laundry and quarters

Our building has a laundry room on the first floor with about 8 washers and 16 dryers. It costs 50¢ to wash and 25¢ per 15 minutes of drying; one load usually takes 45 minutes to dry, so it costs us $1.25 per load of laundry (plus soap).

However, one of the washers has been running for free over the past several weeks, and two of the dryers have also been running for free.  Most other people are hesitant to use them, which I find odd.  Other than not forcing you to put in money to use them, they aren't "broken" in any way.

We produce roughly two loads of laundry a week, between clothes, towels, and cleaning rags.  When we had more clothes, we used to do laundry every two weeks.  Now, we're in a pretty regular habit of doing it once a week, usually on Fridays or Saturdays.

However, when I was cleaning tonight, I ended up with a decent pile of gross wet cleaning rags, and instead of letting them sit in the laundry basket all week, I decided to run down and put them in the free washer, which was empty, despite some other washers being occupied.  After they were done, I was able to use the free dryers too.

Why don't people use the free machines?  This baffles me.  Do they think that they are broken?  I had to explain this to a fellow resident the other day.  He was waiting for me to take out my laundry, but the free washing machine was ready to go. "Why don't you use that one?  It's free," I said. "Yeah, but I don't want to waste quarters on it if it's broken." "But it's free. You just put it in and press the button.  If I'm wrong, all you waste is a little soap." Eventually he got it.

I'm transitioning to rearrange my laundry schedule to optimize use of the free machines, as long as it doesn't get in the way of anything else I need to do.  Other students, who are very bright, no doubt, are avoiding these machines, and continue to postpone doing laundry as long as possible, doing huge batches at once.  I guess I'm optimizing for money and other folks for time?

More generally, why do folks continue to use inferior products or systems?  Mental effort to switch?

The moral of the story: if you have laundry machines at home, enjoy them.


Erik K said...

What puzzles me more than the users' apparent disinclination to use the free machines is the lackadaisical behaviour of those whose job is to empty the machines' coinboxes. You'd think they would investigate the reason for the discrepancy in the takings obtained from each machine, especially if the electricity consumption of each is separately metered (which it might or not be) and can be compared with the revenue generated from that machine.

The users' aversion to using the free machines can probably be explained by one or more of the following:

1) Unthinking habit.
2) Psychological comfort with the predictability of machines that function as they were originally set up to do.
3) Guilt at taking advantage of the providers of a resource that is normally charged for and obviously costs the provider of the service in terms of the electricity used and maintenance/repair overheads.
4) Fear that they will be confronted and/or shamed if they are found using the machines without paying.

There may of course be some overlap between the above-cited possibilities.

ajbc said...

Electricity is included in the rent for my building--my bet is we don't have individual meters on the apartments, let alone the laundry machines. The facility is part of a university campus--the revenue from the machines is trivial next to rent and tuition.
The situation could easily be that all the machines are free all the time without much of a financial impact (especially if rent was raised to compensate). My hunch is that 1 and 2 are the biggest drivers, but maybe I'm just pessimistic about the morality of the community. I hadn't really thought of it as something to feel guilty about until you framed it in that way.