Car wash – DYI

Today I washed my car. By hand. That’s a first for me. Not to say my car has not been washed but that this was the first time I washed it in the driveway with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge an one of those chammi cloths that d5y up all the rain. In Sydney I used to have my car washed (and vacuumed) while I did my grocery shopping. Excellent service, bonus being you didn’t need to search for a car park – just drive straight in to the carwash, leave your car, sop and return to a nice clean vehicle.. It was good value too – $25 and they would make it all spark-a-lark-a-lark-a-ling clean: windows cleaned inside and out, all the inside surfaces cleaned, vacuumed throughout, including the boot and for a bit extra, the tires (or is that the wheels?) cleaned too.

Here in Noosa there are such car wash places, only those coin operated self-serve ones – not even those that you just drive through and freak you out when the big brushes descend over your car. Lacking any real facilities I opted for the self-serve coin-operated place. It wasn’t good. Firstly, I didn’t really know what to do and ended up soaked; secondly, it was expensive – I seemed to be forever putting in dollar coins.

First time I visited I drove in, read the instructions went to use the machine only to find I didn’t have enough gold coins. Dejected (I had psyched myself up for this), I drove off not realising that there is a machine there that converts your small silver coins to gold ones. Next time, prepared with an abundance of coins (or so I thought) I started feeding my coins into the machine, unaware that once the coins drop the water starts gushing out of the long hose/pipe that’s attached to the wall. By the time I figured out what to do my coin was used up. So, standing with the hose/pipe thing at the ready I insert my nextccoin: bam. Doing it.

I seemed to spend a long time watering as I waited for the next phase. I thought it was automatic and just seamlessly flowed from one cycle to the next. Wrong. So back I went to the instructions and realised I had to use the soapy scrub brush (though this is an option). I got the brush from the other wall, fed in my coin and began scrubbing. Then I noticed all this water gushing out on the floor. Apparently, you’re meant to scrub before you insert your coin and remove the previously usedchose/pipe from the wall attachment in order to rinse the soap away. More gold coins later my car is clean but not dry or polished or vacuumed. By then I gave up trying to figure out what to do with the various cycles on the so-called automatic wash and drove my car to the vacuum point to experience yet another round of frustration with the power running out before I could properly vacuum all the surfaces in the car. My vacuum cleaner at home has ore suction that the supposedly heavy duty one there. I drove off vowing to never set foot on the site again.

Subsequently I have found there is a serviced car wash place at the Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore. The Sunshine Plaza* is pitched as the “Sunshine Coast’s largest retail mall/centre”. I was rather excited the first time I went there, looking forward to being able to make all the usual purchases (Sydney style). Alas. What can I say? The Myer store there (the main attraction) is smaller than the one in Hobart. The Plaza’s only saving grace is that it has a skin clinic that I use, a good sized supermarket, Howard’s Storage, First Choice Liquor store and nearby, an Asian grocery store. But really, that’s it.

Last week, having an appointment at the Plaza I determined to have my car cleaned. The Plaza has an incredible paucity of parking – it’s not unusual to be driving around for at least 15 minutes searching for an elusive spot. It’s also not unusual to stalk people coming out with with their shopping and slowly following them to their car (usually only to discover some one else is already waiting with blinkers on). Grrrr. Getting my car washed seemed like an ideal solution to the parking problem as well as a much needed clean. And yet. I drove in only to be asked if I had a booking!!? They were fully booked. Deep breath. Search for car spot.

On the positive side (and one must always look for the bright side of things when you live outside a big city), I did discover the joys of manually washing my own car. And I vacuumed too. So now, adept at this new enterprise I shall endeavour to keep my car shiny clean for much longer (and make a booking for the real car wash place next time I’m in Maroochydore).

* ‘Plaza’ is a term favoured by all shopping malls, large and small, it is quintessentially, Queenlsandish.

Did you know: The start of the history of car washing dates back to 1914. People used to manually push or move the cars through stages of the process. Eventually, manual car wash operations peaked at 32 drive-through facilities in the United States. The first semi-automatic car wash was active for the first time in Detroit, Michigan using automatic pulley systems and manual brushing.

Taxi troubles

There’s a bit of a stramash going on in Australia within the taxi industry. Basically the big taxi cab conglomeration is not happy with organisations such as ‘Uber’ and ‘goCatch’ (though the press has only really been focusing on Uber). They claim they take away earnings from ‘real’ cab drivers and are not safe. They present them as unlicensed mavericks. I haven’t used Uber but I’m a big fan of goCatch. Its quick, reliable and you can track how far away the driver is as well as making contact with him via his mobile phone. You can also set up a card payment system which makes the whole enterprise seemless and fast.

Essentially though its about customer service and customers are reacting to the poor quality of service provided by the taxi industry and taking their business elsewhere. I don’t know how many times I’ve waited for cabs I’ve ordered that haven’t turned up. One time I waited for over an hour. Another time I missed my flight because the cab didn’t turn up: I rang and asked where was it. The operator ordered another one. Same thing. No cab. Finally on the third attempt the operator just hung up on me. Poor service.

I always leave plenty of time when ordering a cab to go out to dinner – I like to get to places early and have a drink at the bar – but too many times the cab is so slow to arrive that we not only miss the bar drink but are late for our booking. Enquiries to the cab company are usually met with inidifference and a lack of information about how much longer the cab will be, or if indeed it is on its way. And there have been innumerable times when the cab driver didn’t bother to let me know he was outside, despite having my phone number and at times, despite pouring rain.  He just drove off!!!! How is that customer service?

So when I hard about goCatch I gave it a go (no pun intended); not only could I track where the cab was but the driver rang to say he’d be there in x minutes (and its generallly about 5!!) The drivers arrive and call to say they’re outside; they’re always polite and professional and they are in proper taxi cabs. So what’s the problem? Seems to me that the real issue is that the taxi industry is out of touch and indifferent to the needs of the people who are using them – their client base. What I don’t understand is why, in a competitive market they don’t look at the reasons customers are turning away from them. Instead of complaining they should get their act together and provide a better service. Perhaps then they’ll get their customers back. In an ever-changing, competitive market if you don’t provide what you’re supposed to and you lose your customers then really, you have nothing to complain about. Unions find it hard to let go of their stangle hold but they never seem to get it: if its not working, you have to change your way of operating. And be reliable. Interestingly, in a recent interview in the  Qantas Magazine, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, a senior exec at the Commonwealth Bank praised Uber.  She is also a fan of the Uber app and recommends using Uber “so you can always retrieve that phone you left in the cab”.*

As more and more people use taxis when going out – safer than driving when you intend to drink – its inevitable that they want a reliable and efficient service. So while I’m happy to flag down a cab on the return journey, I won’t bother with the big cab company. I’ll use goCatch every time.

*Qantas, February 2015, p111

Tania Layden