Students say laundry machines are cleaning out their wallets instead of washing their clothes

Maddie Barrow said that many students resort to putting up homemade signs on machines that aren’t working. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/MADDIE BARROW

Students seem to have a variety of adjectives to describe what doing laundry is like on campus. However, one seems to come up more often than the others: frustrating. 

The laundry experience on campus is similar to that of a laundromat. Students haul their collection of dirty clothes to the nearest laundry facility, and pay a total of $2 to wash and dry one load of laundry. Students may pay with quarters directly at the washer/dryer or with their Bull Bucks on a communal automated machine.

With both methods of payment, students must choose a washer or dryer and hope it works properly. However, many students have revealed that this sounds easier in theory than in practice at USF. 

Emily Pereira, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences and a frequent at the Juniper-Poplar Hall (JP) laundry facility, said this practice does, in fact, backfire often.

“(Doing laundry on campus) is amazingly frustrating,” Pereira said. “There’s always a problem with the laundry facility — it’s so annoying. The last time I went to do laundry, half my clothes came out smelling like chlorine and the other half were in a machine that apparently didn’t turn on so the bottom half was soaking and the top half was bone dry.”

Megan Malone, a freshman majoring in public health, said she also frequents the laundry facility in JP and seems to have similar complaints.

“Doing laundry on campus is practically a guessing game,” Malone said. “You are unsure whether or not the machine will actually work. About 1/5 of the time, I have had problems where I have lost money. I find it common for washers and dryers to be down.”

Andy Johnson, the director of operations and outreach for Housing and Residential Education, said he isn’t aware of any specific complaints, but is empathetic with students experiencing these inconveniences.   

“I honestly don’t know how often we’re hearing about it (students losing money while attempting to use a washer/dryer) and in my opinion, that is stealing from students,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure the students are getting what they’re asking for.” 

Johnson said if students do lose money while attempting to do laundry on campus, there are a number of ways to issue formal complaints, including emailing Housing and Residential Education, calling/visiting the main office and talking to the residential life coordinator.

While issuing a complaint may alert Housing of the problem, students must contact the vendor of the machines, Mac-Gray, to get an actual refund on lost money. 

Sam Unger, a freshman majoring in personal financial planning, said the refund process is too complicated considering he’d only get a dollar or two back in the end. According to his experience, he had to know the serial code of the washing machine and the vendor had to come out to determine if the machine was actually broken.

Another contributing factor to students losing money on these machines seems to be a lack of proper communication of what machines are down. 

The MyUSF app is supposed to show exactly what machines are up and running, but according to Malone, it can be confusing which ones are down since some have signs directly posted on the machines and some only show as down on the app.

“The number of washers and dryers not working varies, but at least one of each is always out of order,” Maddie Barrow, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences, said. “This is either as a result of a maintenance sign or a student written letter that may have been placed on the machine, but these appear to take a while to be taken off and it is unclear as to whether the machine was actually fixed or not.”

While this may be an issue, Johnson said Housing’s facilities team cleans the laundry facilities daily as well as works with the vendor to ensure speedy repairs of broken machines and regular preventative maintenance. According to Johnson, Housing recognizes that laundry is an important aspect of living on campus and therefore they try to have as little downtime as possible. 

However, Johnson said the most common reason these machines break down is due to user error.

“What we find most of the time is students will overfill the machines,” Johnson said. “They’re trying to maximize their dollar, they’ll overfill the machine and the machine will come out of balance which will then take it down. So, sometimes it’ll lock the door, especially if there’s water in there. Then the service technician will need to come out and release it. That is typically the biggest issue.”   

Unger said this inconveniently happened to him during a particularly difficult laundry experience.

“I went to do laundry Sunday (March 25) night around 6:30 p.m. and when I paid the washing machine wouldn’t start, of course, but the door stayed locked after I put my clothes in,” Unger said. “I went to the help desk and they called maintenance, but it took like three hours for them to come unlock it.

“Finally, I switched machines around 10 p.m. and then put it in a dryer at 11 p.m. I go back down at 12 a.m. to grab it and my clothes were still wet. I switched dryers and finally finished my laundry around 1 a.m., over 6 hours later.”

According to Johnson, there are about 230 washers and dryers on campus which can be a lot to handle at times. They are serviced by Mac-Gray at the end of summer and winter breaks. Johnson said the vendor has a good track record of fixing broken machines within one business day. 

Even with this frequent service, Barrow said she expects something to go wrong during every trip she makes to the Holly M laundry facility. She said this is usually due to faulty machines that do not complete a full wash and leave her clothes soaking wet. This, of course, will require another $1 for a second wash.

“The machines themselves are also old and do not appear to actually get fixed,” Barrow said. “With the brand new facility of Holly M, the decision to put old machines in the facility was somewhat unexpected.”

According to Johnson, the laundry machines in Holly were installed in 2005 and are coming up at the end of their life. However, machines in other facilities are rather new with the JP machines being installed in 2015. 

“It (doing laundry) is fairly easy, except for whenever the washers and dryers take your money which happens 90 percent of the time,” Delinger Chance, a freshman majoring in marketing, said. “Then it becomes frustrating. It is also frustrating to have to load Bull Bucks onto my ID every other week. I lose money almost every time I do laundry and my friends lose money even more often than me.”

While the word frustrating may come up often when this issue is brought up, Johnson assures residents that Housing cares and will work to improve the laundry situation. 

“We want to be accessible as possible to make sure it’s a positive residential experience,” Johnson said.