Yup, Me and Jewel (the country singer) Could Do Our Laundry Together

Whenever America’s favorite snaggle-toothed singer, Jewel, talks about her past life as a homeless person living out of her car, I picture her in an environment very similar to that of my 1996 Jeep.

A co-worker who will remain nameless (Michelle) once likened the contents of my car to something you would see on Hoarders. While I respectfully disagree, I will admit I could survive quite comfortably should I ever find my car trapped in some sort of ravine.

With enough food, clothing, and (possibly used) tissues in there to get me through a long winter, finding quarters to do my laundry would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I suppose I could keep my change in what is apparently known as a wallet or coin purse, but clearly I prefer to get on my hands and knees with a flashlight.

So, as much fun as it is to play the “Is this a quarter or a Chuck E. Cheese token?” game, it’s nice to see that some apartment communities are installing debit and credit card readers in their laundry facilities.

One such community, the 85-unit Church Corner Apartments in Cambridge, Mass., replaced its out-of-date laundry system in November with machines that are connected to the Internet, giving residents the ability to pay for each wash or dry cycle with a debit or credit card. No more flashlight!

Change Point, the new payment and monitoring system—a commonly used micro-payment processing technology only recently developed for laundry facilities in the apartment industry—is a welcome alternative for the likes of me, and those who frequently misplace or forget to replenish a pre-paid laundry card.

The card payment system has also made the accounting process more transparent. The debit and credit card readers work hand-in-hand with the laundry facility company’s patented LaundryView monitoring technology, the latest version of which now provides the owner or manager with reports that account for each coin or card transaction at every machine.

If the system detects a payment error at one of the machines, residents receive an immediate refund on their credit or debit card. Technicians are also automatically dispatched if a machine malfunctions. To really put things into perspective, the technology has the potential to significantly reduce the number of times you have to hear a resident—always in a very polite, calm tone—complain that the washing machine ate their quarters. It’s the sort of scenario John Lennon had in mind when he wrote “Imagine.”

Overall, property managers at communities that have implemented this technology estimate that 60 percent of residents take advantage of the debit and credit card payment options. Although the upgraded technology has proven popular, residents still have the option of paying with quarters.

I prefer to save my change for the 15-plus games of Bingo my 85-year-old self plays every summer at the beach, but to each their own.

For more on Church Corner Apartments’ updated laundry system, check out the Technology Supplement, which mails with the March issue of units March 8.