Spring is here and salty slush covers our cars.  Some of us prefer to get that nasty mess off before it erodes our vehicles like it does the Michigan roads.  

A recent attempt to get this done has highlighted a local business owner's greed and desire to take what he hasn't earned.   

Most of us grew up loading quarters in the self-spray carwash but are now given the option to use a credit card.  With this new technology comes the responsibility of ending the credit card machine charges by pressing the little green button on the machine when you are done.  This is on top of shutting off the water/soap selection.  If you don't remember to end the charges, it just keeps going until someone else drives up and washes their car free of charge or the automatic shutoff ends the wash.  

The problem is the point in which the machine shuts off automatically has recently been increased from $10 to $15.  I suspect based on my multiple errors in failing to push the magic green button that the owner noticed that many of his spray washes were ending at the same $10 cut off point I was being charged.  Concluded people unknowingly leaving early with their credit card still being charged was boosting his revenue.  Then decided to get greedy and change the automatic shut off point to $15 to further profit on the backs of local citizens old and young.

An automatic shutoff at $10 is more than enough time to wash my large vehicle with all of the cycles the cleaning board recommends.  My last visit, I showed up with no other vehicle in sight and the clock tolling to $6.52.  I kindly shut it off and started the charges to wash my vehicle on my own tab.  Like many other times, I got distracted and forgot to hit the green button which led to me seeing this new $15 charge.   

I would love to hear other perspectives on why this multi-wash owner thinks a new $15 cut off time serves his customers better.  If anything, it opens them up to error in his favor.  He can't complain that people leave with the water on because they are being charged for that.  It's his decision to increase the length of time water is wasted by making this change.  Unless he can prove people use more than $10 frequently and not changing it created a burden on his business, this could be illegal under the Consumer Protection Act and will be reported. 

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Wow! Thanks for alerting about this, Anxious. I will stick with quarters, thank you.  I've become quite skilled in getting a wash and wax for $1.25.

It's a good warning to the unwary using their credit card for car washes, but I would give the owner of the car wash the benefit of the doubt in this case and believe that they would have no ill motives in upping the maximum from $10 to $15-- provided they openly and clearly have credit card instructions explained. 

You'll find on the internet some carwashes that have cost hundreds of dollars on credit cards because the business had no limit.  Obviously, the business could not long succeed once several people point out that they were way overcharged and word gets around, so once this is caught, refunds are usually given, and it is either corrected or better signage is placed. 

One might expect in these hyperinflationary times that a meticulous car wash that cost $10 a couple years ago might cost $12 or more now, so making the limit go higher means that the customer will not be inconvenienced when they get to the $10 mark and the system shuts down automatically.  This makes upping the limit by $5 seem reasonable to me.

If one believes they were charged $15 for a $6.52 car wash effort, through no fault other than not hitting a button, I'm fairly sure the owner will listen to them and give a fair refund and a better explanation of how the system works so that a second refund to the same person will not be necessary. 

I think you may have mis-read the $6.52 paragraph.   When I had another issue with the touchless wash for one of my nicer vehicles, they thought it was okay to only give me a voucher instead of a refund when another driver's error paying caused me to be double charged.  This was on top of suppling a bunch of "proof" to them, waiting for approval from the owner, then having to drive there to find out they were only forcing me into another wash.   I think your belief in this owner being a standup businessman could be mistaken based on a few past experiences. 

That day I pulled behind an old man driving a $100k Audi sedan.  He was having issues loading his cash into the machine (Which I witnessed may have been short of his wash amount, but owner still got most of his money).  Because the touchless machine is very old technology, he had thought he paid and pulled forward when the other car left.  I put my card in and paid before his wash started which is normal and never a problem.  He got out of his car wondering why it didn't start when my purchase kicked in.  Afterwards he drove off and I was stuck swiping my card again for another purchase.  It was not the easy process you mentioned to get my money back.  It was the complete opposite.  

To be clear I have not asked for a refund for my errors.  I just don't think it's fair to increase the amount a person can error by 50%.  The cost of his other washes did not increase so your price increase analogy is not the best.  If you have to raise prices the legal honest way to do that is, make those changes visible to the public.   This guy also just happens to be the same guy needing new workers year-round.  Most places that have great owners do not find themselves in these positions.  

Anxious, small business owners in the current business climate do not have the luxury of trying to pull fast ones on their customers just to make some extra money if one of them doesn't follow directions.  I only know of one car wash business owner, the one that lives a block away from me at Chesapeake Bay on South James, who I checked out and confirmed he does not have the credit card option. 

Since I do not know the guy you refer topersonally, I will give him the benefit of the doubt because if he hasn't raised the price at his car wash when inflation is hitting everyone hard, then he likely isn't raising the 'error price' just to make a few extra bucks out of the careless.  My bet is that he has probably introduced 'shadow' increases (such as your money buys less time on the wash/rinse cycles), and he may have heard complaints from people who had the automation shut down before they are through because the $10 mark was hit quicker than before.  

Like Willy and Freedom Seeker, there are certain things I don't use my credit (or gift) card on, and one of those things is any service purchase where I do not get a receipt at the end showing the final charge to my card.  You also have to assume, since it does cost the carwash owner extra money to take credit card purchases, that a $6.52 purchase with a credit card would give you the same service as a smaller purchase using cash and coins.

This is an interesting discussion. I don't run into these kind of problems because I don't use credit or debit cards. In the past I have had to much trouble with them. Many family members and friends have had the same trouble but most of them continue to use the plastic to pay for their purchases. There are to many bad actors out there waiting to suck the life out of people's finances. I know that using credit cards can be very convenient and eliminates carrying cash around but they can also cause a lot of grief. I do, however, carry a gift card for use in case of emergencies. It all comes down to the old saying "buyer beware" since almost every purchase is now a potential credit card situation. Take for instance using air pumps at gas stations. A few months ago I was in a town downstate and one of my tires was low. I could not find a station that had an air pump that would take money. They only accepted credit cards. I was lucky, I finally found an old style service station that had an air pump that required no payment of any kind.  Who would have guessed we would go from free air pumps to credit card pumps in such a short period of time.


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