Lessons from the Laundromat: Counting vs. Accounting

This lesson from the laundromat has several ‘prongs’.  For some the lesson might be in counting; for others the lesson is in accounting.

digital laundromatMy mother has been going to the laundromat for at least fifteen years and has developed a relationship with a particular row of machines. For instance, she adores machines 2 -5, but refuses to wash in machines 6-8. Machines 9 and 10 are ok – but only if 2 and 3 are not working. Apparently, the water does not get as hot in higher numbered machines. And machines above 11 might as well be on the moon. She refuses to wash on that side of the laundromat because “the machines tear up the clothes” 

In fact, when the owner recently replaced machines 1-10 my mother refused to go to the laundromat at all.  This meant that I, her dutiful daughter, transported several loads of sheets, towels, and miscellaneous “personal items” 27 miles to sort, wash, dry, fold, and deliver to her the next week. For normal washing, this would not be such a big deal, but my mother insists on washing everything twice – the first time with double the soap, the second time without soap so that all the soap gets rinsed out. But who’s counting?

Both my mother and I saw relief on the horizon when the new machines finally arrived. This is when the accounting issue came into play. After several days of prepping for installation, the laundromat manager realized that the digital washers required special wiring and connections.  He called an electrician, but when the owner refused to pay  $200 per machine for new wiring, the shiny, digital, state-of-the-art machines languished in limbo for several weeks as the electrician, remained firm with his $200 price. The owner was equally stubborn and so the machines became mired in a weird type of accounting standoff while the owner shopped around for a cheaper electrician.

Those of us on the sidelines pondered the cost of lost business and tried to calculate in lost quarters the amount of revenue. At 8 quarters per load times 10 machines per hour, times 12 hours per day . . . the number became astronomical. Happily, the owner came to her senses, the electrician installed the wiring, and no one has dared mention the price of the owner’s intransigence.

My mother has resumed washing at the laundromat, although somewhat suspect of machines with digital displays. As for me . . . that is another lesson.

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