Relief comes for university kids who don’t know how to do laundry

A few years ago, I spent every Wednesday in a state college student center with a sign that said “Conversations 50 cents.” If a young person sat down to let me talk to them about their life, I gave them two quarters. More than a few noted that Wednesday was laundry day for them and the quarters would come in handy.

The University of St. Thomas wasn’t on my list. Too bad. It could’ve been an instructive conversation, judging by yesterday’s news release story that dry cleaning is coming to campus.

In a ordinary news release TommieMedia story announcing a “partnership” between the University of St. Thomas and Laundry Doctor, which will install drop-and-go laundry lockers, it’s this paragraph that’s gotten the attention of the kids who know how to do laundry after hitting couch cushions for change.

“We’ve had parents who’ve said, ‘Well, my son or daughter has never learned how to do laundry,’” said Bryan Helminiak, Residence Life associate director. “‘What do we do? Is there any service you have or can provide that people will do their laundry for them?’”

The easy answer, of course, is “teach them how to do their laundry,” but the “we’ll do it for them” faction has held sway.

There’s a scholarly issue here, the story says. If you’re doing laundry, you can’t be studying.

Bonnie Hanson, the vice president of marketing and client relations at Laundry Doctor, said St. Thomas wanted to find a way for its students to spend more time studying and less time waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle. Doing laundry on campus can be stressful and time-consuming, she added.

“It’s really enabling students to do the things that they need to be doing and want to be doing,” Hanson said. “They’re paying for an education. And this frees them up to reap the benefits of their education.”

Unless laundry has changed, that half hour of washing, and another half hour of drying, has traditionally been the time to crack open a book.

“Let’s be one of the first in the country to offer laundry services via an app because that’s what really matter to a well rounded liberal arts degree,” one commenter, an alumnus, said.

Said another:

As if we needed to perpetuate the stereotypes of spoiled children being the majority of the student population. I get that the University can’t control the fact that there are students that were raised without knowing how to do laundry, but they certainly don’t need to enable this behavior.

Jeff Gardner, the president of The Laundry Doctor, did not back down:

In a 2003 article the Minneapolis Star Tribune published on outsourcing The Laundry Doctor was one of the featured services, writer interviewed over a dozen of our customers. One of the quotes that has driven the our business over the years came from Tim Welsh, a Director at McKinsey & Company, and a Harvard MBA. Tim said “I value the time with my family not the time with my laundry” the Welsh family have been Laundry Doctor customers for over fifteen years.

Outsourcing laundry for many professionals is mearly a tool to manage time. Our most consistent customers are successful professional. UST is mearly joining the ranks of many of University like Brown, Duke, Havard, MIT, Notre Dame, and Yale to name a few who have been partnering with companies like mine for decades.

But commenter Melanie Kraemer leads us to look inward, and ask whether we’ve taught our kids how to do the laundry.

I understand how some working professionals would want a service like this when they have job because they can spend their money however they want but for this to be offered to a small and very expensive university’s students is just ridiculous. I don’t understand why parents wouldn’t teach their kids how to do laundry and instead of solving the problem they just want to pay for their problems to go away. And this is not an issue of millennials’ “all about me” lifestyle. In hindsight, no one should be saying that because this service was not requested by students but parents and faculty.

This is also has nothing to do whether or not we “value our time.” Doing laundry as a college student is not a waste of time. The washing machines literally take 34 minutes. That’s it. There is a place and time for services like this. I highly doubt this college is one of them.

There’s no real proof that UST kids don’t really know how to do the laundry; the laundry-deficient wing didn’t show itself in the article nor the following discussion.

And, as the New York Times pointed out in an article last month, even if they say they can’t, they probably can.

All of that said, for many children, acting incompetent is simply a practical strategy: They know from experience that if they stall, delay or refuse to do something they don’t want to do, someone will eventually do it for them. I know I’ve done this; my child is fumbling about in an attempt to finish a task, it’s taking too long, we have to get out the door or I just want to get the dishwasher started, and before I know it, “Here, just let me do it” or “maybe your work partner could complete that part of the project” has escaped my lips, and I have become, once again, a master educator in the skill of learned incompetence.

For the record, I can’t recall ever teaching either of my kids how to use the washer-dryer. So far, they’ve stayed out of prison.

(h/t: Dan Murphy)