At the beginning of this year, I must admit a slight spark of joy was ig – nited inside of me when I found out that, upon my return to student accommodation, I would no longer be shackled in the chains of Circuit Laundry. Finally, the demon that was Circuit had been exorcised from the grounds of Fife Park and replaced with what I thought was going to constitute the redemption of my University laundry experience – Washstation Laundry.
Unfortunately, Washstation Laundry was not the saviour I was expecting it to be.
Enough is enough. Circuit and Washstation must atone for their sins, and the Change.org petition circulating Facebook informed me that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
The petition, which is directed at Washstation and Circuit themselves, aims to share student “discontent with the services tendered on your behalf.” Lined up as the causes for this discontent are all the usual culprits: slow customer service, poor quality, and high cost. Move over student anti-war protests of the 1970s: the student laundry revolt is imminent. Rumours of “washed” clothes coming out smelling of liquids that are far removed from laundry detergent, or covered in mould rather than fabric softener, have been circling campus since Circuit’s genesis, and while I can’t personally attest to these experiences, I can certainly testify about the slow customer service. Usually, let it be noted, I am not one to air my dirty laundry in public, but, at the beginning of this semester, the Washstation card machine in my halls of residence was either partially or completely broken from the end of Freshers until several weeks into term.
When I, who was quickly running out of clean clothes and sans card, was told by reception that the Washstation repair team had been called but they were unsure when they would be here, I was given absolutely no alternative other than to wait – luckily, I have a kind flatmate who lent me her card. Truly traumatising, I know.
I’m aware that perhaps I’m being a tad overdramatic – are the University’s laundry services really worth kicking up such a fuss about? They unequivocally are. Not, however, on the grounds of my personal grievance with slow service, or because of a dated website, but on the grounds of cost.
For many at St Andrews, the cost of laundry does not require much thought – a load of laundry is merely akin to an extra Starbucks drink. At most, the service is a mild inconvenience. Thus, for many, the strongest feeling that can be garnered towards the issue at hand is apathy.
However, what cannot be denied, is the necessity of having to do laundry (if you do deny this, I beg of you to reconsider). A basic necessity whose current cost is far too high at almost £5 a cycle. This means that for those of us who have to budget down to the coin, having to dry your clothes twice because they’re still damp can tip you over the financial edge. It’s easy to forget that it’s a privilege not to have to financially plan when you do your laundry: when accommodation is self-paid and its cost often exceeds the maximum Scottish student loan by over £1000, students are already at negative bank balances before the unavoidable cost of laundry is added. It isn’t unheard of that students often spend up to 10 per cent of their budget on laundry, and as there is no alternative, they can’t avoid it. The cost of laundry here can push some students to humiliating circumstances, with some testimonials documenting students choosing between scrimmaging items in friends’ loads or having to smell for the next week.
In order to put into perspective just how high the costs of the University’s laundry services are, we can compare the cost that we are charged with the cost of self-service laundry machines that aren’t run by external providers. Accommodation providers that run their own self-service laundry facilities for guests can charge as little as £2.50 to wash and £0.60 to dry. So, I must ask, why doesn’t St Andrews follow their lead? Shouldn’t St Andrews run their own laundry services in-house? Such a necessity surely should not be run for profit. The costs charged to students must there – fore be lowered so that all students can have better access to laundry.
For now, at least, it is obvious that the University is locked into some form of contract with these external suppliers. However, this does not mean that the University can wash their hands of the situation – instead, they need to address student demands as it is clear that the current situation is simply not acceptable. We must act and keep up pressure on Washstation to improve their service. My fellow students, sign the petitions, send the letters and join the picket lines – Washstation is our battle to win and we must ensure that we do.