Owners of a South Surrey car-wash operation are crediting social media with helping locate a coin-box machine that was stolen earlier this month.
Ryan Oliver said the equipment, which controls the Splashes Wash Lodge car wash, was pried off of its concrete base and hauled away early Dec. 2. Surveillance video of the theft shows two culprits pull up to the business at 3050 King George Blvd., use a crow bar on the machine and flee with it in a dark-coloured, two-door Honda Civic.
Oliver estimates the thieves got about $1,000 in coins for their efforts. The machine had cost him and co-owner Greg Horton about $20,000.
Oliver said last week that he posted information on the crime and a reward to Facebook a week later, on Dec. 9, and that evening – more than 25,000 views later – he received unexpected news.
“I got a person that said, ‘I think I might know where it is,’” he said.
“Some complete stranger managed to see it in the corner of a (Newton) parking lot.”
Oliver said he got the idea to post the details after remembering a story he heard a couple years ago, of an individual being reunited with a lost camera through social media.
“I thought, you know what, let’s give this a try,” he said.
The success was a relief because, while the money was gone and the machine destroyed beyond repair, there’s a good chance “tons and tons” of data regarding pre-sell wash cards that was stored on its memory chip can be recovered.
“We desperately wanted it back, so we could honour our customers,” Oliver said.
Thankfully, the theft did not force any closure of the business. Oliver and Horton were able to bring in a wireless terminal to take payments, and the system is being operated manually until a new machine – which will be “completely encased in concrete” – arrives, likely in the new year.
Oliver said he remains in awe of the power of social media.
“The day I posted the story, it went out to 26,944 people, according to Facebook, which is unreal,” he said.