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The Laundromat Success Program™ helps you create a detailed plan to completely protect all aspects of your laundromat business.

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Archive for April, 2007

Your Not Paranoid. They Really ARE Out To Get You!!

Friday, April 6th, 2007

                               Norman Martin


  It’s a jungle out there! Some of you already know that.  Too many owner/operators feel safe and secure; after all, they aren’t in the middle of some big city.  They are in a small town where everyone knows each other. Right?  Wrong!  Unfortunately times have changed.  There is no place out of reach of crime, and anywhere, anytime, money is involved, there is the risk that someone of questionable ethical standards will attempt to remove those funds from its rightful owner.  There are many ways to get your money.  Some are subtle, some are brute force.  Some are obvious and some not as obvious.  So let’s touch a few of the risks your machines encounter.

 First for the subtle approach.   

KEY SECURITY   First, do you know where ALL your keys are?  Did you re-key when you bought the equipment?  If not, just how sure are you about where all the keys are and who has them?  Even if you did re-key, do you know where all your keys are at the moment?  What did you do with your spares?  Put them in a drawer?  Hang them from a nail in the back?   Always remember your keys ARE your cash, treat them just as you would the money you collect.  Lack of key control can lead to a temptation that an employee (and yes, even family members) may find irresistible.      Secondly, it is common practice for a distributor to buy all their coin boxes keyed alike and then parcel them out according to the machines sold.  It is possible to have 30 top loaders on one side of town with the same key codes as someone else with 20 machines on the other side of town.    What happens if they decide to check out the competition and just for laughs try their key in your boxes and see that they open? Plan on either seeing to it that your distributor is buying boxes in a lot just sized to your needs and that all the keys on the order wind up in your hands, or buy them from a source outside the area to minimize the risk of having the same key code wind up just down the street.

   In keeping with this theme, the quality of the locks may put you at risk.  Until recently, a certain locksmith supply wholesale house sold a pick that will open tubular style locks AND allow the user to decode the cuts.  The problem was they sold it to ANYONE.  They are shut down now, but quite a number of these units are in the hands of criminals who can open your locks almost as fast as you can with a key.   Ask yourself, why are the tubular locks so common?  And then recall the old saying about “you get what you pay for”.   Distributors/Manufacturers do not sell you equipment with a lock that is any more costly than they must.  Insist on quality locks when you buy your equipment. Consider the cost of upgrading to better locks as an insurance premium. The difference between a cheap lock and a better one is only $2 or $3 each.

   Keep in mind when ordering your locks or complete coin boxes that most manufactures produce only so many of a given key code.  When that code is exhausted, a new set of codes is brought in. The odd of finding an older key, or a lock to the same code available, becomes astronomical, so plan ahead if you need older key codes.  You may anticipate an 8 to 12 week wait for some codes, and may find other codes are not available at all.



Do you make your collections at the same time, all the time?  You are putting yourself at risk as well as your money.  Set patterns are easily observed.  And the thief who is not afraid of confrontation, counting on the fact that you will be afraid instead, can make plans to waylay you and take your money.  For the thief who picks locks, or who has a copy of your key, it is equally easy to plan when to open your boxes and to skim just enough that you think collections are down and not suspect you have a silent partner. Vary your collection times and days, and the route you take to the bank.  Do not walk out of your laundry with a bag that is clearly full of money.  Use a tool box, or paint can or something that does not scream, “Take Me!”



A more physical approach involves “Torquing” the locks.  Jamb a big square shank screwdriver in the lock put an adjustable wrench on the shaft and twist. If the coin box is made of sheet metal with the usual thickness about 3/32″ to 1/8″ supporting the lock, then there is a good chance that the whole body of the lock will spin inside the coin box, allowing it to unlock. If it doesn’t turn, the lock is still ruined. You will need to replace it. But it will turn often enough that the thief will keep trying. not_paranoid_edit  A really determined approach (see photos) involves brute force and a lot of noise.  How this attack goes unnoticed  always amazes me, but as you see,  the box has been peeled  open with a cold chisel and then the metal warped away to  gain access to the lock.  Please note that these happen to be boxes on hand that customers have brought in to get replaced. It is no reflection on the original manufacturer is intended or implied. These attack methods will work all too well on ANY coin box.


Of course they can drill out the locks. Again, how it happens as often as it does, and yet go unnoticed baffles me beyond belief, but it happens way too often.   Cordless drills make it easy to attack the lock.  Now there are cordless motorized tools that will power abrasive cut off wheels. These can be used to attack the bolts in the corners of the boxes, which will yield to the cutting wheel even if hardened. And it needn’t be cordless tools. They can plug conventional tools into your own outlets in some instances, meaning you furnish the power to destroy your own property.

They attack with crowbars and with sledge hammers.  The entire top of machines have been pried off and taken away.  The will pound the machines to pieces. After all, the thief doesn’t have to fix anything, they just want the quarters.

Another technique is “slam jamming”.  Wrap the end of the coin mechanism with a towel, hit it smartly with a three pound hammer and drive the guts out of the device.  Unwrap the towel, and if properly done, the mechanism will show no damage, but will free play.  If you ever see bits and pieces of metal in the coin box, you can suspect this has happened.  Always give the chute a push when you make collections to make sure none will go in without putting money in it first.

What to do about all this mayhem and destruction?  There are cameras and surveillance systems. There are alarms and extra guard devices. There are better locks.  But all of these are useless unless the operator invests in them with the idea of protecting his equipment, uses it all properly, maintains it, and realizes this is as much a cost of doing business as paying the water or electric.

The operator must look at their facility through the eyes of the thief, and if smart, they must develop a touch of paranoia.  Life isn’t “Leave It to Beaver” or “Pleasantville”, it is reality.  Being inattentive, careless, or just too good natured can be ruinous.

As a manufacturer, we and our competitors do all we can to make strong, secure products. But there are limits on what we can offer. Could the meter housing and the coin boxes be made tougher and more resistant to attack?  Maybe. But the market would have to support the cost of the added materials or special designs to thwart attackers.  So long as operators insist on having the cheapest instead of the best, then the quality and the resistance to damage cannot be improved.  The operators fail to consider that the difference of a few dollars in the cost of a box may place at risk several hundred dollars of their receipts.



Some of the above are very extreme examples of what may happen.  But in the final analysis, over 80% of those who call with troubles are calling because of lax key control.  Yes, you have to be aware of the things mentioned, but most all; you MUST take care of controlling your keys!!

Who has them now?  Who has had any of them in the past?  Can you account for all of the keys, and are you the only one with the same key code nearby? Did you buy a Laundromat and the previous owner only gave you one or two keys?  What did he do with the rest?  Did you re-key to protect yourself?

This cannot be emphasized strongly enough, nor can it be mentioned too often.   A key to your coin box is a key to your income, a key to your bank account, a key to your livelihood.  They are the keys to your prosperity and your future. The keys cannot be replaced easily if lost.  Most of them cannot be duplicated by a locksmith, as they have no access to the blanks with the exception of tubular locks. If you wish to avoid disaster, then YOU are the one who must see to the security of your keys and that you have chosen those which will most adequately protect you

and your investment. 



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