Curious Car Wash

Apr 07, 2014


I got my car washed this weekend.

Geez, Angie, couldn’t you think of anything better to write about on this so-called “curious” blog? Everyone in Cincinnati got a car wash this weekend. Yeah, yeah, but stick with me here for a few minutes.

You see, I got my car washed at the legendary Rainbow Car Wash. While I basked in the welcomed rays of sunshine waiting for my car to be ready, it occurred to me that there were a few lessons I could glean from this venerable institution.

1. Do What You Do Best
Rainbow Car Wash is just that, a car wash. With the exception of three different levels of wash and a handful of vanilla tree air fresheners, they don’t sell, make or do anything else. Just car washes, year-round, since 1964. It’s what they’re known for, and people line up for an hour or more on weekends because they do it so well.

There’s something to be said for sticking with what you do best. Though difficult to do, I have ultimate respect for companies who are able to successfully focus on one thing. It allows them to hone their product offering and processes, and to deliver excellence, without question.

2. Be Transparent
At Rainbow they take this one literally. Once you step out of your car to get started, you’re guided to a hallway with windows that run parallel to the car wash so you can walk alongside your vehicle as it goes through the various steps of the soaping, brushing, washing, rinsing and drying process. Even better, there’s a wooden ramp that has been there since I was a little girl (I won’t say how long that’s been), so even the short stacks in your life (say, 5-year-old twins) can reach the windows and stare in awe at the mesmerizing rotating brushes.

Honesty and transparency are critical to any business. You gain the trust, confidence and loyalty of your customers when you’re transparent about what you’re selling and how you sell it. Marketing fluff and hyperbole? Not appreciated in these parts.

3. Deliver More Than Your Customers Expect
I always get the most basic car wash available, which goes for $14.08. Although a bit pricey, consider that this $14 gets you an interior vacuum, a turn through the soft-cloth car wash including clear coat and rust inhibitor, and finally, a meticulously hand-dried exterior and interior (if you’re lucky, your car will be wiped down by infamous “Shorty Shorts” guy who’s way too tan). By the time they’re finished, every nook and cranny sparkles. They never allow tipping, so $14 really is $14, and you leave feeling like you got an awful lot of value for your money.

They could make you do your own interior vacuuming at a coin-operated machine. They could hand you a wet cloth and have you wipe down your own dashboard. They could pull the car up after the wash and send you along on your merry way only to be left with water spots when it dries on its own. But they include all this with even the most basic of washes, and it’s more than any car wash I have experienced, exceeding my expectations every time and ensuring that I’ll never go anywhere else.

Obviously, I really love this place and want you to love it, too. Try it for yourself and see if you don’t agree with me. And since I couldn’t possibly write a blog post without including some mention of food, if you need one more reason to visit Rainbow just head next door to the newish restaurant Mazunte for some authentic Oaxacan cuisine. De nada.