Monday, June 23, 2014

Washboard Abs(urd)

Being a millennial is so darned hard.

It’s, like, nothing is, like, convenient enough.

What a drag!

Fortunately, for the millennials, for every millennial who finds it too darned hard to, say, hail a cab on a busy city street; or stop by a CVS and pick up a greeting card for grandma’s birthday (you mean I need to put a stamp on it?); or stroll around a neighborhood and look at the menus posted in restaurant windows and pick a place that looks interesting, there’s another millennial who’s invented an app and/or service to help expedite (or at least digitize) life’s pesky little processes.

I’m sure that at some point, the young entrepreneurs will put their minds to something more meaningful than coming up with marginal improvements to things that are marginally inconvenient.  And/or things that get folks addicted to continuous technological connection at the expense of true interpersonal connectedness.

I mean, there’s got to be a Jonas Salk or a Thomas Edison or, at minimum, a Bill Gates among the bunch.

Doesn’t there?

In the meantime, I guess we’ll have to settle for more modest breakthroughs. Like Washboard, a new quarter-delivery service which, for $27 will deliver you two rolls of quarters so you can get to the laundromat and do your laundry.

College friends Shaun Chapman and Caleb Brown test launched their new Washboard quarter delivery service Thursday morning, offering consumers rolls of coins automatically shipped to their mailbox each month for all their laundry needs.

Brown, of Pittsburgh, said the duo came up with the idea after struggling to find quarters for their own post-college laundry runs.

“There’s a piece of mind to knowing that you’re always going to have a roll or two of quarters a month with Washboard,” Brown said. (Source:

Well, I suspect that what Brown really said was “peace of mind”, but apparently spelling – like having a jar to throw loose change into so you always have washer-dryer money – is so yesterday.

Actually, I do understand why the young folk wouldn’t have a change bucket. If you never pay cash for anything, you won’t tend to accumulate change.

Still, how taxing is it to make sure you have quarters on hand.

If you use a commercial laundromat, there’s a pretty good chance it has a change machine, no?

And if you use the ones in your building, surely you pass a bank somewhere during your busy day that will let you purchase a roll of quarters at cost. (Remember the Saturday Night Live spoof on the Citibank ads in which happy bank customers gushed about how wonderful it was to do business with a bank that contacted them if they suspected that someone was using their card fraudulently? In the SNL skit, bank customers gushed about having a bank that would make change for you.)

Of course, you wouldn’t want to have to step into a bank every week, so you could actually get multiple quarter rolls at a time. Say, enough to last a month or two.

But, hey, what’s a 35% premium to have a couple of rolls of quartered delivered right to your door?

Brown said he understands the skepticism.

“It’s polarizing,” he observed. “If you have that problem you think, ‘oh, that makes so much sense,’ and if you don’t, it’s just like: ‘these guys are reselling me money.’

“But that’s how anything’re paying the extra couple bucks to avoid going to the bank…To me, that makes a lot of sense, to pay a couple of dollars a month to not have to do that, though I totally understand and respect if that doesn’t make sense to someone.”

As someone who this enterprise doesn’t make much sense to, I, of course, had to swing by Washboard to see their pitch:

Wearing dirty underwear? We provide 2-day shipping on every shipment of quarters.

Oh, dear.

You mean there are actually people out there wearing dirty underwear who are willing to wait two days for a shipment of quarters rather than a) figure out how to get the quarters on their own; b) buy some new underwear; c) hand wash what they have. (I do appreciate that briefs can take forever to line dry. Still…)

They also have a nifty little app that lets you calculate how many quarters a month you need, based on how many loads of wash you do, and how many quarters your laundromat gouges you for.

I find it strange that one of the options is one load per month.

How is that possible?

I mean, between sheets, towels, workout clothes, and normal clothes, I probably do at least 3 loads of wash each week.

Who accumulates one load of laundry per month?

Nobody whose home I want to visit, that’s for sure.

So far, Washboard doesn’t have a lot of takers – fewer than 10 customers. But one person’s nonsense is, I guess, another person’s value prop.

“Knowing I have $20 worth of quarters in my quarters jar makes throwing in a load of laundry any time I want so much less stressful." – Cassidy, Pet Care Specialist

The Washboard-ers are not entirely unrealistic in their appraisal of the potential of their business: they’re not looking for funding. (Good thing.) And they realize that the barriers to entry for this type of business are low.

But Brown insists that the “pain point” of not having quarters on hand when you need them is a real one “that no one ever really cared about before.” (Source: valleywag.gawker) And the company has ambitions to branch out into detergent and fabric softener delivery, as well.

I realize I’m not all that current on laundomats, but don’t they have machines that dispense detergent and fabric softener? Sure, they gobble up more of those precious quarters, but still. Not to mention that even the most time-pressured potential Washboard customer must have to occasionally go to the grocery store, if only to stock up on things like toilet paper.

Note to self on possible market disrupter: toilet paper delivery service.

Anyway, while Brown and Chapman try to build their business one roll of quarters at a time, Brown has come to the realization that he’s now spending a lot of time in bank lines.

"It's funny because I built this thing because I didn't want to go to the bank anymore, but right now I'm just going to the bank and requesting quarters as I need them.”

Note to self on possible market disrupter: roll of quarter delivery service providing rolls of quarters to roll of quarter delivery services.

Just unleashing my inner millennial…

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