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Bathroom Parade, how to manage it?


Edward J
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Love the attitude.

Guy was a real estate agent. Made a nice little commission on a 1/4 million condo within 2 days. But that's not the point. He knew that washrooms were for customer use only, but was too cheap to buy something. O.K. I can live with that, but then to go on, ask stupid questions if my coffee is bird friendly as well as fair trade is a bit rich, again, I can live with that too, but then comparing prices to Starbucks went too far. He was obviously looking for a way to weasel out of paying for a 2 buck coffee and wasting a lot of time doing it. Do you think he would actually come back? He knew he embarassed himself and made himself look like a cheap a-hole. Do you actually think he would have the kahunas to come back and buy something at a latter date? It's a question I'm pretty sure you won't answer.

If someone parks their vehicle underneath a sign that states 1 hr parking and camps out for a whole afternoon, it is their business. Some of the stupidist things I've seen are very angry people arguing with traffic cops or tow truck drivers about parking signs. Many merchants along the street call the city to ticket when cars are camped out for whole afternoons--it really screws up the parking for other customers. I did not identify myself when I called him up, just told him his car was being towed.

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It sounds to me like you should consider a line of work that doesn't involve contact with the public. Human beings can be so annoying, with their selfishness and lack of consideration. But the rage you've worked yourself up into over this real estate guy, you're like Basil Fawlty. You know how you could have avoided the whole annoying conversation about the fair trade coffee and all that? You could have just let him use your bathroom. He sure as heck isn't going to come back now.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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It's not so much that it's an obligation. It's that if you choose to run a business that is open to the public, you have to realize that people are annoying, and be able to roll with it. One of the most annoying things about customer service is that you have to be nice to people even when they're not putting money in your hand right that second. If I had a competing business, I'd let people use the bathroom no questions asked. What comes around goes around.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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It's not so much that it's an obligation. It's that if you choose to run a business that is open to the public, you have to realize that people are annoying, and be able to roll with it. One of the most annoying things about customer service is that you have to be nice to people even when they're not putting money in your hand right that second. If I had a competing business, I'd let people use the bathroom no questions asked. What comes around goes around.

Wait, if being open to the public means you should be expected to allow the public to use your facilites, why aren't more people going into government offices, hospitals, physician's offices, and so on, to use the loo?

My asking this goes pack to the opening post in this topic, rather than more recent ones, because it seems to me that something has been lost sight of, here. Accepting that people are annoying doesn't mean that a restaurant or shop owner should be expected to allow the public to use the loo; it's a nice touch, a courtesy. But saying no seems perfectly reasonable to me (barring evident emergencies).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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MJX: I think your question is a valid one. Businesses obviously have absolutely no obligation to provide free accomodations to the public; it is private property after all. Restaurants have the same rights as lawyers, hospitals, etc.

Nonetheless, if I were by a hospital and needed to use the bathroom, I would. Most hospitals do have open restrooms. Other than my work as a volunteer EMT, I rarely find myself in or near a hospital though - so this situation rarely presents itself.

I would not hesitate to ask to use a government office bathroom - and have done so.

If a lawyers office was the only thing around and I had an emergency, I would walk in an politely ask. If it were a non-emergency, I would not -- because there would be no chance I would ever do business there.

There is a very strong chance, however, that I would --- and could -- buy something from a chocolate or coffee shop, essentially thanking them for being courteous to the public. In so doing, they get to introduce me to their business. Hopefully, I will like it and return!

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My asking this goes pack to the opening post in this topic, rather than more recent ones, because it seems to me that something has been lost sight of, here. Accepting that people are annoying doesn't mean that a restaurant or shop owner should be expected to allow the public to use the loo; it's a nice touch, a courtesy. But saying no seems perfectly reasonable to me (barring evident emergencies).

I don't disagree. I just think that being nice and courteous to potential customers - even if they don't buy anything that day - isn't a bad idea.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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. . . . I just think that being nice and courteous to potential customers - even if they don't buy anything that day - isn't a bad idea.

Fair enough. But it is certainly possible to nicely and politely decline to permit the public to use the loo; I've been to a few places where I was told 'I'm really sorry, but it's for staff only', and that was just not a huge deal.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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It sounds to me like you should consider a line of work that doesn't involve contact with the public. Human beings can be so annoying, with their selfishness and lack of consideration. But the rage you've worked yourself up into over this real estate guy, you're like Basil Fawlty. You know how you could have avoided the whole annoying conversation about the fair trade coffee and all that? You could have just let him use your bathroom. He sure as heck isn't going to come back now.

No, no rage.

