From the Ideas From Strange Places Department
I found myself at the laundromat for the first time in a very long time. I was a reluctant customer, but time was running out as evidenced by three rather large bags of laundry in my car’s back seat. Now, I’m the first to say customers aren’t stupid. But I have noticed over the years that the more customers you have, the more likely one will go off in a way that might give you that impression. On this particular day, it appears, I was that customer.
The Wascomat Sr. was new to me. Nothing from college days prepared me for the the giant, front loading beast that promised to do my laundry a hamper at a time. This was my kind of machine. A souped-up washer. I stuffed it full. I read the instructions. I filled the coin slide and pushed. Then…nothing. I tapped the machine. (Lightly I swear.) Nothing.
“Excuse me, the Wacomat stole my quarters,” I interrupt the attendant as she is trying to set up a tanning appointment (yes, this is a state of the art Laundromat/Tanning Salon. Emoticon Thinking at work).
“Did you put the quarters in?”
“All of them?”
She looked at me. “Twice, you know 14 quarters. Did you do it twice.”
I was now a marked man. A laundromat Newbie. The counter lady was nice, but she had a knowing smile. Some in the crowded laundromat had noticed that I might be a better show than this day’s episode of Marty Povich on the overhead TV.
Back to the machine. 7 more quarters. Problem fixed.
The Wacomat has slots for detergent, bleach and softener on top and what turns out to be excellent directions on the front. I’m neither a tall nor short man, and that is the excuse I will use for pouring the detergent into the wrong slot. Not a mistake that shows up during the wash cycle by the way, but one that becomes very entertaining during the rinse and spin. My machine neighbors mentioned how unusual this was and we discussed it. The longer it rinsed the more it foamed up.
Foamed up a lot.
Mistake three - How Much Laundry Detergent is Too Much? The answer to that question is – the amount I used.
“Looks like too much soap, oh, and we’ll have to wash out that slot.”
So I re-ran the wash. So much for saving time.
As the washer seemed close to finishing the second wash I pulled the handle, but it would not open. I realized that on a front loader that makes a lot of sense, don’t want the door open and water flowing out. So I sat back down and waited.
The red light never went off. I tried the handle again. Half an hour went by. The washer was done. It felt like everyone else had gotten their clothing and dinner, and were in bed and I was still waiting for my wash.
Back to the counter. “The Wocomat is broken. The door won’t open.”
“That happens all the time, that’s why we added ‘give the handle a shove’ to our instructions….”
“Don’t worry, it happens to everybody the first time.”
I am not a stupid customer, but I play one at the Laundromat.
Is there a life lesson? Sure. Customers will always find a way to use your product in a way you didn’t expect. No matter how well you write the instructions. No matter how well you design the buttons. They may be wrong. They may be innovative. They may even be looking directly at the instructions as they make their mistakes. You still need to find ways to treat wrong-headed customers in a way that delicately works them past their difficulties.
The attendant was friendly, always smiled and never made me feel bad for not understanding the Wacomat.
So, I’ll be back (lord knows my repair of the dryer hasn’t gone well) and next time I may just try out a Tan.
UPDATE 6/7/2009: This post is an unfortunately true version of events, and was also inspired by a ‘What I Learned From…” prompt over at Middle Zone Musings, which in the act of writing I promptly forgot to mention.