions, which is easily done if you have a predictable schedule. They can tell customers that a particular coin acceptor is eating coins, and to pay them directly instead and they will manually turn the bay on just like they do when they are washing it down.
Cameras are a good first line of defense. You can use the camera for remote viewing anywhere you have an internet connection (including your cell phone). A small cam should be set at the rear of coin changers, outside vault and the equipment room. They are easily set up to turn on only when there is movement, saving time to review video.
Next you must keep an exact count of your money. This is where most business owners slip up on, not just car washes. It’s easy to be lax when a lot of money seems to be coming in, but you need to make sure it is all really reaching you. Make sure that at a minimum the bays have timers that accumulate a count for every coin deposited. At the end of each day/week add up the timers, empty all of the vaults and the numbers should be similar. For equipment that does not have digital timers make sure you are the only one with a key to the vault. If your wash doesn’t have systems in place you can also “salt” the changers. If you suspect missing bills, leave some in there where you make some inconspicuous marks and make sure they are there when you next empty them.
There are also computerized tracking systems available that allow an owner to precisely monitor cash flow. There are “off-the-shelf” systems for carwashes such as AccuTrac and GinSan’s DATAMate are designed to track pulse by pulse, coin by coin, dollar by dollar, minute by minute while allowing/tracking bay wash down time. Some other neat features include:
- Receiving every pulse from every coin acceptor, counts it, and sends it back to the timer.
- Wash down feature that forces the attendant to punch in their code and use a garage door opener to turn on the bay they wish to wash down. Only high pressure rinse, and the PLC limits the time and records who, when, and which bay.
- Monitors the bill changer level.
- Accounting for the bays and vacuums by day and month this year and last year and by batch. The batch resets when the money is collected. • All functions and reports remotely available via the internet without a PC on site.
- When the last coin was deposited at each device which should prevent wire tampering.
Last be sure to let employees know that you are accounting for all of the money coming in and you will notice anything missing. Just letting them know you are watching can largely minimize car wash employee theft. Even conspicuously leaving a clipboard that accounted for all the money on a table in the equipment room lets employee see that every dollar and every quarter was being noticed. It only takes a couple of minutes a visit to write down the information necessary to account for everything.