System upgrade fails to address common dorm laundry problems

Illustration of a person crouched before a laundry machine with their phone in their hand.
Halcyon Orvendal / The Mossy Log

When I saw Campus Living’s email about the laundry system upgrade over the summer, I could not help but put quotes around the word “upgrade” in my head. I hate having to download new apps; finding the right app, making sure it works on my (admittedly old) phone, making an account and worrying about permissions and data collection. Now that I have had time to thoroughly test the new system, I can confidently reaffirm my negativity.

First, I feel obligated to acknowledge my own biases. I am decidedly an anti-smartphone luddite who usually hates change. That said, when the advantages are obvious, I sometimes reconsider. Early in the semester, you could have heard me complaining loudly about the new tap card system, berating the university for spending undoubtedly large sums of money to “fix” a system that worked perfectly. Now, however, I spend my days joyously beeping into my dorm through my pocket.

The laundry room problems in years past have always been the laundry itself. People leave it in the machines. It can be extremely frustrating to go down to the laundry room, and discover that every washer is full of stagnant clean clothes; you are left with the choice of pulling out someone else’s laundry and putting it on top of the machine, or waiting an unknown amount  of time for them to arrive. 

The new system utterly fails to address this issue. Sure, it tells you which machines are running (though this is dubious as well — it once said that four dryers were available when in fact all were running), but it cannot help you if people leave their laundry sitting. Just as before, I enter the laundry room to find a row of stopped yet full washers and dryers. 

A much better solution would have been to simply buy several laundry hampers for each dorm. I estimate there are between 100 and 200 washers and dryers on campus. IKEA lists baskets at around $10 a pop. Even buying a laundry basket for every single machine would be trivial by the college’s standards. Fear not, however, as the app does not just fail to solve old problems, it also creates brand new ones.

Apps are increasingly becoming a necessity in everyday life, which comes with a host of issues. In addition to enabling the ever-growing megacorporation spy networks, requiring apps for essential needs has several more direct issues. If your phone breaks, you cannot do laundry until you get a new one. This also increases the stress when your phone breaks, as the dirty laundry piles higher. There are inconveniences for the college, too; since LC does not charge students for laundry services, they have to fill up each student’s account with money. The old system was easier to understand and created less work for everyone involved.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find an estimate on how much the upgrade to the app ended up costing, but I feel certain it was more than its failure to solve any problem was worth. Especially because, to my knowledge — and this is my most important critique of the new laundry system — the students were not asked first. This goes for the new cards as well. Even though I personally like the hands-free tapping, it is unacceptable that the college spent money making widespread changes affecting the student body without asking us first. Nothing makes this more clear than the case of the new laundry app, which creates work without doing anything useful.

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