Viewpoint Editor Joe Waters takes aim at the deal agreed by Washstation and the St Andrews Students' Association in November.
Great leaders throughout history seem to make a big thing about waving around magnificent deals that they claim to have negotiated—deals that, in their eyes, will solve all ills facing their people. Neville Chamberlain held aloft the Munich Declaration, announcing “Peace for our time!”, Boris Johnson waves his miraculous deal about pro-claiming it enables us to “Get Brexit Done”, and closer to home, our own Student Association President, Jamie Rodney, proudly slew the beast of Washstation, presumably saying he is the man to Get Washstation Washed.
Unfortunately, however, I have my reservations regarding Rodney’s grande affaire. The deal, in my view, promises pretty much nothing of substance to those of us who actually have to put up with Washstation. The bargain struck between the Association and Washstation is made of three parts. Firstly, Washstation has agreed to overhaul its website—no skin off their nose, it’ll probably take one person about six hours to do this, if that. Part of this will be introducing more precise top-ups for Washstation credit as opposed to the ludicrous multiple-of-five system currently in use. Great! Progress! Our lord and master Jamie has gained a momentous concession from the corporate giant. Alas, however, this is the first and last benefit of any real worth from the deal.
The second part of the deal aims to “improve transparency and accountability”. Washstation will send a corporate lackey into each hall every now and then for them to receive all sorts of stick regarding the fact that the service is expensive for what it is—quite frankly, £2.30+ for just a thirty nine minute low spin, low temperature wash is ridiculous. Not only this, the machines can ruin whites with a mysterious gunk that often forms in the rims of the ma-chines’ doors. The tumble driers might as well pass wind on clothes for all the good they sometimes do and their incapability to handle objects just about every other washing machine in the country can manage is silly—because of course, horrendous foreign objects such as fabric conditioner are obviously a menace to any laundry appliance, aren’t they?
Let’s be fair, none of us have much confidence these listeners will take a great deal from these meetings. Quite frankly, I’ll eat a pair of my smelliest socks if Washstation gets wind from these meetings that their washers are absolute rubbish and actually either improve them or reduce the eye-watering cost—and this is now a legally binding declaration from myself, in case you don’t believe me, dear reader.
Thirdly, the deal promises that Washstation will put a portion of its profits into a fund to provide free washes to those in financial hardship.This, on the surface, sounds like a good idea. However, like the Elsbels Hotel in the magnificent ‘70s British comedy Carry on Abroad, peeling away the visage of a shiny new building reveals a whole array of problems, as well as the fact (spoiler alert, in case you want to watch it) it’s built on a flood-plain that will eventually wash the whole thing down the river.
Washstation is purposefully vague about what “financial hardship”means. Does it mean a student has to be choosing between laundry and food before they can access the fund? Do they have to be several thousand pounds overdrawn? Unable to pay the bailiffs banging at the door on account of your flowery-smelling knickers? A bit more clarification on what “financial hardship” means, please Mr Rodney.
Moreover, how can one access this fund? The deal failed to provide any sort of proposed mechanism for how this hardship fund will work. How much proof will we need of our destitution? Will we have to divulge potentially sensitive personal information? In this regard, I’m worried the accord might be all bark and no bite. I’m sure we’d all be absolutely astounded if a large corporation went back on its word to help its customers. If they did, you could say my gob would never have been more smacked.
Regardless of these problems,there is a massive elephant in the room that the Students’ Association hasn’t addressed.The problem? That the deal goes barely partway to addressing the main concerns of the Washstation campaign. The bargain struck between the Association and Washstation is focussed on incredibly niche issues and ignores the broader value-for-money problem with using Washstation in Halls of Residence. I mentioned earlier that £2.30 plus £1.10 for a broadly unsatisfactory wash and dry cycle is most certainly not of good value considering most domestic appliances provide longer and better washes for a fraction of the price. Last time I checked the Smartmeter at home, a wash and dry cost us roughly 80 pence in electricity and not very much in water costs.
The opinion that most students have, as well as myself, is that the University could do a lot better out-side of a contract with Washstation. For example, in some university residences belonging to our University of Leeds, laundry machines are included as part of student flats and their costs are lumped into the rent; and if it works for Peter, why can’t it work for Paul?
Regardless of whether it is possible for the University of St Andrews to emulate this exorcism of Washstation and Circuit from its halls as Leeds did, it is clear that Washstation’s cost,quality of service and value for money have barely been touched by the deal announced in late November. Now, the eagle-eyed among you might realise that my first article for The Saint was defending the record of Washstation’s predecessor, Circuit Laundry, and as such you could say my blethering now is a bunch of hypocritical poppycock. To that I say that I’ve now lived with and endured Washstation/Circuit for roughly an additional twelvemonths since I wrote that article, and quite frankly things have gone very much downhill since.
Furthermore, it has been well over two months now since the Student’s Association announced their deal,and, to the best of my knowledge, and in the immortal words of Theresa May, “nothing has changed”. The website is still an archaic-looking monstrosity that would make even the most amateurish 1990s web designer sigh and look upon it in pity.
Secondly,having worked out that I’d need roughly £24 of credit to last the term, you can imagine my despair when I was forced to fork out a whole extra hard-earned pound.
Finally, and most importantly,where is my corporate lackey upon whom I can heap my disdain? All of this, combined with the fact it’s almost genuinely cheaper to have exterior laundry services collect, wash, fold, and deliver a fresh set of clothes to your door every fortnight than use Washstation should be a sign to all of us that something is wrong, and it should be a sign to President Rodney that his deal, similar to Chamberlain’s (and potentially Johnson’s), may just be a bunch of bluster.