Saturday, 22 March 2014

Toilet conundrum ? Which one do you choose ?

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Intriguing image on the web page recently showed a 'double' toilet.  I use an edgy, but mostly fun, construct of imaging being a toilet brand manager as a universal and ubiquitous example to connect student experience into product attributes, customer unconscious needs and wants and market competition.  It can also spark a cracking conversation that brings out some interesting cross cultural and gender differences.

In the early days of email there was a cracking interactive pop up quiz that invited you to choose the optimal 'trap' or urinal position for doing your business, based on four installations and selection in the context of other user(s).

                        Trap 1         Trap 2         Trap 3        Trap 4

When trap 2 is being used, then the clear choice is trap 4.    When trap 1 and 3 are being used, clearly trap 4 is the best choice because you have a void or wall on one side and are not likely to brush people on either side of you.  I believe these unwritten codes of conduct are little known to women.

My colleague, Dr Alan Bradshaw, has even published in the peer reviewed journal of consumer behaviour academic journal theorising  consumption behaviour in this area.  (with Canniford (2010) Excrement theory development)  

At first you may think 'what a load of poop', but then you begin to discover that there are a range of important issues all spinning around the bowl here.  First up there is gender inequality, unequal availability of facilities result in women often queuing for the loo (except in enlighten situations where toilets are co-ed; think aeroplanes, Sweden and Ally McBeal sitcom).  The cross-cultural norms and culture shock encountered with the 'seat' and 'natural' positions is also intriguing.  

Then consider public health, blocked pipes and different flushing rituals.  You may also ponder (some of us even have time to read a paper whilst on the job after all !) the water wastage, when composting alternatives are available.  Recreational use is fun, colleague Paul pointed out the protest video George Michael made following his arrest in a Californian toilet facility, 'outside'.  

And then the issue of personal safety raises its ugly head, travel blogs are littered with 'worst toilet' experiences and I have noticed women appear to be more aware of their own personal safety when needing to find a facility down dark and dank, twisting, narrow, back passages.  

One company discovered that a popular place for thinking was whilst sitting on the toilet, in our busy lives it is often a rare moment of seculsion, individual space for contemplation and taking a brief time out.  In a tongue in cheek attempt to stimulate more creative thinking it built a thunder box space in the office in the guise of a toilet and invited staff to capture creative ideas whilst in this space, posting a note of their ideas in a little box inside.  A popular and effective innovation until its primary purpose was subverted for other uses.

I've had several weeks worth of conversation with Saturday morning football dad friend Julian, who keeps getting jobs that involve him looking after toilets.  We covered the issues around the ideal colour and make up of toilet paper, the French penchant for pink in public loos being an interesting learning.  We also explored the tunnel blow back problem and what service recovery strategies are used to mop up such high pressure situations and the difficulty in justifying million pound upgrade investments on toilet facilities that just do not drive the customer satisfaction dial.

If this all smells a bit iffy to you, you might be right !  It appears that for many, it is the pong that is the problem, not the facilities themselves.

I've decided this is a rich seem and worthy of mining myself for a paper that looks to combine the service and tourism angles.  Do !, Do ! send me any interesting anecdotes...