Several of the underclassmen dorms no longer allow students to use their Ram Accounts to pay for laundry. Photo by Greg Clark.

Over the next year, HRL plans to make campus-wide changes to laundry services

In Aldrich Hall and Hopkins Hall, the University of Rhode Island’s Housing and Residential Life has introduced new laundry machines and a new way of paying for laundry this semester.

Residents in those halls can no longer pay for their laundry services with either coins or Ram Account, but instead must use the LaundryConnect Pay App on their phones. The application connects the laundry machines to the user’s phone through Bluetooth connection and payment is taken through a credit or debit card the user adds to their account when they download the app.

Jefferey Plouffe, the associate director of Housing and Residential Life, said that the decision to introduce these new machines came about because their previous 10-year contract with Automatic Laundry of Newton, Massachusetts expired this past June. They were able to renew the contract for this school year, but Hopkins and Aldrich had a different issue. Within those two buildings, the new additions of electrical rooms meant that the location of the machines had to change.

“We know that in the new contract [next year], we are most likely going to be moving away from the RAM Card,” Plouffe said. “It didn’t seem prudent to spend $10,000 reinstalling a system that is likely to go away when the new contract comes in.”
The system of LaundryConnect, also done by Automatic Laundry, had been installed in the Women’s Center over the past year. The Women’s Center is home to over 30 residents, who rated the Laundry Connect system positively in a survey conducted by HRL Services. Because of this, when the opportunity arose to install new machines into Hopkins and Aldrich, they went with LaundryConnect.

Over the summer, students who would be moving into the two halls in the fall received the information about the change and the new app in an email detailing move-in information. There are also pamphlets within the halls from Automatic Laundry explaining the system, its benefits and how to use it. 

Still, some students were not expecting the change, including sophomore Wenricka Griffith. She had purchased the Campus Plus meal plan with $50 already loaded on to her Ram Account, which she thought she would use for laundry. She found the machines a bit “inconvenient” due to their inability to accept Ram Account, but recently got a message from her Resident Assistant about getting their money reimbursed from their accounts because of the change in the machines.

While students like Griffith may see HRL’s phasing out of Ram Account as inconvenient, Plouffe sees the shift towards mobile pay as simpler and more secure.

“The Ram Card isn’t completely secure,” Plouffe said. “Any ID-based card is not. In a world where finding access to your records or anything you’re doing is a risk, phones are very secure.”
Plouffe hopes to move even further with his plans to make URI more secure by switching to a smart card sometime in the future. For next fall, he also plans to try and add a fee of around $50 to room and board for students so they will no longer have to pay for each time they use the washing or drying machines.

This is something he’s been looking at recently, especially since in an end-of-year survey from last year. On the survey, a lot of students complained about the inefficiency of the dryers `and having to pay to dry their clothes multiple times for them to dry completely.

One of these students was sophomore Jenn Atkins, who now lives in one of the halls with the new washing machines. She was excited to hear that her hall would be receiving new machines because of all the issues she had last year.

“I haven’t had any problems with these machines at all,” Atkins said. “The normal cycle time washes my clothes completely, saving me money in the long run because I don’t have to pay extra.”

Sophomore Gillian Guy has enjoyed the change overall. However, Guy had one frustrating day in which the machines were not connecting when WiFi was down across campus on Sep. 26. Although Automatic Laundry’s website says Internet connection shouldn’t affect the use of their machines because it runs on Bluetooth connection, Guy still experienced difficulty. 

“Other than the whole WiFi thing, it’s been really good,” Guy said. “I think it’s more convenient for me personally just because it’s easier to pay, easier to keep track and just easier overall to do laundry and I can add funds at any point.”