College reconsiders laundry rule

by Brad Russo | 10/22/98 5:00am

The College is reevaluating its decision to prohibit Lyme Road Laundry from operating on the campus so students may once again have a chance to choose their laundry service provider, acting Dean of Residential Life Mary Liscinsky told The Dartmouth yesterday.

Last Spring term, the College awarded an exclusive contract to E&R Cleaners to service those Dartmouth students wishing to have a door-to-door laundry service.

The exclusive contract bars the small Hanover company, Lyme Road Laundry, from entering College residence halls to collect students' laundry.

Previously, E&R was an approved College vendor and paid a commission to the College for certain services they provided, including use of freshmen mailing lists every summer and a laundry bag depository, but other companies were permitted to offer similar services.

Residential Life Fiscal Officer Emily Farnham said the commission just covers these services and was "not large."

Lyme Road Laundry did not pay any commission, did not receive any of these services and was not an approved vendor this year.

Liscinsky said the decision was made in accordance with the College's "general guidelines" which direct that services should be put out to bid, and a single corporation will be awarded an exclusivity agreement.

It is now unclear, Liscinsky said, whether this particular service falls within those guidelines or if it is more akin to food delivery services of area restaurants.

"The College has general rules about what needs to be bidded," Liscinsky said. "But rules are general guidelines and we're getting more of a look at it now."

Liscinsky and Farnham said the reconsideration comes after students raised these questions and concerns about which area laundry service falls under.

"We're talking to folks around campus trying to figure out what direction we want to go in," Farnham said. "We're trying to figure out which [services] are which."

Prior to this year, Lyme Road Laundry provided same-day service -- picking up students' laundry in the morning and returning it in the afternoon.

E&R provides service with a four day turn-around time. They pick up laundry on Monday and drop it off on Thursday.

Farnham said they made the decision to bid out laundry service because of these guidelines and a desire to protect students as well as give them the best possible service.

"Students and parents view laundry as a very basic residential service," Liscinsky said.

Farnham said the decision to change the policy did not emerge for financial reasons, as E&R's commission paid to the College has not changed since the new policy.

Farnham said Lyme Road Laundry's price was 22 percent higher than E&R's in the proposed bids, which was a major consideration in awarding the bid to E&R.

Lyme Road Laundry Owner Linda Roodeman told The Dartmouth this increase to $150 per term was due to an increase in Hanover water prices, which was explained in her bid.

Reactions from the businesses

The exclusive contract has had a major impact on Lyme Road Laundry. Roodeman said her business is off 40 percent since they have been prohibited on campus.

Roodeman said her business was always at a disadvantage because of E&R's preferred status.

"Dartmouth would let you know they wanted E&R to receive the majority of the business," Roodeman said. "We could never hang flyers in the dorms. All I ever wanted was a level playing field -- let the kids decide where they wanted to go."

Roodeman said she has had to lay employees off because of the decline in sales.

Farnham said the size and geographic locality of the cleaners did not have an impact on the contract award, rather focusing on price, service and reliability.

E&R is a much larger corporation based in Manchester. It services 80 schools throughout the Northeast.

E&R Sales Manager Patrick Caveny told The Dartmouth his company has exclusive contracts at all its other institutions, which is standard procedure. "This really is a service which should be put out to bid ... Dartmouth in my opinion is doing what they should be doing."

However, Caveny said E&R was happy with the prior arrangement and would not have stopped providing the service at the College had an exclusive contract never been awarded.

While Caveny said the College was concerned about the liability of workers in the dorms, Farnham said insurance was not a concern as both companies had adequate coverage.

Farnham said the College will decide whether to reverse its decision in "a few weeks."

Student concerns

While the contract with E&R is for two years, Farnham said she is exploring every option. "If this policy isn't a reasonable one, we're seeing what kind of ability we have to get out of it ... through renegotiation and reworking."

Farnham and Liscinsky said they received a handful of complaints from students, but nothing that would constitute a large backlash.

Some of the students The Dartmouth spoke to said they were upset the College removed the option of which vendor to use.

Abbey Nova '01 said she used Lyme Road Laundry when it was available but now washes her clothes by hand.

"What I absolutely love about it was you got it back the same day. I don't have enough clothes to get me through a whole week," Nova said. "I am very, very upset about this. It was my one luxury -- in the real world, I'm not going to be able to do this until I'm a CEO and making lots of money."

Sean Levy '99 said he does not like how a local business is being punished so a large, out-of-town corporation can do well.

"I find it pretty ironic, considering President [James] Wright made the statement ... he supports local businesses and the College didn't do it in this instance."