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"If You Use The Restroom Before You Order"

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

You have to pay us! (?!?)

The sign in its entirety:

Restrooms for CUSTOMERS ONLY.  AND You will be charged $1.00 if you use the restroom before you order!"

This a real sign posted on the front door of an  Albuquerque Old Town restaurant.  This soon-to-be customer (who didn't need to use the restroom), turned on her heel and walked the other way.  (And, how often do we need to - um - take a bio break, during a long day of shopping, before we can focus on ordering?) 

Yet another example of a business viewing people as a problem, not an opportunity. Now, I can understand that the restaurant may be dealing with a large number of tourists, who may take "advantage" of the restroom facilities, but, charging me a $1.00 even when I plan on spending $$ there?  And, how do they police it?  Send the wait staff into the rooms and see if they recognize shoes under the stalls?  Oh, c'mon.

This sort of negativity drives people (like me) away....never smart even in the best of times...and many businesses in Old Town have suffered badly over the past couple of years, with a drastic drop in money-spending tourists.  Somehow I don't think a horde of unruly restroomers is a big problem these days...

So, how could potential restroom abuse be turned into an opportunity?

Post a sign: 

"Clean restrooms! Use ours and receive a 15% discount on your order!" 


"We love our customers, especially Moms! Clean restrooms and sparkling baby-changing station!" 

Yep, this is encouraging people to use the restroom - which can be problematic...but they're also coming in.  Once they're in the door, they could become customers, if only for a cold drink and appetizer to go, as they continue to walk around Old Town. (Have menus prominently posted and make it easy for people to buy something quick and tasty.)  

At the very minimum, have a polite sign, "Sorry, we have small restrooms, for customers only.  The nearest public facilities are at:_________"   AND post that next to a sign talking about a great special of the day. ("Tell us you're a new customer here for a bio break and get a free appetizer!")  Sure, that's sorta silly, but it's human.  We do all, after all, need restrooms.  

P.S.  Clean restrooms are a HUGE selling point for women.  Think about it. We've got to sit down. And, clean baby changing stations?  Even bigger! (Moms, chime in here.)


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I experienced a similar (but not bathroom-related) people-as-a-problem situation with a local store over the Summer.

Our local Costume shop that's been around for ages (way longer than I've been alive) posted a sign that read: No Bags, No Backpacks, No Purses. I thought 'they can't possibly be serious about the purse thing' but they were. Apparently they'd been having a lot of thefts and decided to assume every customer was a potential thief rather than, oh, upgrade their security system (non-existent) or their store into the 20th century (no bar codes, scanners, anti-theft anything). When I questioned this policy I was informed (complete with a finger pointing lecture) that it was MY attitude that was the problem.

This shop is near campus and a bus stop--what about people who don't have a car to lock their purse or backpack away in? They refuse to keep purses, etc behind the counter while you shop (they can't take that responsibility I was told) nor do they (like the college bookstores that forbid backpacks) offer a place near the entrance to store belongings. The only option for commuters or walkers is to leave it outside on the sidewalk.

Tiffany Jonas

What a fantastic idea!

There are some women who actively avoid stores and restaurants with inconveniently located, dirty, ill-equipped, and understocked bathrooms---especially women with small children who have to go when they have to go. (Women with good money to spend!) I can only imagine their reaction to such a poorly worded sign... but even better, I can imagine their very *delighted* reaction to a sign such as you suggest.

As a side note, I recently read the results of a 2009 survey in USA Today that reported that parents, including moms, are most annoyed by the lack of tissues in public restrooms. Next most annoying: empty or jammed dispensers (72%), no place for belongings (62%), sink too high (58%), water around sink (57%), and hard-to-reach faucets (54%). A welcoming sign like you propose would be an excellent step, especially if the restroom in question were clean and well stocked!

Loved this post.

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