How the Other Half Lives…or at least, how they wash their cars
I’ve long thought that the 76 Gas Station / Agoura Hills Hand Car Wash at the corner of Reyes Adobe and Canwood has the best public restroom in town. Whenever I have to make a pit stop on my suburban mom adventures, I try to maneuver a gas fill-up – for my CAR – so that their restroom is the one that I use. I know it sounds silly to make pit stops on errands that are less than 5 miles from my house, but if you’ve ever shuttled kids to karate, the library, volleyball, and their school’s open house, you know there’s no time to stop at home for a quick trip to the loo.
That location is usually where I get my gas, and where I sometimes take the car to be washed, although there are places that do it less expensively. But all those places are farther away, so AHH Car Wash wins for convenience.
Now they win for customer service, too.
When the company built and opened Lavaggio right across the street, effectively razing a nice open plot of land and digging a giant hole to put a luxury car wash and detail service into the spot, I was pretty convinced I would never use it. After all, Lavaggio is where exotic fancy cars routinely strut their stuff. How would my 8-year-old Mitsubishi sedan with peeling paint – the ultimate Mom Car – fit in? And why would I want to spend the extra money at a place that was surely out of my price range?
Fast forward to 3 years later, 2 kids who have multiple overlapping after-school activities and often snack on the go, and what I’ve been driving looks more like a mobile garbage can than a car driven by a respectable upstanding member of this community. I’m not saying that I’M that respectable upstanding member of my community, I’m just saying it would be nice to drive a car that looked like it belonged to that kind of woman.
Last week I had had enough. I went to Agoura Hills Hand Car Wash and asked for an interior detail. Sales rep Hamid and I negotiated a package that cost a whopping $220 – a hefty sum to drop on my old Mom Car, but it included the scrubbing of my headlight covers, shampooing of the chocolate- and melted-Gummi-Bear-encrusted seats, and a ride home in a luxury SUV. Also, a free latte.
The work was done at Lavaggio, and so when I returned later to pick up the car, that is where the driver deposited me. I was struck by the soothing environment of the waiting lounge, which is clearly designed for the discriminating high-value car owner. My peeling Galant rolled up all shiny and Gummi-Bear-free just as I was about to be late for school pickup, so I tipped the attendant, got my receipt, and rolled away.
Only later did I realize that the job wasn’t quite done. It seemed that if I had stayed just a few minutes longer, the exterior wash and hand-dry could have been finished and everything would have been fine. But my husband noticed that the car’s door panel and some of the hubcaps still looked dirty.
And here’s where Lavaggio, and specifically Hamid, who is the delightfully friendly man who writes up orders in the car wash lanes back across Reyes Adobe, really stood out and made me a happy customer, hopefully for a long time to come.
I hesitated about returning to ask for an exterior re-do, because they were already so lovely to me. But after thinking about it, I realized it was up to me to give the company the chance to show excellent customer service. After all, if I ran a car wash business, and my customers were driving around town with impeccable car interiors but dusty exteriors, how would that be a great advertisement for me?
Side note – I had also been reading Dave Ramsey’s book EntreLeadership, which is all about good business, and taking care of the customer. Filled with the spirit of that book, I knew I had a responsibility to communicate my level of satisfaction to that business.
So, after school the next day with my kids in the backseat (“No eating in the car EVER. AGAIN,” I told them) I went back to AHH Car Wash, found Hamid, and showed him the car.
“Say no more,” he said. “I will have it washed again for you. Please relax.”
I sighed with relief, feeling sheepish that I was primed to give a full apologetic explanation for why I had returned, and settled into the waiting area with the boys, who were uncharacteristically calm. Probably because the older one had a new book to read, and the younger one had a bag of salted caramel kettle corn all to himself.
A few minutes later, Hamid found us and said that he decided to send the car back to Lavaggio and gift me with a super fancy exterior wash package, if I didn’t mind waiting. He drove all three of us across the street, and we were welcomed into Lavaggio’s lounge as if we were rolling up in the cobalt blue Audi R5 that was idling in front. The receptionist offered to order us lunch, and gave us free reign at the snack bar, the three computers, and the television. I was grateful simply for the incredibly comfortable leather couch.
While the Mom Car was pampered alongside two enormous SUV’s and a convertible Maserati, the boys played computer games and watched TV, I read my book and even dozed off for a few minutes, and we all enjoyed unlimited Nutri Grain cereal bars. An hour later, my car came glistening to the front of the driveway, and it looked amazing. If you squint you can’t see the dent in the driver’s side back door where I lovingly grazed a parking garage control box in 2006, or the peeling paint (manufacturer defect) along the window wells. If those things were not present, the car looks brand new. In fact, I drove a few friends around the other night, and when they got in one of them asked “Is this car new?”
I felt a lot better about investing so much money in a car cleaning. If I get it cleaned (or train my children to wash the car) more often, I won’t have to have such an intensive cleaning done again soon. But when I do, I won’t wonder where to go. It’ll be Lavaggio.
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