Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tom's Carwash: Loyalty, habit and a challenging pricing model.

Here's what happened when I used a "Fly 'n Detail" service in late June.

Sounds like a good deal!
I have been using Tom's Carwash for about 3 years. I was lured by a price deal that made a lot of sense. At the time had been parking my car in the long term carpark at Adelaide Airport and it would cost me up to $80 for a 6 day trip.

The Tom's Carwash deal looked excellent at $89 including a full car wash and detail. Sure when I had a longer trip it cost a little more. This worked well for quite a while. Bevan the owner was a nice guy - a fast talker but we got the job done. In and out pick, up and delivery to the airport with no problems.

Inertia is loyalty
I had simply fallen into a default situation where I had decided I would be using the fly and detail product instead of the Airport long term parking. In marketing circles that habit is often considered to be a form of loyalty.

An unpleasant surprise
The last few times I have used the Carwash it has surprised me with the $250 charge that I would end up paying when I picked my car up. Six days ago I was very specific that I just wanted the basic no extras basic "fly and detail". My surprise was that the bill was $240.

Where's your feedback mechanism?
Now I prefer just to send an email or it asynchronous message but nothing allowed me to do that with Tom's Carwash. The website defaulted to a Facebook page and for some reason I couldn't send a message through Facebook so I had the unfortunate task of having to make the call personally. I told Bevan that it's not my way to make personal complaints on the phone but I'd rather to send a message. \

My recognition of our previous positive relationship means that I didn't do what I default to - which is write a Facebook post on his wall and plaster my complaint over social media. But now I've spent the time on the phone I need to get some secondary benefit from this - and this blog is a Hungry Beast that needs to be fed.

"But that's what we charge"
Bevan's surprise at me telling him I would not be using is service again turned to a process of justifying why $240 really quiet reasonable for a basic detail and 6 days of parking. It was there that I became a little disappointed; perhaps Bevan was not the great businessman or marketer that I had imagined.

So that's your pricing model
So it appears that Bevans pricing model is $99 for a detail and one day of parking, and that for a number of days after that I was incurring extra parking fees. So it seems I paid $140 days of parking on top of the $99 detail.

Bevans' justifications just seem to go around in circles and it got to the point of him saying "I don't make money from parking cars for $30 a day". Wow! I could. Apparently, normally if they keep the car for more than 6 days they do a complimentary shampoo and polish as well which only made me feel even more ripped off.

A few lessons for me
So there are a number of lessons from this:
  • Caveat emptor.
  • Customer loyalty often precedes increased margins for the seller
  • As a marketer you probably need to have your pricing structures clearly defined

Perhaps it was a relationship that just ran its course
So Tom's Carwash has received probably a customer lifetime value of $1,200 from me, perhaps less, and maybe that's good enough for Bevan. I'm sure it's a hard business to run with rent, staffing, costs and of course customers like me. Perhaps the "fly 'n detail" that started them up when they lost the Qantas valet contract is simply not the type of business that suits them, That's fine. If that's the case, my faith in Bevan is renewed, because it's important to be in the business you that suits you. It may just be a relationship that's run its course. I've said goodbye to business that way, quite often.

It's the customer's point of view that matters
I'm not particularly cranky about this but it's just been something that started quite well enough and drifted into something that did not make sense for me. My biggest disappointment was how the proprietor was saying "but you have to see it from my point of view".

I currently have no interest in running a business that deals with the public but if I was to own one then my key salesline would not be "look at it from my point of view".

Finishing with a missed opportunity
We left it with Bevan saying "when you have a two day trip then give me a call" which is unfortunate for him. I have four 5 day trips to Singapore this month and two other cars I could be putting with him but we just can't agree on a price and now need to find an alternative solution. I write this from a Singapore hotel room while my car sits in long term parking at the airport. It's the customer who makes the choice about how they spend their money.


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