Customer came out of the bathroom and proceeded to the counter to ask about coffee--his choice, not mine. I am obliged to answer qeustions about my producsts, which I did. If I didn't, I would be considered "rude", even though it was obvious he wanted to weasel out of a situation--which he did. Pehaps I was being rude when I suggested to "just put some change in the tip jar and go"? Or was it a segway to end an embarassing situation?

But he DID come back, only to park in front of my business--on a Saturday, 2 days later. From the time he parked to tire marking to ticketing to towing was over 4 hrs, and he parked directly under a 1 hr parking sign. Was I being nasty? Rude? Perhaps the city is, imposing parking restrictions on busy strets with all the ticketing an towing?

I'm not upset about his, but only want to illustrate what happens "on the other side of the cash register". I had no idea it would garner so many responses, but am glad it does.

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You say you aren't upset, yet still called the parking enforcement/towing company in an effort to get revenge on a guy who just wanted to take a pee in your bathroom? Doesn't add up. I somehow doubt you were doing some sort of civic duty, otherwise your parking surveillance would be a full time job. You keep an eye on all cars parked outside your door? Or just the ones from people who pissed you off? Honestly, I think that says more about you and your state of mind about the issue than anything else.

Like I said, I think you should change your thinking on this issue. Just look at everyone who walks through the door as a potential customer, whether or not they intend to buy or not. I don't think that most places that sell goods would mind more foot traffic. I doubt car dealerships are chasing people off their lot because they are just browsing with no intent to buy--because they know that someday in the future those people will most likely need to buy a car.

Obviously its up to you to decide how to run your business. If you feel that being rude to customers and getting their cars towed is good for business, more power to you. Me, I wouldn't want the potential bad juju...the less people you have out there bad mouthing your establishment, the better. If the price is to let the occasional customer pee for free, I'd see that as an even trade. You could even think of it as advertising...I assume they have to walk through your store, past all the pastries and chocolates, to get to the restroom. That is just more people who get a look at your display case.

He knew that washrooms were for customer use only, but was too cheap to buy something.

How did he know that? Did you tell him? if you told him, doesn't that mean he asked? Didn't you say earlier that you never refuse someone who asks? Again, I don't understand why you seem unable to let it go.

Do you think he would actually come back? He knew he embarassed himself and made himself look like a cheap a-hole. Do you actually think he would have the kahunas to come back and buy something at a latter date? It's a question I'm pretty sure you won't answer.

Well, it's a question I can't answer. Who knows--my crystal ball is cloudy today. Maybe he wouldn't come back, but at the very least, he's probably not venting to the neighbors and everyone else he knows what a jerk the owner of that little coffee shop is.

If someone parks their vehicle underneath a sign that states 1 hr parking and camps out for a whole afternoon, it is their business. Some of the stupidist things I've seen are very angry people arguing with traffic cops or tow truck drivers about parking signs. Many merchants along the street call the city to ticket when cars are camped out for whole afternoons--it really screws up the parking for other customers. I did not identify myself when I called him up, just told him his car was being towed.

Don't know what to say here. If you are using the old "other people do it" line to justify why you feel the need to get back at this person, I can't help you. Seems petty to me.

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This is getting a little past the point of how does a business owner manage the use of bathrooms. I don't think EdwardJ went overboard by calling about someone parked illegally. They are two separate issues connected by the use of a bathroom earlier in the week by a guy who just needed to use the facility but didn't want to buy anything. He wasn't a customer. I see a lot of "bathrooms for customers only" signs especially in downtown shopping areas with individual storefronts. A store is open for business, and they're not selling free bathroom time. I am a small business owner myself; I appreciate that people have choices about where they buy the kind of goods I'm selling. Customers are fickle, one day they love you and the next they don't. More often, it's about the price of the goods and how much money they think the goods are worth. But this is beside the point.

The illegal parking is a completely separate issue. The guy parked his car and left it for more than the posted time, and the guy was taking a chance he wouldn't get ticketed or towed. He got towed. That's the consequence for illegal parking. The fact that it happened to be EdwardJ who reported the illegally parked car is just icing on the cake depending on how you think karma was working that day.

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Ah, qwerty, thank you for taking the time to write such a long post.

1) Guy knew washrooms were for customer use only, because he said he'd get something after using it. I believe I said this in my post.

2)Why was I a jerk? The guy was obviously trying to weasel out of buying something when he said he would. I gave him a way out and he took it,(without putting any change into the tip jar...) is that being a jerk?

3)Yes, many merchants including myself and even my church and kid's schools will call the city to have cars towed when they need to. So, yes you are right, everyone does it.

