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Circuit Laundry comes under fire for machine payment problems at the University

Nouse looks into claims that students' money has left their Circuit Laundry Accounts due to a problem with payment

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Image Credit: Emily Hewat

OVER THE SUMMER Nouse received reports from students that there had been problems with their Circuit Laundry accounts which had in some cases led to account balances being reduced. Nouse has since reached out to Circuit Laundry and YUSU to discuss future plans to ensure student satisfaction, as in previous years there have been varying complaints on the quality of washing machines on campus.

Initially, a number of students who lived on campus accommodation last academic year approached Nouse with information that they lost money from their Circuit Laundry balances as in some cases they had topped up their accounts and returned later to see a minus balance. One student reported that “They take it for the funds on the app, like I’ll add £20 and then do three washes (should come to £9.90) and yet my funds will have gone.” Another student’s account reportedly went from £8.90 to 90p after one wash. One student went on to tell us that “I had that issue too until I only toppedup exactly how much I needed to doone wash and dry” in order to preventany money leaving the account while it was inactive.

It should be noted that most students received an immediate refund after emailing Circuit Laundry for help.The first student Nouse spoke to, for example, received a refund of £17.60 after contacting Circuit Laundry. How-ever, students will need proof thattheir balance has decreased in order to gain a refund.
One student contacted Nouse stating that “I had this issue a few weeks back but cause I had no proof they wouldn’t refund me.” As students use the Mobile App to pay for Circuit Laundry, retrieving evidence several weeks after the transaction has taken place could prove difficult but Circuit Laundry have stated students can apply for refunds at any time.One student received an email on re-questing a refund stating: “Sorry to hear that you have experienced problems us-ing our Mobile App. This usually happens when the Bluetooth connection drops between the card reader on the washer/dryer and your Mobile app.”On Circuit Laundry’s website there is support offered if students are charged the wrong amount. It states that “The app does not always refresh immediately, so please wait a short while before checking your balance. If you have a query
once the app updates,please contact us by starting a LiveChat, phoning 01422 820 026 or using our enquiry form.”
There is no support in the FAQ part of the website for what students should do if they feel they have been charged, whilst the account was not in use. However Circuit Laundry highlighted to Nouse that this may be be-cause students losing money in their account is not a freqeuent occurence and therefore does not warrant being in the Frequently Asked Questions portions of the website.

Nouse took all these student accounts to Circuit Laundry and asked for a response.They stated that “We have listened to student feedback and invested heavily in the development and improvement of our communication with students. Our Live Chat function is available within both the app and our website, giving students instant re-sponses to issues and refund requests."
Alongside the Live Chat function within the app we have also a a wide range of features and benefits to help students. Additionally, we regularly post laundry tips, help and support on our social media channels and we actively encourage students to follow these channels”
They also made clear that students will always receive a refund when one is due.

This is not the first time students have been dissatisfied with Circuit Laundry. In January 2020, YUSU conducted a survey on the laundry system and Nouse reported that the survey received 1,327 responses from students. It was found that 89.3 percent of peoplerated Circuit Laundry as five out of tenor less on ‘quality of service’, with 20.8percent of students rating it the lowestpossible grade.Issues that were raised includedclothes coming out of the washing ma-chines stained and torn and machinesrepeatedly breaking down. In May 2019, the University of York’s Student Union Account reported that over 1,700 students had to rely on the 22 machines in total in James College.
In August 2019,Nouse reported that the Accomodation Team at the University did concede that there were lessons that needed to be learnt, including “for Circuit and the University to identify faults and fix them more quickly...the necessity to store spare parts such as pumps...and to plan better for such scenarios.”

Nouse approached Circuit Laundry to discuss this particular fault and a Circuit Laundry spokesperson pointed out that this was due to a water supply fault to the machines, something the laundry company has no control over. In response to the previous issues raised concerning the quality of washes, Circuit Laundry’s website states that if students clothing is damaged by the washing machines they should not throw the item of clothing away but “ make a note of the laundryroom and machine number that damaged your clothing” and contact Circuit Laundry on using their help number on the website or by filling out an enquiry
Circuit Laundry is also keen for students to be aware that they are encouraged to contact the laundry company via the app. In the past students have felt uncomfortable with speaking to Circuit Laundry over the phone so the app removes the need to speak to someone directly as the live chat is available for students to use.

Despite student discontent, YUSU have chosen to renew their contract with Circuit Laundry. Nouse spoke to YUSU’s President Patrick O’Donnell to discuss the contract renewal and he stated that “A competitive tender process was undertaken by the University (who hold the contract) in November last year to look at the options available for washing machine provision. This took place at a time of great financial uncertainty for the University, as well as companies looking to expand their business.
“On balance, there was both a clear financial and environmental case for renewal, given that bringing contacts in
house would cost an estimated £2 mil- lion and directly take money away from other student priorities such as the oncampus rent refunds we secured during periods of lockdown.”
Nouse was also told by a Circuit Laundry spokesperson that during this tender process, various laundry companies were ranked across different categories and Circuit Laundry did in fact win five of the six categories.

Whilst it is clear there is still room for improvement, the problem of students not reporting issues with the laundry system remains equally prevalent.
In January 2020 the survey found that despite 94.3 percent of people hav- ing experienced a problem with Circuit Laundry, only 29.7 percent of people actually reported the problem.
Nouse asked Patrick O’Donnell whether he had received many com- plaints from students and he stated
that “following the replacement of all Circuit Laundry machines and upgrading of utilities in the summer of 2020,
student complaints surrounding the quality of washes have significantly decreased. Nevertheless ,we’d
urge any student with concerns to get in touch directly as that’s the only way potential problems can be addressed.”
Circuit Laundry clearly wishes to exapnd communication with the studenbts they cater to. In 2019, The Tab
reported that Circuit Laundry brought in £8.7 million from Universities, out of a total profit of £34.9 million. The
Tab also reported that Circuit Laundry now has a TikTok account devoted to students sharing their funny experi- ences of doing laundry at university. Circuit Laundry also have their own Instagram and Twitter accounts where
they regularly post tips on how to keep clothes clean. They also held events at universities during Freshers Fairs such as a sock sorting event at the University of Southhampton’s frehsers fair.
When Nouse spoke to Circuit Laundry, expanding their social media was something they were very keen on doing in the future.

Nouse also contacted Wellbeing Officer Kelly Balmer to discuss YUSU’s future plans for student satisfaction. In
response for how YUSU plan to ensure student satisfaction she stated that “We are continuously working
with Circuit Laundry to ensure that the reporting process for issues with their machines on their website or app is as accessible and easy for students as possible, and that all queries are responded to as quickly as possible.
“Since starting in my role I have worked on building a close and honest relationship with Circuit Laundry, which has already seen an improvement and wider understanding on how to interact with students. If problems
keep persisting like they have done in previous years with Circuit Laundry, I will be applying pressure to the University as well as Circuit to address these. but for now I am keeping them on their toes."

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