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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hallowe'en Bathroom Horror Stories!

Well, it wouldn't be a proper Hallowe'en without some scary stories, right? And the Bathroom Blogfest '06 is going on, right?

Here we go!

If you remember from Your Bathroom is a Work of Art I referred to the winners of the Golden Plungers awards. One of the NYC winners - the Best Bathroom for Extroverts - is called Bar 89. Well, Bar 89, and others sharing a similar spirit, appear in several bathroom horror story writeups!

This article from The Gothamist titled When Bad Bathrooms Happen to Good Restaurants refers to public bathrooms that confuse [i.e., Bar 89] as well as disgust.

And this 5/4/2005 article from The New York Times by Frank Bruni titled Forget the Specials, Explain the Restroom puts into very human terms the exasperating tendency to be confusing, obtuse, unclear, impractical and frustrating at a time when both men & women want and need to be efficient! He writes: "It's an exercise in stress, an invitation to exasperation. You tread tortuous paths to befuddling destinations. You encounter too little space or too much whimsy, the funhouse flourishes sowing enough confusion to warrant operating instructions, which a few restrooms actually have. You wish - oh, how you wish - that you never had to go." The article is well worth a read.

The author's wish - to never have to go - represented my mantra as a child attending French schools in West Africa where public toilets [IF I was lucky] were of the squat variety. Pretty traumatic for a little American girl!

My friend Jody shares this worst bathroom story:

Sorry I don't have a photo...but I distinctly remember the worst! I was in Leuven, Belgium at a pub drinking those Belgian beers that are each served in their own distinctive glass. I asked where the ladies room was and excused myself. But upon following the directions I found myself at the men's restroom instead. So I returned to our table for new directions. I was told you just walk thru the men's urinals to get to the women's restroom!

Hallowe'en isn't all about horror, though. It's also about little kids dressing up and having a fun time [and adults maybe raiding their candy stash??]. In that spirit, I include the following critiques:

In What Makes a Destination? I mentioned having to return to the Disney Store in Manhattan to give it proper consideration. Accompanied by my soon-to-be-5-year-old, we took photos by statues of Mickey, Cruella deVille, and then with a real live Cinderella [as whom my daughter will be dressing up today]. Fabulous experience! An official Disney photographer took photos. I was invited to take my own photos, too. We were issued a Disney PhotoPass with website info to view the photos for the next 30 days [remember the lousy Toys R Us photo experience?]; they are available to share via email [at no charge] as well as for purchase.

Being good travellers [we had gone into the city for the afternoon], we used the ladiesrooms before leaving. Cinderella was up on the 3rd floor. The bathrooms were down in the basement. Escalators down to the first floor, then stairs down. [Sure would have been nice to be mechanized all of the way down.]

At the bathrooms, a long line.... out into the hall. The mensrooms seemed empty. Doors to both were open [amazingly!]. The womensrooms featured a nice waiting area with 2 leather chairs and a baby changing table [no privacy here, unlike Bloomingdale's Bathroom Makeover]. Then, the sink and toilet area: 4 stalls, 4 sinks. Don't you think they could have included a few more toilets given how busy this story is EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK? It is a major tourist destination!

The bathroom stalls could also have been better designed. I had to straddle the toilet in order to get myself AND my daughter into a stall. Don't a lot of small children visit the Disney Store? And if they need to use the facilities, don't you think that a parent will need to accompany them?

Time to wash hands [we sing our ABCs to make sure the hands get properly cleaned]: no stool! My daughter can barely reach the faucet on her own. If IKEA [see How To Achieve An Inspired Environment] can think to offer step stools in its bathrooms for its youngest customers, don't you think that Disney - whose specialty is catering to the child within all of us, big and small - would and should?

The moral of these horror stories is: Unless you have a really good reason, don't overdo it with your bathrooms. Do, though, relentlessly and passionately think of your consumers and how to deliver a consistently clean, dependable, thoughtful and delightful experience. Imagine how your consumers [men, women and children] would navigate through your space and figure out how to make it easy for them. Do the kids need a stool? Should the door handles be easier to grasp?

The more you can anticipate, the more appreciative your customers will be, especially your women consumers!

Happy Hallowe'en!

These are the latest Bathroom Blogfest '06 posts:

+ Sara Cantor at Curious Shopper just posted Shoppers Must Wash Their Hands. Yes, Sara!

+ Maria Palma at Customers Are Always just posted My Bathroom Phobia and Secret. I look at shoes, too!

+ Susan Abbott at Customer Experience Crossroads just posted Integrated Customer Experience Applied to the Bathroom. I, too, am most grateful to the wonderful MacDonald's bathrooms around the world for being so consistent in their experience.

+ Stephanie Weaver at Experienceology just posted Where Are the Well Designed Bathrooms?

+ Linda Tischler at Fast Company's blog FC Now just posted Posh Porta-potty

+ Thanks to PurpleWren for joining the Blogfest!

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