Up on the Bluff: Counting Quarters

Alan Duff

Ask any Lawrence alum that is in a graduate or Ph.D. program what they miss most about Lawrence, and they will probably say the free printing. During these interactions, claims are often spoken that you won’t really appreciate it until you graduate.
But rest assured it’s something I enjoy immensely and a privilege I abuse to no end whenever I get a hankering to murder a tree in the most frivolous way possible by printing a book’s worth of articles, or in some cases an actual book.
Of course the printing isn’t actually “free,” but by having the fee built into our tuition, it saves students from the frustrations of collecting quarters and worrying about words per page rather than cents per page. It’s an effective policy and one that should be applied to other services at Lawrence like our washers and dryers.
By providing “free” laundry services that could be accessed by swiping one’s Lawrence ID, students would be encouraged to do laundry more often and not have to hoard quarters like leprechauns, or fill up their Viking Gold accounts.
This policy would be very easy to enact, considering that it could be added on to the housing fee that all on-campus students have to pay as part of their living costs. Students who are off-campus would have the option to opt out of the payment, and this would probably work for everybody’s benefit, since off-campus students for the most part have their own laundry service arrangements and it would be unfair to have them pay for the same service twice.
Now, any service that charges students a one-time payment for unlimited uses has some risks associated with it, as any buffet knows. In some cases this would be viewed as a negative, but the opposite holds true for laundry.
Costs discourage use, and in this case nobody wins. Rather than waiting until a student’s pile of clothes is taller than they are before they feel it’s cost effective to use the washing machine for one load when they should have done three, the sunken costs will encourage students to do loads regularly.
Furthermore, students wouldn’t have to worry about sacrificing their precious dollars for quarters, or worrying that they only have eight quarters, instead of nine in the many buildings that have yet to upgrade to the card swipe system.
The one real issue with this proposal is the current contract with Mac Gray. At this time, Lawrence is contracted with the company for a pay-as-you-use service until 2016. However, changing this payment method could work to everyone’s benefit if a contract re-negotiation were to be sought or if the contract were to be changed when it came up for renewal.
By receiving a payment at the beginning of each term, Mac Gray would have a much easier time collecting money, instead of collecting quarters every few weeks. This would be great for everybody as both Mac Gray and Lawrentians wouldn’t have to be hassled with micro payments, and everyone could just do their laundry in peace.
If that’s not possible, I wouldn’t advocate that Campus Life ditch Mac Gray and return to the stone ages of Lawrence University run laundry services. I don’t think anyone wants that, especially when one considers the amount of dysfunctional dryers, quarter eating machines and ventilation systems that looked like they belonged in a gerbil cage rather than a laundry room.
Until then, I’ll just continue to hoard quarters. Remember folks, hygiene is priceless, not $2.25.