UB's new-and-improved Ellicott Complex laundry system is anything but

Updated technology overcomplicates what used to be a simple process

Laundry tends to be a consistently annoying chore – especially for students living in a shared space – and despite the efforts of Campus Living, a new mobile app and swipe system has done nothing but move the irritation online.

The installation of card swipe consoles in laundry rooms in the Ellicott Complex, along with the rollout of a new mobile app, was supposed to simplify the process and allow students to reserve machines, search for availability and view wait times.

The app sounds promising. It’s also clear the app is a response from Campus Living, who made an effort to respond to students’ complaints about the process when staff conducted a survey, finding residents felt there weren’t enough machines and they didn’t know when they were available.

This new system, which also limits students to a maximum of three machines at a time, seems to address these problems.

What sounds good on paper, however, isn’t translating into improved experiences in the dorms’ laundry rooms.

Even if students don’t want to use the app, they have to enter their information into the consoles installed in the laundry rooms and swipe their UB IDs to access a machine.

And that process is inconvenient at best – residents have to go back and forth from the console to the washer and dryer, adding several steps to a process that’s tedious from the start.

This annoyance is especially irksome to students who don’t see the need to use the app that corresponds with the new consoles, as they don’t see any benefit from the added inconvenience they’re experiencing.

Many of the aspects to the updated system reflect thorough research of residents’ experiences on the part of Campus Living – the three machine limit, for example, was selected because survey data suggested students typically don’t use more than that number at a time.

But this clearly isn’t the case with a new 45-minute time limit, as students have grown frustrated because they can only reserve machines for 45 minutes at a time – drying loads of laundry requires longer than that, and accordingly, now requires multiple ID card swipes and machine reservations.

Automatic emails are also problematic, as all students – even those not using the app – receive notifications about their laundry. Because residents swipe their UB IDs, the system has their email information and sends multiple messages reminding students about the status of their laundry.

For some students, this could certainly be helpful – it’s not uncommon for students to forget their laundry and unintentionally abandon their clothes, to the frustration of other residents.

But though the emails aren’t an entirely misguided idea, students should be able to opt out if they choose.

A more flexible system in general would improve students’ experiences in the laundry rooms.

This update has promise. Some of the elements seem useful – like the app itself, which has information about wait times and available machines, and the option of email reminders.

But the required swiping of IDs, multiple trips to and from the consoles and incessant notifications are all stymieing what could be an efficient system.

Campus Living should have another go at these changes and listen carefully to student feedback in order to use technology to improve the process of doing laundry in the dorms, rather than overcomplicate it.

The editorial board can be reached at editorial@ubspectrum.com