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Policy not a token gesture

Ryan Carter

The Burbank Community YMCA is throwing in the towel, but only for a


For years, the organization has lost towels by the thousands at an


estimated cost of $12,000 to $18,000 annually, officials said.

To counter the loss, the Y began handing out towels to members

this month in exchange for tokens.

“We felt that money would be much better used to enhance and


expand our programs and service to our members,” YMCA Interim

Director Gail Dover said. “Instead of budgeting for a loss each year,

we can take that money and put it back into buying program


Under the new policy, members receive two tokens each, and are

required to use them to check out towels (one towel per token). When

the towels are returned, so are the tokens. Members will be assesed

$5 for each token that is lost. The system applies to all members,


including those with locker and towel privileges.

Once the board voted to change the policy, the organi- zation

mailed letters to its 6,000 members informing them of the change.

While Dover said the token program was well received during its first

week, some members contend it will take some getting used to.

“It makes it more of a hassle, but financially I can see where

they are coming from,” said member Steve Estephan, who has seen

members take towels and admits that he has inad- vertently walked out


with a few.

While Frank Sakata, a YMCA board member, isn’t sure the token

exchange is the best way to stem the tide of towel disappearance, he

said something had to be done even if it means making people more

aware of a persistent problem.

“People are just walking away with them,” Sakata said. "[The

staff] is just trying to control the loss.”

Prior to the new policy, members would simply check in and take a

towel, but many -- an estimated 1,320 small and 3,600 large towels

every month -- were never returned.

“People would inadvertently put them in their bags and forget to

return them,” Dover said. “It wasn’t anything intentional, but when

you multiply the losses, they added up.”

As vendors increased the cost of the towels, the Y was forced to

make a change, he said.