July 4, 2008


Today I came across this blog entry by The Curious Capitalist regarding Starbucks and their bathrooms (Yes, I know that's a weird topic to associate with Starbucks ), but nevertheless they had a very interesting idea that there should be a charge for using the bathrooms at Starbucks, considering that the employees work to keep it clean, and under most circumstances they are used by customers of competitors rather than customers who would be coming to Starbucks alone.

So what if we have a charge to use the bathroom in all restaurants and cafes, I guess that's not a bad initiative. And the better thing would be that if you make a purchase from the place, then they would very willingly deduct that amount from your bill so essentially this ensures that the customers still retain their free usage of facilities. But it will certainly be something which will require getting used to. Though this idea is not something everyone would be averse to as I for one can say that I would prefer to use a paid but clean facility rather than one which seems to be one used by all with no regard.

In most touristic locations I have noticed that the paid restroom facility is not a very far fetched idea, rather used and their need understood by all.Such facilities for some reason have a tendency also to remain more soothing to the eyes hence also making their usage not a very debatable choice !


  1. I have a different take on this.

    A case study detailed in the book - Freakonomics - involved study of day care centers where parents left their children while they went off to work. The centers had frequent cases where the parents turned in late and the caretakers had to stay in late because of them. To combat this, they levied a charge in case the parents weren't able to pick their children in time and what they found was the number of such cases
    increased after these charges were applied. The hypothesis they came up with was that the moral incentive for picking up the children on time was replaced by an economic incentive and the guilt of coming late and making someone wait diminished - they were paying for it after all. I think a corollary can be drawn here and it is possible that the number of people using the restroom at a Starbucks location
    might go up once usage charge is levied.

    A slightly more offbeat point - Starbucks could very well build a few public restrooms if they can get some good brand advertising out of it. Think of the Starbucks restroom as a public restroom to use which you have to go through a Starbucks outlet smelling their coffee and listening to their selection of music and it could well be the best form of advertising they could get for their brand.

  2. @Anurag: I completely agree with you that advertising will be a very good take for them to stick by the free restrooms.

    But many of those who go into a Starbucks heading straight for the restroom would already know about Starbucks and also that they have restrooms right? So then, in that case why do they require the advertising to these people?

    More advertising effect would be a public restroom just around the corner of a Starbucks! ;)

  3. People who go into Starbucks to use the restroom would definitely know about it, but then who says all the advertising that brands like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Reebok, Adidas, etc. do is to introduce their brand to new audience. It is more to make the brand stick in the minds of people who already know about it. Advertising was anyways my offbeat idea :)

    This also reminds me of a quote from a friend of my professor at the university where I'd interned about McDonald's and its restrooms -- "McDonald's is not a bad place to use the restroom if you can stand the smell of the food there". He was probably a fast food hater :)

  4. Hey Aathira...sooooo true u know! I think when we have to pay and use a toilet we do it with a lot less guilt and with a lot more confidence in its upkeep.... Pay loos are actually a winning bet for all concerned... maybe Barista ought to start charging folks for its restroom, coz their restrooms are quite badly kept!

  5. That starbucks image right in the morning is so fetching:)and I for one, finicky about clean bathrooms, will alwys go for a paid loo than an unpaid one. Of course' assuming that the paid one is better maintained.


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