For me, when I advertise , I like to promote my products and service. Everyone who walks into a store sees what they want to see. Mr Realtor only saw a bathroom,because that's all he wanted to see. One of my biggest sources of amusement is with some of my "regs", the ones who come in all the time for coffee. It is only when they come into the store with a friend or child that the other sees a 6' display case of pralines and a 8' display wall of chocolate figurines and bars. The reg's eyes pop open, "When did you start selling this stuff?" they ask.

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Ah, qwerty, thank you for taking the time to write such a long post.

1) Guy knew washrooms were for customer use only, because he said he'd get something after using it. I believe I said this in my post.

2)Why was I a jerk? The guy was obviously trying to weasel out of buying something when he said he would. I gave him a way out and he took it,(without putting any change into the tip jar...) is that being a jerk?

3)Yes, many merchants including myself and even my church and kid's schools will call the city to have cars towed when they need to. So, yes you are right, everyone does it.

For me, when I advertise , I like to promote my products and service. Everyone who walks into a store sees what they want to see. Mr Realtor only saw a bathroom,because that's all he wanted to see. One of my biggest sources of amusement is with some of my "regs", the ones who come in all the time for coffee. It is only when they come into the store with a friend or child that the other sees a 6' display case of pralines and a 8' display wall of chocolate figurines and bars. The reg's eyes pop open, "When did you start selling this stuff?" they ask.

Hey no problem. You did solicit opinions, did you not? Sorry I couldn't provide you with validation for your actions.

Again, how you run your chocolate and pastry shop (with coffee) is your own choice. You seem intent on being defensive and trying to justify your behavior instead of taking some advice (that you asked for, again) and maybe gleaning some insight into how you could improve your customer relations. The fact that your snark and rudeness is probably effecting your business more that letting people use the restroom seems to fall on deaf ears. I hope, for your sake, that you make really good chocolates and pastries.

It's easy to be nice to people who are nice to you. Being nice to the ones who aren't...that's customer service.

I'm tired of beating this horse...I've said all I can. Good luck man.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm of the opinion that if you open your establishment up to the general public, you've opened your establishment up to the general public. So I don't see someone coming in just to you the restroom as all that different from a window shopper with zero intention of buying anything or someone that hops in to get out of the rain.

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It's a pity that merchants don't share this opinion.

Surely you, and every one on this forum have been asked at one time or another to buy some thing or leave*? Yes, merchants do have that right.

*(ie browsing in the magazine section for 20 mins while waiting for a bus or ducking out of the rain?)

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It's a pity that merchants don't share this opinion.

Surely you, and every one on this forum have been asked at one time or another to buy some thing or leave*? Yes, merchants do have that right.

*(ie browsing in the magazine section for 20 mins while waiting for a bus or ducking out of the rain?)

Nope, never have. And I'm a lingerer in those circumstances. I wouldn't particularly dispute their right to do so, and would do one or the other (which depending on exactly how that demand was presented) reasonably cheerfully.

My local bookstore does have a sign saying that the restroom is for customers only, but they've assured me that I count as a customer, even if I don't buy anything on that visit. It's not uncommon for us to pop in long enough for my daughter or I to use the restroom and her to play with the train table for a few minutes, then we go on with our errands. It's also not uncommon for me to wander and browse aimlessly for 30 minutes, decide I don't really need any new books today, and go on my way. They are every bit as gracious in both of those circumstances as they are when I walk out with my arms full of books and games.

If it happened that they insisted I purchase something for using the restroom, or made a fuss about it being for customers only, I'd buy something small. I would probably also hold an unconscious grudge. Not that they'd done anything wrong, but that I'd be vaguely uncomfortable returning. As it is, book-buying trips usually follow a couple of days after non-buying trips as things from display tables percolate through my head, or the kid starts "Mom, I need new books, I'm tired of all my old ones!"

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It's a pity that merchants don't share this opinion.

Surely you, and every one on this forum have been asked at one time or another to buy some thing or leave*? Yes, merchants do have that right.

*(ie browsing in the magazine section for 20 mins while waiting for a bus or ducking out of the rain?)

I never have been asked to leave a store while browsing - ever - and while I agree that a merchant is within his rights to ask this... well, I wouldn't go back. I'm wondering whether there's some kind of deep cultural divide on this issue, because I can't imagine a small retailer doing that around here. I agree with Lupinus that open to the public means just that. You're there - the store is open - what does it cost to let someone look around?

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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This thread has gone on much longer than I intended, but I welcome all the replies.

