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Card-op laundry systems: not-so-easy solution.

Card-operated laundry rooms are being offered to building managers throughout America.

The laundry card system sounds good to everyone. Maybe too good.

The user inserts cash up to $100 at an automatic central control unit, which issues a plastic card with the equivalent credit amount.

The user then selects a machine at either the central control or directly at the washer or dryer as determined by 'card reader' devices, a replacement for coin-chutes.

Once the laundry machine is programmed, its LCD read-out conveys the card balance, the cost of operation and current data on settings, cycles and time lapses.

The laundry card system could not be simpler to emplace, more enjoyable to operate, more effortless, they claim, to keep up with. But the system is far from foolproof.

Installation and service costs are high. The overhead is passed on to building residents. Buildings must either share the costs through vend price increases or accept a lower income from the laundry facility. (By the way, it costs thousands of dollars more to install card systems as opposed to similar coin-metered equipment.)

If the central control should malfunction, all of the machines become inoperable. As a rule, companies that offer the card system recommend two control units. The added cost of an extra control console would not be necessary if these safeguards were not needed.

Furthermore, the control unit can misaccount for monies. As there is no internal auditing to cross-check, the user may become very disgruntled about getting $20 of credit for the $50.00 bill he just submitted or maybe no credit at all.

Card systems are computer-driven. The service and repair bills for sensitive technology are more closely relative to the needs and income of larger "store"-type facilities where controls are employee-manned and monitored.

With new-fangled mechanisms and functions comes the added rate and risk of failure. (Not to mention lost or damaged cards.)

With system installation, repairs and maintenance, laundry cards cost big cash.
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Title Annotation:Technology; evaluation of card-operated laundry systems available to building managers
Author:Breitman, Steven E.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Words:327
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