TikTok-inspired content leads to Castleton U laundry ‘hack’

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 7:09 PM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - Castleton University students caught tampering with laundry machines on campus were apparently inspired by a TikTok hack to do their laundry for free.

A viral social media trend is leading to an uptick in laundry service theft in college communities across the Northeast. along with advice on how to hot wire certain types of cars and other questionable content, there are hundreds of TikTok videos shared by students claiming to hack the coin systems on laundry machines. In the videos, users show how a universal key purchased online unlocks the coin mechanism on certain washers and dryers. Once unlocked, they can do their laundry without putting in any money.

And it’s happening in Vermont. After receiving complaints from Castleton University’s laundry vendor, school administrators say they found that students had been involved. Multiple keys have been recovered although it’s still unknown how many students were involved.

In a statement, school officials say disciplinary action will be taken. “Conduct letters will be sent out and the students will be charged accordingly to their alleged involvement. In past situations, we have placed students found responsible for misconduct on housing probation, asked them to repay the funds, and/or required community restitution,” officials said.

Chris and Josephine Asanya owns the Clothes Quarters Laundromat in Winooski and say while they aren’t aware of any tampering yet, they are always on alert for any possible theft or scams. “They’ve tried to see what they could do to get either free laundry or drying or whatever. But the fact that we’re here and somebody’s always here all the time helps to stop stuff like that.,” Josephine said.

“Sixteen cameras in the building. Soon as they walk in, they know they can’t pull those types of stunts,” added Chris.

The couple also says that although it can save you a few dollars in the short term, these types of trends can leave longer-lasting negative impacts. “Once you start losing money in order to stay in business, you have two options -- raise the rate of laundry or go out of business. If you close, that affects the community. If you raise the price, that affects your customers as well. So, everybody gets affected in the whole process,” Chris said.

Castleton University officials say their vendor has responded to these incidents by installing new locks on washers to prevent further theft.