Business

Short cut or short-change

BY TAMEKA GORDON Assistant business co-ordinator tamekag@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 27, 2013    

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WITH no intention of waiting for hours at the car wash, you stop by the man at the corner for him to administer a 'quick wash off' to your automobile. You may have saved time and money on the day, but at the same time reduce the life of your car, experts say.

"It is not simply about washing the car to maintain the aesthetics of the vehicle, one has to also look at the long term effects of using sub-standard material," says Damion Balbourne, manager of the Kingston-based Car Salon.

But with increasingly busy schedules, it has become necessary for many individuals to adopt a faster-paced lifestyle, and street-side car washers seem to facilitate that.

In explaining that established car washes use de-chlorinated water and soft soap which prolong the life of the vehicle's duco, Balbourne says harsh detergents used by the street side washers compromise the life of the paint job, leading to greater expense in the long run.

He explained that established car wash operators pay close attention to the crevices of the vehicle, noting that rust often begins in these often ignored and hard-to-reach places.

"The regular Joe may not know when an engine wash is needed, nor can he give vehicle maintenance tips," Balbourne said.

"One should not simply look at the current cost, because your car is an investment which must be safeguarded," Latoure Duhaney of Genesis Pro Active said.

He further explained that the professional detailing employed by reputable companies should be seen as more than just a dollar value as it extends the life of the vehicle.

To wash and vacuum a car costs an average of $700, with an engine wash ranging from $500 to $600 recommended every sixth wash or an average, once per month, as revealed by some Kingston-based car wash companies.

However, street side washers come at a variety of costs.

"My customers pay from $200 to $1,000 depending on the size of the vehicle and whether they are paying at the same time," said Tawan Ellis, who washes cars on the street- side for a living.

"Some people do not have the money to wash their cars in the middle of the month, but I still clean it and they add a little extra to it when they pay up month-end," the businessman said, as he ran off to collect from a beckoning police officer.

Ellis, who has been operating on King Street in downtown Kingston for over five years, said his "flexible billing system" and attention to detail has earned him "elite customers".

He described a process of brushing the mats and applying care care product Armor All to the dashboard and wheels as trademarks of his craft, disputing the sentiments expressed by Balbourne and others.

"Brushing frazzles the mats and adds to the wear and tear," Duhaney said, adding that this may necessitate an earlier replacement of the mats than vacuum cleaning would.

The issue of accountability was also raised by the legitimate providers.

"If something should go wrong and the vehicle is damaged, a street-side operator may not be able to absorb the cost to repair or replace whatever was damaged," Duhaney said.

That's a point that Ellis conceded, but he noted that the utmost care was taken to avoid any damages. Furthermore, he said, it would not be in his best interest to remove items from the vehicles of his customers as this would mean "bad publicity" for his business, which he explained, sustains his family.

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