I rarely find anything negative to say about a company but this is a good example for business owners so thought I would share. I have been going to Water Works Auto Spa in Kyle, TX for years because it is a no-frills car wash that simple provides a decent product for a decent price.

I blew it off when they went from two people doing a quick pre-scrub before sending you through the wash down to one that merely slaps water on the windshield and doesn’t really do any scrubbing because he doesn’t have time with the next car coming already.

I blew it off when they took away the cart with rags and cleaning solution by the self vacuum station.

I blew it off when they said I could pay them $2 for a cheap towel (worth about .10) but had to bring my own cleaner.

Today, I went to get a car wash and vacuum. I pulled up to the kiosk to scan my card and the card was out of washes. Normally, I simply click the refill option and am on my way in a matter of minutes.

This time, the refill option is still on the screen yet, no longer works because they changed their washing options and took out some of the prewash services that were included in the basic car wash. I had to reverse down the winding driveway – enter the exit only to get to the office – go inside and have them do the transaction by hand. Then I was able to go back through the system.

I overheard someone there saying the company is opening another location in New Braunfels and was tightening a lot of things to improve profit margins in an effort to help pay for that expansion.

I have to say though – nickel-and-diming your way to better profits has never been a good model. I agree that if you discover what you are doing doesn’t work, you have to change things – but you know how we are about our entitlements. It is very hard to take something back once your customers are accustomed to it… especially if it is so that you can pay for something else. I would rather pay a small price increase than lose some of the value I expect.

I get that the towels they provided have a cost. I get that the other person doing a pre-scrub has a cost. I get that cutting these saves money. But it also makes customers question the value of your service. It has me looking for another car wash option… and that will cost them a lot more than if they hadn’t cut their services.

In fact, in my search I discovered a new car wash will be opening soon in the area and depending on their offerings/price, I will be taking that into account when I choose how I spend money on what is becoming very much a commodity purchase. It becomes more of a commodity every time they take away something that differentiates them from their competition.

The moral: If you have a commodity business and sell yourself as just like the next guy – then, you are playing a price game and that is where you win or lose. If you have some things about your business that makes you better than your competition, eliminating those things puts you in the commodity game… be prepared to win or lose just based on your price.

by Chris Doelle