MacGray conspiracy

By Middlebury Campus

How many times have you had your laundry in the washer and ready to go, having snagged a precious available washer on a busy Sunday afternoon, only to find that the balance on every one of the five MacGray laundry cards you had lying around your room is a quarter short of the price of a wash? Or had the card reader give you a “CARD ERROR” message, followed by a random, meaningless number? And then trekked to the card dispenser in McCullough to discover that it won’t accept your card, or that you don’t have a bill in one of the prescribed amounts or that the machine seems to possess on this particular day a distaste for Alexander Hamilton’s resplendent, green-tinted visage?

I am not someone who is quick to anger, but when I do feel rage welling up within me, it is usually directed at some inanimate object, and our college’s laundry regime easily takes home the prize for the technology that has provoked my fury most deeply and most consistently. The number of times I have been tempted to take an axe to one of the various sinister MacGray laundry machines in four years at Middlebury outnumbers the number of times in my entire life that I have felt the urge to strike another human by about ten to one. Seeing the entry reading “Incident: Vandalism/ Category: Laundry Card Dispenser” in the weekly Public Safety log would feel like a thrilling little victory, a small step in the underground revolution against the stranglehold that the corrupt MacGray empire has on our student body.

Of course, I’m exaggerating the severity of the situation. This whining is probably beginning to sound like a slight case of entitled-college-student syndrome — “First World Problems,” some call them. But isn’t it true that some of the most frustrating problems are the ones that could be solved with almost no effort?

Would it be so hard to allow the card dispensers to accept one-dollar bills? Or to use cards with a magnetic strip instead of an exposed computer chip that is so easily scratched, chipped or smudged? Or to give us the ability to add money to our cards in the laundry rooms themselves, instead of at a mere two locations on campus? Or just to pay at the actual laundry machine? What a revolutionary idea! The list goes on and on. Did anyone ever say there was a problem with good old coin-operated laundry, accompanied by a trusty change-maker? Any of these suggestions could be incorporated with a laughably small amount of actual effort.

I must add that my one customer service interaction with MacGray was pleasant and reasonable. I was in the thundering, subterranean Forest laundry room (surely the base of operations for when the machines become sentient and begin to kill us all), where there happened to be a MacGray technician servicing one of the perennially out-of-order card readers. I told him my card wasn’t working, and it had some money on it, and he pointed me towards a stack of green, no-postage-necessary envelopes in which I could deposit my card and send it off for a refund. There was a space that simply asked how much money I thought was on the card, on which I wrote $17, my rough estimate. (A strangely inaccurate refund method, if you ask me — couldn’t I just as well have put $50, without them being able to check?) I had to call them to confirm the address that they would send the check to; the people on the phone were very nice and didn’t transfer my call from department to department on one of those labyrinthine games of bureaucratic hot potato like the endlessly evil, perpetually baffling phone trees of Dell Customer Service. A couple weeks later, I received a check for $20, so I’m pretty sure I actually made a few bucks (potential scam idea?).

In the end, I was not greatly inconvenienced, but couldn’t all that have been avoided with a much more foolproof, streamlined system? Perhaps I should do some further research into our college’s laundry history — when the MacGray system was locked into place, and what sort of system we had before that. Because it seems like whoever made that call needs to be reminded that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Especially if you’re replacing it with a system that is needlessly complicated and incredibly prone to dysfunction.