I think the first thing that we need to do is to agree (at least aggregate our preferences) on what we want from the Washing Machine Enterprise (WME from now).
Expectation A: One unhindered washing-spinning-drying experience of a bucketfull of clothes every x days on a semi-annual payment of Rs. y (where both x and y are to be simultaneously minimized as much as possible.)
Perhaps a not unreasonable expectation. First some background.
x is currently set at 8:
The Old Hostel and D-block flats accomodate 64 and around 15 boarders, respectively. Of these many Dilliwallahs primarily reside at home, and do not give two Surf sachets about the WME. A (very liberal) maximum of 65 would avail the WME’s services. Actually, only 47 people registered in 2015’s Spring semester. 6 (=3*2) slots are available every day; that works out to 48 slots every 8 days. (More than 3 washes per day would lead to inordinate wear and tear of the machines.) If more people want to laundry, the frequency has to go down. Buying another machine for the WME is not an option. (… or is it?)
y is set at 200:
Surf recommends using 60gms of their detergent powder per wash and the relevant powder (Surf Excel Matic Front Load) comes for Rs. 413 for a 2kg pack: Rs. 12.40 per wash or Rs 2230 per month at full operation. For less than 5 months every semester, (late July- early December and January- early May), the machines work at near full capacity. At other times, many people are at home, the rounding off to five months takes care of that. Detergent costs of the WME every semester: Rs. 11150. Machine repair and maintenance costs are borne by the Institute. (There is some confusion regarding the monthly bleaching’s cost incidence.) At more reasonable assumptions about usage (5 washes per day on average), the cost is Rs. 193.75 per person if 48 people register. Taking into account that we do not work with robotic efficiency when loading the powder, Rs. 200 is the best estimated per capita cost of usage. (Another route is to ascertain the average number of washes per person per semester: 16 gives us Rs. 198.) (Do we really want to take into account the fines that are collected?)
After that lengthy bit of background and establishment of the reasonableness of the current values of x and y, let us look at the (interesting) question at hand, which surfaced over a series of emails: should two (or more) people be allowed to share a registered slot? (Let us call it the Joint A/c policy.) Having just Expectation A at hand currently, let us see how this policy fares according to this criterion and compare with the status quo. However, we must be careful, not only should we think of what happens if this is ideally followed, but also what would happen because of misuse. We must foresee possible rule-bending and downright rule-breaking.
Let us first be sure what we are NOT talking about:
Suppose Aloo and Kachaloo are best buds. During the placement season, Aloo needs to wash his blazer, on which he dropped the strawberry-jelly filling of a Nomura-sponsored doughnut, for a looming Goldman Sachs interview. But he had just booked a slot two days ago. What can he do? In such a rare emergency, Aloo can avail the services of a Katwaria Sarai dhobi or of the prohibitively expensive QuickClean laundromat at the Chocolate Room (Rs. 1900 for a month of home-delivered laundry, or Rs 200 per 4kg load). But Kachaloo has an idea: why can’t Aloo put in his blazer with Kachaloo’s clothes, which he’s going to launder during his registered slot. But isn’t that against the rules, Aloo wonders. Kachaloo dismisses his concerns on grounds that the WME rules are not that unreasonable.
So what ARE we talking about:
Suppose Monu and Sonu are best buds. Both are lazy dolts who incessantly repeat their clothes for days and only need/want the WME once every 15 days. What actions do they have recourse to? They can register separately and pay Rs. 200 each. Or if the Joint A/c policy is in force, they can register jointly, and take up a joint slot every 8 days: to facilitate quick checking of bookings under a commonly-agreed name. (If they use their respective names, it becomes difficult for a manager to ascertain instances of ultra-frequent use.) On an individual level, joint a/c’s don’t have any prima facie adverse impact on the fufillment of Expectation A.
But this was just a partial analysis. Taking cognisance of this, if lots of such joint a/c’s are registered, what’d happen? The anti-climactic answer: nothing much would change. While revenue would fall, usage and costs would fall commensurately: the cost analysis makes that clear.
What about misuse? Would overloading become rampant? If overloading is already a problem, there is no apparent reason why it would be further aggravated: if people who use the machine after long intervals overload, they will continue to do so. Other forms of measures are required to correct that. If it isn’t, then well, it won’t suddenly appear because of the change. There are certainly no additional difficulties in implementation, apart from the added condition that a common name be used by the joint account-holders.
One vote for joint a/c’s.
Aur haan, yaad rakhna, daag acche hain.
(What was the point of this long note you ask: well, dunno, but we must establish a general principle on which we evaluate what we manage, something akin to the proposed Expectation A. We should not become unthinking rule-making-bending-breaking fun-hating un-loving un-caring inflexible isolated isles of dismal whatevers…. you get the point.)