Please Feel Free to Come in and Use our Washrooms

I loved this artilce by my freind Kim Ades. Enjoy!

My daughter has a small bladder – that’s just the way it is. She is still only 7 years old and invariably, each time we leave the house, we are in search of a washroom (restroom for Americans). I usually factor it in to our journey but sometimes a mother forgets. I forgot the other day. We went shopping at the ROOTS warehouse outlet in a strip mall not far from my office. ROOTS, for those of you who don’t know, is a clothing store that sells t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and sweat pants symbolizing Canada’s national identity in sports and athletics across the world. I was on a mission to buy a few gifts for some of my American friends.

With the assistance of my kids, I scoured the store for close to an hour. I chose a bunch of cool, funky t-shirts for my friends, a series of matching sweat suits for my kids, and even picked out a few things for me. My bill was easily $500. As we approached the cash, I heard the all familiar

Mom, I have to pee.”
“Is it urgent?” I asked
“Yes – it’s extremely urgent.”

I approached the young girl standing at the cash register. “Is there a washroom that we can use?”

“No I’m sorry, we don’t have a public washroom in the store.”
“But my daughter is desperate.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you, we don’t have a washroom in the store.”
“Where is the closest washroom?”
“At Tim Hortons, in the next strip mall across the way.”
“Are you telling me that when you have to use the washroom, you have to leave the store and go to Tim Horton’s?”

She chose not to answer that one. Clearly they had a washroom that was not for public use. Not even in extreme circumstances. I begged, I pleaded, I was incredulous, and slowly my anger grew. I threatened to leave the store without buying a thing – they didn’t care. I couldn’t believe that they were ready to let a sale go because they didn’t want to break the store’s washroom policy.

I left the store fuming. Fuming and thinking that if I owned a retail store I would put up a sign that says “Please feel free to come in and use our washrooms.” I would use it to drive traffic. In fact, I would be known for that. And as soon as they finished their business, I would offer them a pamphlet showing them the store specials or give them a food sample to keep them in the store longer. I would make them feel good about coming into the store. I would surprise and delight them and they would be happy to buy lots of stuff. And when they approached the cash, they would be greeted by the warmest, friendliest face who would go the extra mile to let them know about something else they might like to buy and call over a sales person to bring it over to them. I would turn it into an experience where they leave with a smile – one that they go home talking about.

What can you do to leave your customers feeling so good that they walk away talking about you? How can you go the extra mile? It’s more than just adding value – it’s adding delight. And it’s training everyone in the organization to deliver delight. Think about what would delight you and factor it in. It doesn’t have to be huge or wildly expensive – but it does have to leave people feeling like you truly care about them.

Kim Ades, MBA is founder and President of Opening Doors. She is launching a new coaching program called Frame of Mind, based on the principles of thought management. She is a regular contributor to a series of national real estate publications including Frog Pond Magazine, Real Estate Professional Magazine, and RISMedia’s National Real Estate and Relocation Magazine.
If you would like to speak to Kim, she can be reached at

2 responses to “Please Feel Free to Come in and Use our Washrooms

  1. Some people have no feelings toward others,that is a fact of life now days. I agree with you and would do the same. Great ideal, have you used it yet in any way? Jim Postelwait jr

  2. As a retail guy I’ll tell you why I don’t have a public washroom.

    I did for about my first 9 months in business. Then I found used needles(plural) in the bathroom. Diabetic..maybe (I don’t think so) but the grocery store next door has problems with people shooting up drugs in the bathroom. The security staff told me that they had someone hit a vein and spray blood all over teh walls.

    Then twice a month (I am not embelishing) someone would poop all over the floor, the toliet seat sometimes smear it on the walls. Great stuff. People would also go in to steal items from the store in their.Empty packages abound.

    We then tried to only let childen use it by got screamed at by a native man who insisted we were being racist. So then we went back to everyone can use.

    So the final straw came…less than a week before someone did the poop all over the place trick…and then it happened again. I cleaned it up cursing the idea of a public washroom and then went to take the garbage out and found 10 stolen item packages in the bathroom. No more. EVER Right then and there. For anyone. Regardless of age, urgency, size of bladder, medical condition, anger, whineness etc etc.

    The previous commenter said “no feelings towards others”. Well it works both ways. No “retail manners” no “common decency”, no “respec”t. As consumers you need to realize that you are NOT ENTITLED to the washroom automatically. Truely, the few ruined it for the many.

    I get blasted on a routine basis for not having a public bathroom but too bad. I don’t have the cost of stolen items, I don’t have to worry about drug addicts in the store, and I don’t have the personal disgust and time cost of cleaning it up. Plus I needed the storage room. I lose sales and anger people without question but I shrug it off. there’s only one public washroom left in the entire strip mall. All other retail stores have signs that state no public washroom. The restaurants have signs that bathrooms are for customer use only, and the small sub shop actually has to buzz people in.

    So before you blast away at retail places consider the other side of the fence, the costs that we have to absorb, the repulsive problems associated with public washroom.

    It’d be popular but laughable and futile to see a place offer a public washroom in the window as a draw. I call them “bathroom customers” who come in for the facilites and buy nothing. You can’t imagine the pandora’s box you’d open with using that as a competitive advantage..

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