For the college student who can’t or just won’t do laundry, there’s a way to unload it.
For a price, students at the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus can drop a bag of dirty duds into a locker, and a local company will pick them up and wash, dry, fold and deliver clean clothes within 48 hours. Depending on whom you talk to, the service is either encouraging a generation of students to be coddled or freeing them up to make better use of their time.
A story about the new service on the student-run online news site generated nearly 5,000 likes in two days. But overwhelmingly, commentators shook their heads over the idea that college kids couldn’t do their own laundry.
“This is a joke … right?” Amanda Lutes posted.
Bryan Helminiak, university residence life associate director, said the idea sprang from inquiries from parents who wanted to know if the campus had a service where students could send out their laundry. Laundry rooms are in all the dorms and on-campus apartments. A fee to use them is included in housing costs so students don’t have to scrounge up change.
“We’ve had parents who’ve said, ‘Well, my son or daughter has never learned how to do laundry,’ ” Helminiak said in the student-written story posted Sunday.
On Tuesday, he clarified. “It may not be that their student doesn’t know how to do laundry, but that they don’t trust that their student does laundry well — or at all,” he said.
So the university partnered with Laundry Doctor, a St. Paul company.
Company President Jeff Gardner said similar services are offered on campuses across the country, but it’s been harder to sell here. “It’s Minnesota,” he said. “We take pride in doing things for ourselves.”
The Laundry Doctor charges a buck per pound of laundry. Most students pile up about 21 pounds of laundry each week, he said.
Since the company began picking up laundry at St. Thomas two weeks ago, Gardner estimates that a “couple hundred” students have used the service, including those who used it twice.
Paul Hedman, a St. Thomas senior majoring in philosophy, isn’t one.
“If you don’t know how to do your own laundry and you’re in college, that’s an issue,” he said. “You go down to the basement, throw your laundry in. Come back a half-hour later and throw it in the dryer. It’s not a gigantic inconvenience. … You just push the buttons.”
A way to save time?
Justin Romer had no choice but to do his own laundry while he was a student at the University of Minnesota. “But I would have been one of those who would have called a laundry service,” he said.
So, after he graduated, he and two partners launched Gopher Laundry in 2011. About half of its clients are students from the U and other campuses. Students schedule the service online and Romer’s company picks up and delivers.
“Just like Uber or grocery delivery, we want to be that convenience,” he said. “It’s not about someone who doesn’t know how to do laundry, but someone who really wants to use their time more wisely.”
Unlike the Laundry Doctor and the University of St. Thomas, Gopher Laundry isn’t in partnership with the U. Susan Stubblefield, the U’s associate director of residential life, said linking up with a laundry service isn’t something the U has considered.
Students who might use a laundry service usually are those whose parents would spring for it, she said.
But it might not be a good idea for students who rely on loan money. “This will come back to them at some point,” she said. “Then it might be better to help students learn to do these things on their own.”