In the basement of Hendrie Hall, next to a fallout shelter and across from The Used Book Agency, Ali Pruet ’04 stood holding a limp, snakeskin patterned bra and tapping the toe of her three-inch boots.
“When I came, it had underwire in it,” she said to the staff at Yale Student Laundry, drawing out vowels in her southern drawl, “but when I got it back it had none.”
Pruet, like scores of other Yalies, is an enthusiastic subscriber to one of the weekly laundry plans offered by Student Laundry, a subsidiary of the massive Associated Student Agencies, Yale’s conglomerate of student-run service providers.
“The whole thing was tragic,” Pruet said, “but in the end, it’s worth the sacrifice.”
The tide of spring formals and interviews is swelling, making this the busiest time of the year for laundering and dry cleaning demand. But despite the inevitable and occasional lost wire or confused load, students have remained loyal, and even bubbly, about Yale Student Laundry.
The service has continued to expand since its inception three years ago, and now more than 325 students use it. The laundry service will start negotiations today with E and R Cleaners, the New Hampshire based service that handles all laundering needs.
“Most problems really aren’t ours to deal with,” said Drew Rehwinkel ’02, the junior manager of laundry services, in reference to recent mix-ups caused by the large amounts of laundry coming in.
Most students don’t know that all laundry is handled by E and R, which transports Yalies’ unmentionables to a location in Hartford, he said.
Once a year, Rehwinkel said, Student Laundry hashes out a new contract with E and R Cleaners as well as with the local, family-run Jet Cleaners, which takes care of Yalies’ dry cleaning needs, and then snuggles into the bliss of laundering complacency.
But this level of comfort has lead to some recklessness, some students say. Twice, freshman Daily Susman’s clothing has been whisked away and replaced by someone else’s.
“The bag was so heavy, and when I opened it, it was filled with plaid men’s clothing,” Susman said. “The whole way back to Old Campus, I was thinking ‘What is this? I didn’t wash bricks.'”
Eventually, laundry services obliged and sent someone to right the mistake and bring the cheer back to Susman’s life.
“It was funny,” she added, “and by funny I mean annoying.”
And the lesson was profound — “I don’t deliver it myself any more,” Susman said with resolve, as she signed the dry-cleaning slips to pick up her plastic-wrapped shirts. “I told a guy I bet he couldn’t carry two bags. So he usually carries mine, too on Mondays.”
Most of the students who use Student Laundry are freshmen, who pay from $125 a year for just weekly bedding changes to $470 a year for the super economy plan which includes clothes, bedding and bath linen services.
Fresh from Jet Cleaners on the edge of New Haven, Susman’s shirts would say little about her character as a Yalie to the untrained eye. But Michael Amore, owner of Jet Cleaners, has seen a lot.
“I want to say I’ve been exposed to tradition, privilege and elitism since I went to private school in the 1970’s,” Amore said, “but I reserve making value judgements about Yale students.”
Amore described Yale as being “very, very Banana Republic, full of size 2s and ribbed cotton turtlenecks.” He said he’s fairly certain those having their clothes dry-cleaned have the financial means or the bursar’s bills.
“I don’t see rags coming out of YSL,” Amore said, “especially around this time of year when the seniors are out interviewing for Wall Street jobs.”
In any case, Amore said he hopes to maintain his good relations with Yale, an account Jet Cleaners has held for six years.
“President Levin always schleps his own laundry here, and I’ve always been really impressed by that,” he said.