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Stores with no public restrooms are a public nuisance

From A to Zowie

Stores with no public restrooms are a public nuisance

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the August 25, 2010 issue of the Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

If you’re traveling or shopping in northern Genesee County and southern Saginaw County and you have a weak bladder, it’s best to use the restroom before you head out and avoid drinking fluids while you’re out and about. Make note of remote, deserted roads with a few strategically-placed trees or bushes if possible. Or, perhaps, do what they did in the good ol’ days and take an empty bottle if nature calls and won’t take “Later” for an answer.

Many stores in the area, I’ve observed, have made their restrooms unavailable for public use.

Somewhere in Saginaw County a few months ago, my wife, Jennifer, and I went to a drug store to get her prescription filled. It took about half an hour. During that time, Jennifer needed to use the restroom and asked where the restroom was.

“We don’t have a public restroom,” the sales lady said.

“Not even for customers?” I asked.


Jennifer then had to leave the store and find one nearby and hope it had a public restroom–all while having to use the restroom badly.

This, to me, was completely unacceptable and infuriating.

“I realize you probably have had people come into this store and make a mess in the restroom and maybe even vandalize it, but we are your customers,” I told the sales lady. “Do not judge us based on what others do. You know, a few miles down there is a very large big box store that also fills prescriptions. Guess what they also have? Public restrooms. You are giving us no incentive whatsoever to do repeat business here, and, as far as I’m concerned, you have just lost a customer. Please tell your manager that.”

In retrospect, I should’ve asked to speak with the manager.

This past Sunday, somewhere in northern Genesee County, my family accompanied me on a few assignments where I took pictures. While leaving one place to head to the next, we decided to stop at a convenience store to get some drinks. Just as well, since I and my wife both needed to use the restroom.

We stopped at one store and as we reached the entrance, there was a sign announcing the store had no public restroom.

“Let’s buy our drinks here and then look for a store with a public restroom,” Jennifer told me.

I shook my head. Any store that refused to let us use their restroom would most certainly not get our business. We drove a few blocks and found another convenience store that did have public restrooms.

I am aware that some abuse restrooms. Some will use the restroom to smoke a cigarette. Other restrooms have graffiti while some have customers who will help themselves to supplies. And, yes, some customers make certain types of messes that can be nasty to clean up. Some stores simply don’t want to have to waste manpower to clean the restrooms on a frequent basis.

And so the solution is to punish everybody by allowing no customers to use the restroom.

A month ago, while working at home on a freelance assignment about restrooms, I discussed this with American Restroom Association program manager Robert Brubaker. He told me that if building codes start requiring stores to post signs showing where their restrooms are, they possibly will no longer be able to refuse to let customers use their restrooms. Besides, since many big-box stores readily have public restrooms, smaller stores are facing a choice: offer a restroom or lose business.

That’s something sure to bring relief to your bladder when you’re out running errands.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at rzowie@myherald.net or fromatozowie@gmail.com.

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