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Flushing Out the Restroom Issue (Part 1 of 2)

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Photo: ©iStockphoto/yasinguneysu

Howard Scott |

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Let’s examine a delicate subject: the bathroom for customers in your store(s). You have four choices. You can have no public restroom, and let them use the employee bathroom when they plead. (Of course, some cities require that all establishments serving the citizenry have public bathrooms, so this alternative might not be possible.) You can have a filthy bathroom, which will discourage patrons from ever using your bathroom again. You can have a clean bathroom, which requires regular maintenance and periodic updating. Or you can have an interesting bathroom. Yes, you read correctly: I said “interesting.”

Let’s go over the choices one by one.

None

You will be able to tell stragglers that there’s no bathroom to save on toilet paper, but be real. Do you want your customers, who might spend an hour and a half to two hours on your premises, to have no place to go to the bathroom and wash their hands? Must they be required to ask the attendant to use the employee restroom? Even worse is forcing them to go home to use their own facilities. These options are not professional. Any restaurant that didn’t have a public restroom would soon be out of business. A Laundromat should avail its customers of this service on an up-front basis.

If your laundry is unattended, having a bathroom is a bit more problematic. Vandals might make the facility less than palatable. A compromise is to let customers use the employee bathroom when a staffer is there.

Dirty

You know the one—a filthy frosted-glass window covered with cracks, the stained linoleum floor curled and chipped at the edges, grungy toilet with a cracked top, dirty sink with permanent water stains and grimy shards of soap, rusty overhead pipes, wall surfaces that haven’t been cleaned in decades, and an empty paper towel rack above the overflowing wastebasket.

Many Laundromats have this sort of facility. It’s awful, but it’s a bathroom. To recount a line from The Odd Couple, fastidious Felix says to disheveled Oscar, “I’ve seen gas station toilets cleaner than your bedroom.” He could replace gas stations with Laundromats. The advantage here is that you can offer your customer a toilet without doing much work. You can check off the box, even though your customer might not appreciate the effort.

Clean

Here, we have relatively new fixtures, including the toilet, sink and vanity. The corner table is presentable, with contact paper carefully applied to the top. The place is cleaned every day, and the linoleum floor has been recently wet-mopped. The overhead lighting fixture casts a bright, full light. The vanity mirror is smudge-free. Maybe, there is a soap dispenser to minimize the mess. It’s pleasant, clean and up-to-date.

You are doing your job in providing a clean, presentable bathroom. Of course, you don’t want the privilege to be abused. The bathroom is intended for customers, and a sign on the door reads “For Customer Use Only.” If attended, you might require a key that can be obtained from the staffer.

If someone comes in and asks to use the restroom, you must have developed an approach to separate the customers from non-customers.

Ask if he or she is a customer. “Not today, but I use you occasionally.” Ask how often. Ask the person their name and consult a book entry (or pretend entry). If there is no entry (or you don’t recognize the person), say, “This isn’t a public bathroom, you know. If I let everyone off the street use my bathroom, it wouldn’t be fair to my customers.”

Depending on how the person reacts, decide if he or she can use the bathroom. You’ve established guidelines for usage. Next time, the individual will be less likely to stop in your place. At the same time, you’ve been polite enough to avoid offending a real customer. Have your staffers memorize the formatted approach, and you will not be bothered by excessive use.

Tomorrow: What is an interesting bathroom?

About the author

Howard Scott

H&R Block

Industry Writer, Drycleaning Consultant, and H&R Block Tax Preparer

Howard Scott is a longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant, and an H&R Block tax preparer specializing in small businesses. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359.

Comments

Restrooms for customers only!

Attended or not, a "customer use only" restroom can easily be secured using the laundromat's card system. Non-customers won't have a card....viola! Instant customer-status-verification! A coin store could always make the restroom coin or token operated...

rest room

I always left rest room available. Some women have incontinence due to child birth. As a man, I think it is my duty to ameliorate the problem.

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