How do you put your mind at rest when you think you might have a "silent partner" silently and discreetly helping themselves to part of your income or someone boldly approaching you to take your money. There has been outside and inside coin theft and robbery for as long as we've had a Laundromat industry and now with card-operated Laundromats we have added a new dimension to our business.

Many first-time owners are worried that robbery is a likely possibility when you buy a Laundromat. For purposes of this article, robbery is the taking of money from you by threat of violence or a weapon: you see who is taking the cash.  Theft is when you don't know by who or/and sometimes how the cash has been taken. The actual number of robberies from Laundromat owners is quite rare and the risks can be minimized by exercising common-sense logic. The risks against
robbery can be reduced by following one of two collection procedures.

First, collect your money early in the morning when the majority of the "bad guys" are sleeping. If you are an early riser you can collect before your store is open for business. This course is great for collection but it can be cold, lonely and disturb the sleep of late-night owners. You are also alone with no witnesses surrounding you to scare off a potential robber.

The second collection procedure is to collect your money when the Laundromat is open and full of people. Most robbers will avoid a situation where a dozen or so witnesses can identify them. The busier the Laundromat, the safer the collection. It's a little uncomfortable to collect in front of a lot of customers but the customers serve as a type of security barrier against the robber.
Some basis rules to avoid robbery are:

1. Look at your parking lot to see if anyone is watching you.
2. Never collect or open your bill changers at night.
3. Avoid conversations with customers or distractions during the collection
   process. Remain polite but refuse to make change or break your concentration on
4. Immediately stop the collection, close the machines and leave the store if
   anyone enters during the collection process that gives you a bad feeling.
5. Collect your money as the last thing you do before you leave your Laundromat.
   Don't stay to repair machines after you've collected the money.
6. Never stop to eat on the way home from a collection and leave the collection in
   the car.
7. Quickly put the bills away or use rear-load changers: out of sight, out of mind.
8. Install security cameras and let the customers and employees know they work.
9. Vary the times and days on which you collect.

Owning any business creates the possibility of theft from the owner. As a Laundromat owner you should be aware of how some people try to steal from your machines. Let's not focus on the obvious crooks who pry, force or torch open washers, dryers and bill changers. These are obvious. The silent partner is more difficult to catch.

A silent partner may have a set of keys to your washer and dryer coin boxes. He may have obtained them from a previous owner or relative of a previous owner. He may also engage in drilling out a coin box and replacing it with an undamaged
coin box while he takes your coin box home to fabricate a duplicate key. This is why you do not want a single key for all your coin boxes. It may be easy for you, but it is also easy for the thief.

A silent partner may also open up the service door of your washer and place a paper or plastic block between the coin slide and the coin box. When coins are inserted and the slide is pushed, the coins go to the back of the meter housing. Later, the thief will come back and collect up the coins. Sometimes the block is made up of coins lightly glued together so even if you discovered the block you might not realize you had someone working your Laundromat.

Some silent partners will actually open your service locks and trigger free washes or use bra
underwires to trigger certain models of coin drops. Wascomat has had a problem with a plastic
lens on the front of their washers (all versions with mechanical timers, 4-series and 5-series)
that can be pried off and the timer turned slightly which triggers the wash cycle. You need to put
plexi-glass guards over these lenses. Sometimes the thief will start machines for other folks at a
discounted price in addition to doing their own washing for free. If the thief is your cleaning
person, it may even appear to the customer that the service of starting machines is a service you
provide. Also look for a small hole drilled in the lens that allows a paper clip to start these

Finally, almost every washer has a problem with the construction of their coin meter housing (item that holds the coin slide or drop and the coin box) allowing a thief to rip these meters out of the washers. The thief can remove the housing with a pry bar in about two minutes per machine. He then takes the entire housing with him. This is particularly prevalent in front load washers and the owner not only loses the money but the repair bills are $300.00 and up per washer to repair.

One of the feature benefits touted by the manufacturers of the new card-operated systems is cash control. By concentrating the cash in one location (the bill machine) the risk to break-ins at the washers, dyers and related vending equipment has been reduced to almost zero. Only efforts to obtain a free wash by triggering a start mechanism or just plain vandalism are the main remaining reasons a person will attack a card operated vending machine. That's good. Now what's bad is the fact that by concentrating all the cash in one location you have also created a single jack-pot source of cash to a thief or silent partner. Here's the following ways I believe thieves are attacking card-operated stores:

1) The cards that are used to operate the washers and dryers come in two main varieties, with all manufacturers who sell these systems claiming their cards cannot be broken. In an era when extremely sophisticated computer experts can "crack" the codes of Microsoft to obtain free use of software (see information on Pirate's Bay web site) you have to believe that some teenaged hacker somewhere has come up with a way to beat the cards at Laundromats, probably in retaliation to having been forced to go every Saturday morning with this mom and fold the laundry. You can find on the Internet a variety of devices being advertised that can "crack" the cards and allow changes to the amount available for use on the cards: Google the Internet and review these "crack" devices for sale. If someone, including your for sale. If someone, including your cleaning person,attendant or a customer, decides to get into competition with you, you may discover that they are "cracking" your security codes, putting money on blank cards and selling them at discount in your Laundromat. One of the first card-operated Laundromats in California converted to coin operation to stop this from happening.

2) Even more likely is that you have allowed a person to capture or steal the code information from your laptop during the process of making refunds or adding money to cards when the bill machines have gone out of order. Some owners trust their valuable employees with this information, but these codes entrusted to valuable employees have been known to work themselves into the hands of computer literate children, nephews and friends of employees. In this example, the thief can also jam the
bill verifiers in order to force people to buy cards from them. One large California chain that exclusively
purchased card-operated revealed to me that if they ever expanded their business they would never use
the card systems again because of the jamming of machines and the necessity of then allowing access to
the bill machines by employees. The president was convinced the jamming may have been done by
employees to facilitate the theft.

3) The final way that theft is happening is through the problem of the frequent breakdown of the bill verifiers. This encourages many owners to provide access codes to hired help and repair people. An employed thief helps themselves to cash when you're not at the site even under the watchful eye of your security cameras. Of course, the numbers won't match when you do an audit of the bill machine, but you've already placed enough faith in the person to give them access. Catching them in the act is nearly impossible.

What to do? Protect your access codes, review all of your machine audits regularly, install cameras both inside and outside and watch your revenues. If the utility use is the same but the income is down you need to get concerned about a "silent partner."

No implication is intended by that ESD or any other card system can be currently hacked, or was ever hacked, however the above website shows significant effort is put into cracking the code of various card systems. This is a 2008 site provided for information only and does not contain any proven hack program. There are dozens of websites where cracking the code of various Laundromat cards is discussed in detail.


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