Leader of the laundromat

A little bit of turn-of-the-century history:

It was a pretty efficient kick, given the size of the deadbolt; the jamb was nicely splintered. The perp’s efficiency, however, stopped there; not only did he overlook the camera hanging right beside the door, he didn’t get much of anything other than frustration. I calculate my losses at $3.25, from a dish of quarters I was saving up for laundry, and about five minutes’ time to tidy up.

Thirteen quarters out the damaged door. This is precisely why I am not going to mock this startup outfit that will ship you (in a mere two days) a $10 roll of quarters for $15:

Laundry pickup services are expensive and often have long turnaround times. For many folks, the biggest pain point is simply finding enough quarters. Banks have long lines and close early. Grocery and convenience stores aren’t always willing to give out more than a few dollars worth of quarters at a time. We put getting quarters on autopilot so you never have to worry about it again.

I need hardly point out that someone who is routinely visiting the local laundromat (which term used to be a trademark of Westinghouse) probably doesn’t have time to visit all those other places on a regular basis, and also probably doesn’t have three weeks’ worth of clothes on hand. And considering what a roll of quarters weighs — half a pound, unless you have the old silver coins on hand, in which case you’re probably not shoving half a dozen of them at a time into the nearest Speed Queen — a lot of that $5 markup is going just for shipping costs.

A decade ago, I spent $800 on laundry equipment so I wouldn’t have to do that again, plus God knows how much in subsequent years to keep the machines powered up and running. I don’t regret it for a moment. But if I hadn’t, I’d probably be sending off for a roll of quarters every two weeks.

(Who’s that banging on the piano? I don’t know.)







15 comments »

  1. fillyjonk »

    20 June 2014 · 9:35 pm

    Two thoughts:

    1. Some folks have been ridiculing this idea, that you’d have to be “stupid” to pay more than face value for quarters. It’s not paying more than face value, it’s a convenience fee, and I admit, if I were still dealing with the awful washerteria at the apartment complex I used to live in, I’d probably be ordering my quarters by mail, because some days it’s just too much to add in a trip to the bank on top of everything else.

    (I actually still have a jar of quarters, left over from that time, now I think of it. Yes, I moved them, and I didn’t spend them. I guess I keep them as insurance in case I have to deal with a laundromat again).

    2. That said, I’m incredibly grateful to have my own laundry equipment. And not just because it’s gross to find a used band-aid that’s not yours mixed in with “clean” towels.

  2. CGHill »

    20 June 2014 · 10:03 pm

    I’d read a couple of those mockings, which led me to look up the premise, which in turn prompted this defense.

  3. fillyjonk »

    20 June 2014 · 10:35 pm

    My response to the local radio mocking of it was, “If they can make a profit doing this, God bless them.”

  4. Roger Green »

    21 June 2014 · 4:49 am

    Truth is I loved going to the laundromat every couple weeks. Always got a roll of quarters from the nearby bank. Now we have a machine in the basement and every other day is laundry day, not special.

  5. McGehee »

    21 June 2014 · 8:03 am

    Coins accumulate in my pocket in such numbers that I suspect it would happen if I never set foot out of the house. Every time I change my trousers I end up pouring half a pound or more product of the United States Mint out of the pockets, and having no particular desire to pour them into the pockets of the fresh pair I generally dump all but a few quarters and dimes into the coin jar, which after a few months needs to be emptied and the coins rolled for deposit.

    Naturally, we have our own laundry equipment at home.

  6. Tatyana »

    21 June 2014 · 10:24 am

    When I lived in a rental I used laundromat across the street – for 6yrs – and I never had to go to the bank for quarters. The Korean guy who owns it always had a plastic cup full of quarters for change. No wonder: he’s the one who empties the machines every night. Doing the exchange for his customers is not even so much a favor for them as for himself: less metal to lag to the bank!

  7. fillyjonk »

    21 June 2014 · 10:39 am

    Hm. I guess I’ve just had incredibly bad laundromats. (I’ve never even seen one with an attendant who would make change, that’s a pretty brilliant idea).

    The last apartment I lived in (hopefully the last apartment I will ever live in) had six washers and six dryers for probably 56 apartments in the complex. Usually at least two of each were broken. That is typical for college-town apartment complexes, IME.

    I’d rather just chunk a load of laundry in and go do something else, and not have to worry about some jerky person dumping my wet laundry on the floor if I’m 2 minutes late to come in and change it over to the dryer. Or worrying about what I do if the washer finishes, people are waiting, and there are no free dryers. (I hung stuff up over the backs of kitchen chairs, the shower-curtain bar, and other places more times than I’d like to remember)

  8. CGHill »

    21 June 2014 · 12:13 pm

    Rather than use the ill-equipped apartment laundry, I would bundle my stuff up and shlep it to the commercial washery a mile down the road, where they had the big industrial-strength dryers and a bill changer that worked at least seven times out of ten.

  9. canadienne »

    21 June 2014 · 12:23 pm

    Up here in the temporarily unfrozen North we have one and two dollar coins which are pretty handy in laundromats and those few parking meters that haven’t been replaced by machines that issue tickets, and which use credit cars. I understand that you have dollar coins that nobody uses.

  10. Roger Green »

    21 June 2014 · 1:04 pm

    Yes, the American rejection of the dollar coin, like our discomfort with the metric system, proves how free we are. Or something.
    I use dollar coins all the time, for vending machines and buses.

  11. CGHill »

    21 June 2014 · 2:44 pm

    I like the dollar coin myself, but I’m pretty much in the minority here. It’s been a while since I’ve had to take the wash somewhere else — World Tour ’08, I think — and at that time, anyway, I didn’t see any machines equipped to take the metalbuck.

  12. McGehee »

    21 June 2014 · 3:32 pm

    I like the Sacagawea dollar, and would prefer it over paper bills if some Treasury czar were to exceed his lawful authority and issue a decree.

    It would make more sense than redesigning the bill, and modern machines can certainly distinguish it from the quarter. The complaint is that it’s harder for people to distinguish by touch than, say, the Eisenhower hubcap.

  13. Jan »

    22 June 2014 · 8:14 am

    The laundromat here (that I had to use for a month while my laundry room was rebuilt) doesn’t use coins at all. You get a magnetic swipe card that you can put $5 or $20 on (or whatever amount you want), then use in the machines. Refill it when you need to, or if you don’t want to keep the card turn it in and they refund you whats left on it. SO much easier!

  14. McGehee »

    22 June 2014 · 8:57 am

    When vending machines take debit cards, then you’ll see the old-fashioned $1 bill fade into history.

  15. CGHill »

    22 June 2014 · 11:20 am

    It must be imminent, then: one of our three snackage machines at the shop has just been retrofitted with a card reader.

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