When Victoria Winter ’22 set out to do laundry one September afternoon, she imagined it would be a relatively uneventful affair. She arrived at the Benjamin Franklin College laundry room and noticed an array of new blue and green payment devices, and after dumping her clothes into a washer, inserted her card into the machine and waited.
And waited. The new CSC ServiceWorks payment device simply would not process her payment, Winter said.
These readers, which can now be found at every residential college laundry facilities, were installed in early September by Yale’s longtime vendor for laundry services, CSC ServiceWorks, according to Heather Abati, director of Student Support Services. She said the company’s decision to upgrade their technology was based mostly on payment trends. Under the prior system — Change Point — there was one machine per laundry room, which students used to choose washers and dryers and pay. However, Student Support Services and CSC Service Works decided that the system was “not as effective as it had once been,” and installed the new software, CSC Ultra One. The new service has a chip reader attached to every unit. Still, for Winter — and other students interviewed by the News — this shift proved frustrating.
“I’m kind of confused to why they changed it, because [at] the beginning it was just really inconvenient,” Winter said. “The first time it took me 10 minutes to pay for laundry.”
CSC ServiceWorks also offers students an app — CSC Pay Mobile — that allows users to input funds for future use. Winter became exasperated with this option as well, as she was unable to log in to the app for over a week after putting in funds, so she no longer had access to that money.
The company also never responded to her request for assistance. CSC ServiceWorks was not available for comment.
The technology was updated without incident in Timothy Dwight last semester as a pilot run, Abati said. She also said the original schedule was to upgrade all other locations this summer, but was pushed back to September due to scheduling conflicts. She added there has been some dissatisfaction.
“I have heard of a few incidents from students regarding the new payment options.”
In April, 10 out of 12 TD students who spoke to the News said they preferred the old system and had experienced problems with the new system during its pilot.
Abati said she will soon send out instructional videos — designed to alleviate student confusion — to residential colleges. In the videos, the device is shown reading a card and processing a payment in less than 10 seconds.
According to the presidents of Branford College Council and Morse College Council — Michelle Hu ’20 and Abhishek Srinivas ’21, respectively — the residential college councils were involved in neither the decision-making nor the implementation of the new card readers. Srinivas said this was “unfortunate,” as the student consensus on the machines has been negative.
“I can tell you just broadly that people I’ve talked to say the card machines are error-prone and not easy to use,” Srinivas said. “I’ve experienced this myself.”
Nathan Kim ’22 — in offering defense of the change — said in Pauli Murray, the old system experienced regular system-wide breakdowns. Under the new system, if one device breaks, it only affects one machine in the laundry room, rather than the entire room, he explained.
Still, Kim underscored that the new payment option is far from an improvement.
“It’s not that it’s that much worse, I just really see no reason for the change,” Kim said.
Having received some complaints from students about the new readers herself, Abati pointed out that CSC ServiceWorks has designated a service technician to be available on campus daily for repairs and assistance with system issues.
At the end of the day, she said, the decision came down to the University’s longterm relationship with the company, and the upgrade being an essential part of continuing business.
“This was a large undertaking as we wanted a consistent payment platform in all laundry rooms,” Abati said. “As with any change, there will always be a few bumps along the way.”
Student Support Services’ next project will be looking at locations that have not been updated recently and begin replacing the washers and dryers that have reached their useful life, according to Abati.
Thomas Birmingham | firstname.lastname@example.org