President of the Students’ Association, Jamie Rodney, is to meet with the director of Washstation, Katy Mitchell, in November following a wealth of student complaints regarding the quality of the company’s laundry service in University halls of residence.
A meeting has been secured where the issues brought up in a student survey regarding Washstation’s service will be addressed. Numerous complaints have been made from hall residents about varying issues since the start of the academic year, including the company’s card machines and the function of the washers and dryers, as well as Washstation’s customer service.
Some machines started to breakdown within the first week of term, and other card machines began to fail shortly after. Students told The Saint that the physical machines in halls are more than unreliable.
Senior Student Ryan Lunney described how several machines broke in John Burnett Hall (JBH), which resulted in over 135 students sharing only two washing machines.
Commenting on the inconvenience of the issue, Mr Lunney stated, “This means people in halls haven’t been able to get things washed,” and the “entire hall was queuing to get their laundry done.”
Not isolated to JBH, machines have also been prone to breaking down in Whitehorn Hall, with only two washing machines available for use between 200 students at the beginning of the month.
First year student Alex Beckett reflected, “This leads to people throwing each other’s washed clothes out of the machines so that they can use them themselves; it’s just stressful and awkward to be frank.”
Mr Lunney claims that after a week of phone calls, Washstation eventually sent out an engineer to fix the broken machines in JBH, only for them to break again one hour after the engineer left. After weeks, Residential Services Manager eventually had to fix a broken washer which had been out of order for some time. After calling Washstation repeatedly, an RSM in JBH and a porter resulted to fixing the machine themselves.
Students have also complained on the high prices of Washstation’s laundry service. According to Mr Beckett, some students are even looking into hiring an external laundry company who come and collect students’ laundry from their halls. He told The Saint that the cost for an external company to wash, dry and redeliver laundry is smaller for students than it would be to do their own washing with Washstation. He said, “The fact that this is possible is absurd.”
A wealth of students across various halls in St Andrews share the same experiences with Washstation. One student in Whitehorn who spoke to The Saint claimed that their first load of washing was shrunk in the dyer, while the second load was still wet after 50 minutes.
The issue is not unique to the University of St Andrews, as several universities across the country, including the London School of Economics and the University of Essex, have voiced their troubles with Washstations’ sister laundry contractor, Circuit Laundry. Articles from University blogs and newspapers have lamented the alleged high prices and disappointing service of both Circuit Laundry and Washstation. These date back as far back as November of last year, suggesting that student complaints are yet to be appeased.
With these factors in mind, the Students’ Association have taken it into their hands to confront Washstation on the issues at hand and come to a resolution.
The action was kick started after a motion, J3-19 Motion Addressing Issues Raised About Laundry Providers in Halls of Residence, was passed at Joint Councils meeting last month.
One element of Mr Rodney’s mission against Washstation is a survey which asks students living in halls to fill out ratings on specific aspects of their laundry experiences.
The survey is designed to ascertain what the main issues people have with Washstation so that then further campaigning can be targeted towards those issues.
There is also a petition circulating around students in halls of accommodation, which, within a matter of weeks, has been filled out by 20 percent of all students in halls.
The Saint spoke to a student involved in the passing of the motion, Neve Kinahan, who comments on how the motion will help the Students’ Association in their goal to confronting Washstation. She explains, “This motion is mostly a call to reform, drawing attention to the issue to both students and faculty, allowing us to continue our investigation. [The motion] allows this issue to be campaigned for amongst students and gather personal information, as well as continue developing plans for resolution.”
Ms Kinahan explains how the alleged high prices of Washstation’s laundry service can be drastically detrimental to some students’ well-being, drawing on her personal experiences.
Prices for a load of washing cost students between £2.30 and £2.80, with drying costing £1.10. This means that if students were to separate their clothes between colours, whites and towels, this would rack up to approximately £10 every laundry run.
She said, “I’ve personally been on the campaign as a rep for underprivileged students. I’m the oldest of six [children] in a single-parent, low-income household .I spoke to Jamie about my problems affording basic things, like laundry, last year. He was really sympathetic and wanted to push for change.”
Ms Kinahan explains how the motion came to be, noting, “I found that the student council were really welcoming to someone who has an issue they’d like to speak on, but also [I] was blown away by how formal and structured everything was. Jamie took the information he had acquired and the statements from us students who wanted to get involved and drew up a motion, which was, in turn, debated and then passed.
“The motion really gives a voice to people like me, who find that five pounds to wash your bed sheets means no dinner for that day.”
In an official comment for The Saint, Mr Rodney states, “Laundry isn’t a glamorous political issue, but it’s an important one.
“We’ve had loads of complaints about Washstation since the start of the semester, and the response to the laundry survey that the Association is doing has been phenomenal.
“That’s mainly down to the students who have been putting in the hard yards to get the word out —freshers, senior students, post-grads,the kind of people who don’t usually get involved in Union campaigns.
“It’s a genuine grass-roots effort springing up around an issue people really care about, and that’s the most powerful sort of campaign in the world.”
Many students who spoke to The Saint have acknowledged that the present issues with Washstation are separated from University staff, such as Residential and Business Services and Residential Service Managers.
“RSMs have tried their best, but it’s the company that is being impossible and inaccessible,” Mr Lunney claimed.
Mr Rodney is also in agreement,commenting to The Saint, “I’m also grateful to the people in Residential and Business Services, who have been really responsive to student concerns.”
Despite this, a spokesperson for the Residential and Business Services staff told The Saint, “We understand the contractor who provides these services is aware and the issues are being addressed.”