Why Walter White Could Have Built a Carwash Empire


I would be completely remiss if I let another carwash issue pass without mentioning my favorite, albeit fictional, carwash. It’s located somewhere between New Mexico and the brilliant mind of Vince Gilligan, mastermind of the award-winning TV show Breaking Bad and operated by Heisenberg himself — Walter White.

If you turned on your TV, scanned your social media feeds or stood around the office water cooler at any point between 2008 and 2013, chances are you heard a little bit about Walt, the main protagonist in Gilligan’s epic. Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and unable to pay his medical bills or provide for his pregnant wife and teenage son, Walt trades in his career as a high school chemistry teacher for one in the drug trade where he gains some serious respect and notoriety.

As it turns out, a jack of all trades is in fact, the king(pin) of Albuquerque. When he wasn’t wearing the moniker Heisenberg that struck fear into the unsavory citizens of the 505 and beyond, Walt and his wife Skyler proved — as exhibited by these exchanges — they knew a thing or two about running a carwash.

Skyler: Good morning, welcome to A1.

Lydia: Just the regular, please.

Skyler: Well, we’re having a special on hand wax. $21.99 if you’re interested in getting rid of those water spots.

Lydia: [declines]

Skyler: OK, well there’s complimentary coffee inside while you’re waiting.

Not only was the customer acknowledged and greeted cordially, Skyler took the opportunity to present the current promotion they were running — even taking it as far as mentioning the specific benefit of the purchase. When the customer declined the hand wax, instead of being goaded into accepting the offer, she was offered free coffee. It may not seem like much, but in a day and age where we’ve been conditioned to pay $4 for our daily buzz, free coffee can truly be a luxury.

Walt: So, I’m thinking we reorganize the display. Separate the food scents from the nature scents. I mean, does bubble gum belong anywhere near ocean spray? No. And pine is still our biggest seller, right? So maybe we move that over to the cash register by the 5-Hour Energy drink.

A well-ordered and organized shop can have a huge impact on customer experience. Sifting through a clutter of products is one way to quickly frustrate anyone. Organize your displays and clearly label your shelves to help your customers find what they’re looking for, which brings up another point — know your customers and what they like. Maybe there is a popular product in your own shop that would do well next to the register…or the 5-Hour Energy drinks.

Walt to Lydia: Hand this to your carwash professional and have an A1 day.

Last impressions are equally as important as first impressions. If done correctly, it ties the (hopefully favorable) customer experience up in a neat bow and makes your customer feel valued. Walt’s goodbye is not only respectful, but it’s made memorable by the fact he incorporates the name of the carwash into the salutation — a pretty clever branding trick on the part of the White family.

So, what else do successful carwash owners do? According to Walt, they buy more carwashes, and although viewers never saw them purchase another location, I have to believe that had the drug lord thing not worked in Walt’s favor, he probably could have built an empire keeping New Mexico’s cars squeaky clean.