I am now a card-carrying patron of the new laundromat at Park & Seventh.
OK, so it doesn’t quite have the cachet of being a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but it has a nice ring to it.
I made my way over there with two small, dirty rugs and a $10 roll of quarters only to find that all the new Speed Queen machines work on swipe cards. The attendant showed me how to get an initial balance on the card to get the rugs cleaned. The price for a small load was $1.89, which seemed like an odd figure until I checked the web site of the card company later.
It seems that one advantage to the laundry owner is that the price to use washers and dryers can be exquisitely modified in case of increased utility costs or whatever else might affect the bottom line. No longer must it be increments of 25 cents.
And the computerized system gives the owner an instant accounting of laundry use. According to one web site, the card system also reduces service calls by about one-third, because most of the problems are with the coin slides.
For the user, the card does away with the need to get lots of quarters to feed into the machines. The user may even get bonuses for filling the card with certain amounts. I saw a customer put in a $20 bill and get a $2 bonus.
Given that half of Plainfield’s residents are renters and have to do their wash somewhere, the card thing seems like a benefit. Granted, I can do most of my wash in the top-loading machines in the basement of my six-family building, but there are those bulky items that demand a front-loading machine.
Even property owners may have odd items that will not fit in home washers and may necessitate a trip to the laundromat.
An online search reveals that many college dorms have adopted card systems a long time ago and some multi-family apartment buildings have switched over. But the industry is generally still called “coin-operated laundries” and I have never seen this newfangled card concept in person before.
Whatever the payment system, I must say that the new laundry is a big step up from the former operation where most of the machines were out of order and the place was filthy. The new laundry is clean and bright, and while you wait for the spin cycle you may glance out to Park Avenue as I did and see a police officer on a Segway, that equally new gizmo in Plainfield.
A washday anecdote: In the mid-20th century, my Aunt Kay lived in a small coal-mining town in eastern Pennsylvania where the tyranny of custom was strictly enforced. Respectable women had their wash out on the line early Monday morning. Any lapse was duly noted and clucked over by the town matrons. Aunt Kay eventually confounded the system by getting a washer and dryer, and no one ever knew whether Aunt Kay or Uncle Lou did the wash, or on what day, or at what hour. All praise to Aunt Kay!--Bernice Paglia