On paying to pee

Frankfurt Station Pay Toilets
Image by Artbandito via Flickr

I used to think charging for toilets, and having up to two attendants sitting outside washroom facilities and collect coins in a little tray, ceremoniously spraying a whiff of air fresher in toilet stalls after each use, was an act relegated to developing countries with severe under-employment problems.  I was wrong.

On the European Continent, it is the rule rather than exception to have paid toilets.  Whether it’s in McDonald’s, department stores, highway rest stations, or sometime even museums, I always go forth with change in my pocket.

The newer automated paying toilet turnpike system adopted along the Germany highway is at least without attendants, generally well-lit, well-stocked and sanitary.  You also get a coupon back for the amount you inserted to get inside the washroom, which can be used in the chain of highway rest stop restaurants and shops.  So not all’s wasted.

In shopping areas and fast food outlets, I find it harder to justify installing paid bathrooms at 20 to 60 cents per use.  Why penny-pinch the customers that are buying things and keeping your business afloat?

However, the idea of keeping customer happy in Europe is still stuck at a level where YOU, and not THEM, are expected to pay for customer service.  The consumerist drive is still under check by relatively expensive goods and inconvenient shopping environments – expensive parking, spread out shopping areas, and a general indifference to the idea of comfort when shopping.

PS. Apparently Paris is also subjected to a pay-for-use public toilet system, with some places literally robbing the tourists on one whole euro per use.

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