Within sight of Denver International Airport’s distinctive roofline there is a large service center surrounded by nothing but airport parking lots and innumerable rental car companies. The center consists of a large convenience store, gas pumps, a fast-food burger franchise, a sandwich shop, a donut shop, and a car wash. It is ideally located for gassing up rental cars before returning them, thus avoiding ruinous refueling charges. That is what brought me to this location.

The place is busy. I couldn’t help but wonder why. Surely it couldn’t depend solely on airport traffic. Still, I had to wait for a spot at a gas pump to become available, which allowed me the time to look around. In a far off corner of the site stands the typical convenience store in-bay automatic car wash. For all the traffic and activity, nobody was paying it any attention. My interest was of course piqued. I had to give it a try.

The wash offers three packages with $7, $9, and $11 price points. The basic wash offers only a foam bath, spot-free rinse, and “deluxe” dry. Being in a rental car I had no intention of splurging, even though the paucity of features in the entry-level wash virtually demands an upgrade. Purchase at the pump is available, but I chose to pay at the counter inside the store for the cheapest wash.

The pathway to the wash entrance requires a sharp right-hand turn, which made it difficult if not impossible to come within arm’s length of the pay station. To lay a finger on the touch screen, I had to either get out of the car or move the car closer with back-and-forth maneuvering. The wash is a soft-touch friction type using foam wash material, which, by the looks of it, had either been replaced recently or was not getting much use. I appreciated the relatively smooth operation compared to the stuttering and jerking I’ve experienced in some other IBAs.

I looked forward to the drying cycle. This IBA has an onboard dryer, requiring no guesswork on my part as to whether I’m driving too slowly or too fast under a freestanding dryer. Alas, I have to seriously question this function being labeled “deluxe.” I had to use the wipers on my way out of the bay.

I remain puzzled. What market does this wash serve? Surely not airport traffic; the car rental companies have their own wash equipment; passing traffic can’t be it. Or was it just part of a package deal — c-store, gas, food, wash?

It is with profound sadness that we report the passing on Saturday, August 18 of Auto Laundry News classified ad manager, Pati Ferraro. That was Pati’s official title, but she was so much more.
In fact, her friendly voice was every caller’s first introduction to our company — even on those rare occasions when foul weather would keep staff at home. Pati would forward office calls to her personal telephone to ensure that no call went unanswered. She took on administrative duties in advertising and it was Pati who made sure we had everything we needed at the tradeshows. If you filled out a subscription card at a car wash show, know that Pati was instrumental in getting it there. A valued colleague for more than 20 years, her absence will be acutely felt.