Loyalty and Learning

Dec 27, 2004

By John Hennessy

Teachers are reading to students. Students are reading to other students. Students are getting help with homework. Are you at:

  1. The local library?

  2. Study hall at the local grammar school?

  3. A Clean Rite Laundromat in Brooklyn?

Based on an article in Reveries magazine, the correct answer is C. This interesting situation is due to a creative student-teacher and the president of Laundry Capital who runs the 81-store Clean Rite chain.

Student-teacher Georgina Smith was passing her local Clean Rite Laundromat and saw lots of children running around, playing videogames, or just doing nothing at all. Seeing an opportunity in the night-time chaos, Ms. Smith called John Sabino, president of Laundry Capital, and suggested introducing a few teachers and some stacks of books so the kids could learn (and their parents could maybe catch a break).

“It wasn’t a call you expect,” said Mr. Sabino, “but in three or four minutes she had me with the concept. It’s nice to think someone can leave the stores with more than clean laundry.” He also figured out it might not be a bad way to attract new customers.

Ms. Smith’s school, Brooklyn College, backed her idea financially and also provided student-teachers who receive field credit for time spent with the kids at Clean Rite. Ms. Smith points out that the experience is really valuable for the student-teachers, because it gives them dedicated “time to get to know how children think or learn to ask the questions that will elicit the a higher level of thinking and get to that ‘aha’ moment.”

This program is a dream-come-true for at least one Clean Rite customer, Morris Rogers, whose child has cerebral palsy as well as learning issues, but who could not afford private tutors. He just can’t believe that a solution materialized at his Laundromat, of all places.

Moderator’s Comment: What are some other, non-standard,
mutually beneficial partnerships that retailers can develop to help both their
customers and their business?

This unusual combination is the result of people with
open minds understanding and willing to work toward mutual benefit. The same
might be said of Starbucks and others offering wireless Internet access or Borders
offering in-store concerts.

This particular marriage of benefits with business is
remarkable in that it has not happened before. Other winning combinations might
be local charities with business supporting missions. For example, one potential
partnership that could work for a retailer in Chicago is Direct Effect Charities

Rather than focus on fundraising, this charity, as its
name implies, works to connect people in need with people who want to help.
During the Christmas season, the charity obtains letters to Santa from underprivileged
school children. These letters are then put in the hands of people who want
to buy a gift for the child ($25 maximum per gift to keep it fair). I know they
would welcome the opportunity to partner with a retailer to help get more letters

A retailer that chose to partner with this charity would
benefit from sales of gift items to satisfy the letter writer’s request while
simultaneously delivering a unique and compelling community benefit – not to
mention helping to make Christmas a lot brighter for a bunch of kids. Business
can’t be all bad if it can deliver Christmas gifts or improved reading scores
in the process of improving sales.

John Hennessy – Moderator

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