So, the thread was about how to handle people who use washrooms and then walk out. It's quite a common problem and I listed the approaches other merchants have taken. (keys at the counter, "no public washroom" signs, or, in Starbuck's case electric apartment-building style buzzers) From your replies, I have refrained from using these approaches. But as I have said already, the problem exists, it's just that many don't think it a problem, and many merchants don't really bring up the subject.

Although I have been cooking and baking professionally for close to 30 years now, and in 3 continents, I feel I have a different perspective than most e-gulleters. It's not the cooking perspective,(there are many here who have much more experience on things like sous-vide and m.g.) but rather the perspective from a food establishment owner/manager. I don't find much of this perspective in many of the threads on this forum since joining several years ago.

In any case it is a different perspective, some might take issue with it, some might find it refreshing, and then there's also the big hope that some might use it to think differently.........

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So, the thread was about how to handle people who use washrooms and then walk out. It's quite a common problem and I listed the approaches other merchants have taken.

I think your first and main mistake is considering someone walking into your shop to be a problem. (Unless they're walking in with a flamethrower. That's a problem. Someone in need of a toilet is NOT a problem.)

You see a problem. I see an opportunity. Post your specials on a corkboard in the bathroom. Put a stack of coupons near the towel dispenser. "As a reward for washing your hands, here's a coupon for a free coffee with the purchase of a dozen of our wonderful chocolates." (Or something similar.)

You have people walking into your shop, man. Don't insult them. SELL THEM SOMETHING. And do so in a way where they get a chuckle out of it. You're squandering opportunity every day.

My only exception would be if these people were junkies using your bathroom as a shooting gallery. Then call the police. But someone who just needs to use the toilet? Figure out a way to turn these people in to loyal customers. The ones you don't reach, that's just part of doing business.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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It's a pity that merchants don't share this opinion.

Surely you, and every one on this forum have been asked at one time or another to buy some thing or leave*? Yes, merchants do have that right.

*(ie browsing in the magazine section for 20 mins while waiting for a bus or ducking out of the rain?)

Where on earth do you live that browsers aren't welcome in stores? You have a pretty pathetic attitude and I'm sure it's come across to customers and potential customers and cost you more business than you realize.

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It's a pity that merchants don't share this opinion.

Surely you, and every one on this forum have been asked at one time or another to buy some thing or leave*? Yes, merchants do have that right.

*(ie browsing in the magazine section for 20 mins while waiting for a bus or ducking out of the rain?)

The only places I've ever seen such aggressive, buy-something-or-leave enforcement has been in the 'hood, where small shopkeepers can be plagued with crackhead shoplifters and are usually suspicious of everyone who's not moving quickly. In the worst neighborhoods, the corner stores keep everything behind bulletproof plexiglass, and you have to ask for what you want and pay for it through a rotating, plastic chute. (not the best setting for a chocolate shop, but kudos to you for trying if you are indeed operating a patisserie in a massively crime-ridden inner city area.)

In more, ahem, "genteel" surroundings, you'd probably run off all of your customers if you discouraged browsing. And chasing people away in this fashion often leads to charges of profiling or discrimination, whether it is intentional or not.

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It's a pity that merchants don't share this opinion.

Surely you, and every one on this forum have been asked at one time or another to buy some thing or leave*? Yes, merchants do have that right.

*(ie browsing in the magazine section for 20 mins while waiting for a bus or ducking out of the rain?)

The only places I've ever seen such aggressive, buy-something-or-leave enforcement has been in the 'hood, where small shopkeepers can be plagued with crackhead shoplifters and are usually suspicious of everyone who's not moving quickly. In the worst neighborhoods, the corner stores keep everything behind bulletproof plexiglass, and you have to ask for what you want and pay for it through a rotating, plastic chute. (not the best setting for a chocolate shop, but kudos to you for trying if you are indeed operating a patisserie in a massively crime-ridden inner city area.)

In more, ahem, "genteel" surroundings, you'd probably run off all of your customers if you discouraged browsing. And chasing people away in this fashion often leads to charges of profiling or discrimination, whether it is intentional or not.

Actually, I've been asked quite pointedly whether I was planning on buying something, while browsing in book shops. Usually, by grouchy old men, with whom I ended up having great conversations, even after I admitted I was just browsing and got sucked into a book.

This facet of the discussion seems to be getting a bit overwrought; upthread, Edward J mentioned he had no problem with people who asked. And it seems reasonable to assume that someone who is polite enough to ask may also be less likely to pee all over the place, and nick the bog roll.

I just don't get the whole 'I have a right' thing, with public loos; it's a favour, not a right.

And there are chefs out there, wearing orange clogs in public, so surely we have something more serious to get our knickers in a twist over! :raz:

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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