The disaster that is Circuit laundry

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You’re a student and it’s your well-earned day off. The week was long and you’re yearning to turn your mind off for a moment. This day is rightfully scheduled as Netflix day; a day for Netflix with or without chill, until your wishful dream shatters as you realize that you ran out of clothes and the following not-Netflix day is packed with lectures. Routinely, you load a laundry basket or two half-torn plastic bags full of clothes and stroll off to the nearby launderette. What you find there is a disappointment you’ve grown accustomed to.
The floor is wet and muddy. Carefully, you walk to one of the laundry machines that isn’t broken and doesn’t emit a weird smell. After an overly expensive wash you take out your laundry, only to accidentally drop a few pairs of underwear on the mud-covered floor. Frustrated, you make an attempt to put your clothes in the drier when you see that there’s not enough credit left on your laundry card, so you need to top it up. Good luck, that’s what you’re going to try and do for the upcoming 30 minutes.
Dealing with strenuous laundry issues like these is an everyday reality for many students in Bangor University halls. A journalistic inquiry uncovered that Circuit’s launderettes in halls are a pain for many students, with problems ranging from unaffordable pricing to getting accustomed to broken laundry machines. A questionnaire I put out shows that a whopping 91.2% of Fresher’s students living in halls have encountered problems with Circuit’s launderettes and laundry services.
Tori Ivey, 20, an international student from Toronto, Canada, is one of the numerous students impacted by Circuit´s inadequate services. Recently, when she had placed her clothes in two washing machines, it turned out her laundry card had run out of credit. She said: “I tried to top up online, using the Circuit app. I made a transfer of 30 pounds to Circuit. When I logged out because my Wi-Fi was disconnecting, I lost access to my account and my money.” Ultimately, she was forced to buy a physical laundry card and e-mailed Circuit to get her money back. She is still awaiting their response.
“It took me hours to figure it out, and it is such a hassle it makes me not want to do my laundry. I hardly do my laundry now. Only when I really, really need to. It’s inconvenient, expensive, and when I complained about it at Halls office all they responded was that they will send my complaint to Circuit.”
The questionnaire has been filled out by 91 students, and the results give a shocking image of the problems in launderettes at Bangor University halls. When respondents were asked if they are satisfied with the launderettes, only 14.3% said they are, and 46% said that they are greatly dissatisfied with Circuit. The questionnaire also sheds some light on the pricing problem, as 69% of respondents answered that they strongly disagree with the notion that pricing in Circuit’s launderettes is cheap. Other problems that are often cited are broken laundry machines, inactive machines, tumble driers not drying clothes, unclean or straight-up muddy launderettes, difficulties topping up laundry cards, a defective laundry app, washing machines leaving a strange smell on cleaned clothing, and many more. It’s not unthinkable that 50% of respondents are very unhappy with Circuit as the choice for laundry provider.
When I contacted Bangor University halls for information, I was put in touch with Mrs. Deidre McIntyre, who holds the position of Head of Residential Life. When she stopped answering my e-mails, I felt inclined to visit her in Halls Office. She came out and told me straight away that the only thing she could say is that Bangor University “put out a tender many years ago to several companies, and Circuit won.” She confirmed that Halls Office has no evaluation system in place to check up on the quality in the launderettes in halls, saying that “all complaints go directly to Circuit.” She said she was not able to answer any more questions, as she was about to have an important meeting and the person who was involved in the tender is currently on sick leave. I asked her if she could put me in touch with Circuit, which she agreed to, and later contacted her by e-mail as a reminder. She never got back to me.
Before walking off, she did give me the name of Mr. Llyr Williams, a procedural manager at the Finance and Research department of Bangor University. He was able to provide some information on the tender over e-mail. It was awarded to Circuit in August of 2015 and works on a four year plus two-year basis. He couldn’t tell me if the university plans to extend the contract, writing that “you are better contacting the Halls office for this information as they are responsible for the day to day running of the contact.”
Maya Auer, 22, an international student from Italy, was forced to pay twice after she put her clothes in a washing machine and found out that the machine wasn’t functioning. She said: “When I see the person who invented Circuit, I’m going to put them in this washing machine and give them a superwash.”
Harry Riley, the 22-years-old Vice President of Education of UNDEB, the student’s union of Bangor University, has been researching laundry issues in Bangor and across the United Kingdom. He is aware of the problems with Circuit. He said: “Often you hear that laundry machines break down, or that clothes don’t dry properly. Pricing is an issue, for example, nursing students are given two uniforms, and they need to wash their uniforms every time after a shift for health and safety reasons. If you run five shifts a week, doing laundry becomes really expensive. Unfortunately, Circuit has a monopoly on providing these services, there’s not really an alternative option.”
Harry said that he and a group of other sabbatical officers from universities around the United Kingdom are working on a project they call ‘Breaking the Circuit.’ Members of a Facebook group are gathering information on Circuit with the intention to launch a campaign next year.
When presented with the questionnaire, Harry said: “Judging on this brief overview, it’s clear that students are very dissatisfied with Circuit. I will take the feedback to Bangor University and see what I can do.” When asked what he would say to disheartened students fed up with complaining about Circuit, he said: “Please stay vocal. Things only change when students make their voices heard. Things can always be better.”
Circuit is part of the JLA group, a company based in West Yorkshire. Circuit operates as an independent division of the company. I attempted contacting JLA group for comment, but the phone number on their website is not operational and they didn’t respond to my e-mail. When I called Circuit, a call-center employee answered the phone but wasn’t able to connect me to a person responsible for the laundry operations in Bangor. He said: “Circuit is responsible for laundry operations as a whole organization. There’s not one person responsible.”

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