Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Customer only restrooms, to make exceptions are being disingenuous to the policy?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26834points) November 16th, 2014

Several businesses around here, not just mom and pop shops but national chains have adopted the policy of closing or restricting their restrooms to those who are patrons. But they make exceptions for those who don’t know of the policy (especially if it were changed from unrestricted before), such as parents with small children needing to use it, physically disabled, pregnant women, etc. To say to people “sorry, the restrooms are for customers only, once you make a purchase I can give you the key (or code) to the restroom”, is less than genuine when they actually do allow non-customers to use it without any purchase at all?

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25 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I have a rule too.

Don’t patronize any establishment which denies human dignity.

Zaku's avatar

Yes. Pretending there is a strict rule when there isn’t is a sideways way of avoiding saying what their actual policy is, which may boil down to something like “We’d like only customers to use our restroom, and we reserve the right to choose whom to let use it or not, but especially no homeless people, and we’re also going to make up a fake rule about it so we don’t have to be straight with people about why we’re choosing not to let them use it.”

SecondHandStoke's avatar

I use charm to get into so called non public restrooms when needed.

Either one can pull it off or can not.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s just a deterrent or a way to get rid of people who might need to be thrown out. If it’s posted you have more clout. I’ve never been denied entry when I have asked to use a restroom when I didn’t buy something.

In NYC we would plan where we could use the bathroom. Macy’s 4th floor was a nice one.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The signs are appearing everywhere here. The policy accompanies the escalating tendency to keep restrooms locked. I think the trend is another indicator on the decay of societal norms as the derelict population in the country climbs. The epidemic of indigence among us has the unfortunate characteristics attributed to such things as cockroach infestations in that the problem is in large part invisible. The homeless hide for the same reasons as the bugs. When the problem becomes very visible, you can rest assured that the “infestation” is truly enormous. It is now so common a sight in those public restrooms not yet locked to find people engaged in scrubbing themselves, brushing teeth, even attempting to wash clothing in the basins. It’s easy to dismiss this sort of behavior with disgust, until you realize that the surfacing of these unfortunate souls is an indication that they still cling to the self worth involved with standards of hygiene. But what is to become of us?

canidmajor's avatar

A factor not yet addressed here is shrinkage. Small retail businesses experience greater incidences of theft if the restroom is known to be open.

And, just to play devil’s advocate, should it then be OK to enter a restaurant and occupy a table while eating your brown bag lunch and ordering nothing?

There are many sides to this subject. No one wants to see Urinetown happen, but there needs to be social changes for public good, not simply vilifying small businesses for seeming to marginalize part of the population. As @JLeslie mentioned, Macy’s, and a number of other large retailers, don’t have those restrictions.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve never encountered that. I’ve encountered “No public restrooms,” but that’s because if it IS a public restroom they have to spend bucks making it handicap accessible.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@canidmajor “And, just to play devil’s advocate, should it then be OK to enter a restaurant and occupy a table while eating your brown bag lunch and ordering nothing?”

As long as the restaurant isn’t busy and you’re not taking up a table that otherwise would be occupied by a paying customer I don’t see why not.

canidmajor's avatar

I specified a brown bag lunch, which presupposes, in the restaurant industry, a specific set of time parameters. “Why not” is because five minutes after that brown bag person sits down, maybe (likely, in fact) that customers will come in, perhaps see that there aren’t enough seats and leave.

As far as the restroom goes, a private business selectively choosing who can use property features for which they are paying, whether we find it socially beneficial or not, is part of a free market economy. Do you know that the person who they let use the restroom is not a customer at other times? And maybe it is nastier than that, maybe they refuse the facilities to obviously marginalized folks, but not if they buy something.
As unpleasant as it is, should a small business risk going bankrupt because all of the homeless or junkies know that their bathroom is open?

The issue should be about having more public facilities available, not putting the burden onto business owners to make decisions that they may find morally repugnant in order to survive.canidmajor

JLeslie's avatar

@candimajor Most specialty retail clothing stores don’t have bathrooms for customers. I wasn’t thinking of clothing stores to begin with, I was thinking of restaurants that try to restrict who can use the bathrooms.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie: I was speaking of general small retail stores, not “specialty clothing”. Places like small groceries and bodegas, little gift shops, little book and card stores, ones like that. And as far as restaurants go, it makes even more sense to restrict toilet usage to customers, as restaurant restrooms are used more by paying patrons than other businesses, and the health department keeps a much sharper eye on restaurants.

Like I said before, I don’t like the idea of Urinetown, but vilifying small businesses for trying to maintain a certain ambience to promote quality customer relations I don’t think is the answer

JLeslie's avatar

I’ve never been in a gift shop or card store that had a bathroom for the public. They aren’t required to like restaurants are. I don’t even think little local grocery stores always have them.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I once went into a Wawa (like a 711) when I was really really sick and asked to use their bathroom. They told me it was for employees only. I explained to them that I was really really sick and that there was really no where else for me to use a bathroom for several miles. They told me too bad. I threw up on the deli counter and walked out.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie: nowhere in the question or details was the word “restaurant” used. In fact, it specifically asks about places that have posted “Restrooms only for customers only” and when they made exceptions.

@El_Cadejo: you threw up on the deli counter because a minimum wage clerk didn’t want to violate policy, on camera, and maybe lose his/her job because a random stranger said they were sick?
Geez.

Yeah, folks, it sucks that judgement calls are made to the detriment of some. I don’t like it either, but the stark reality of life would indicate that judgement calls are made, not necessarily because the shop owners are racist or snobbish or hate the homeless, but to keep the business viable and functioning, and showing a meager profit.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor I know. I’m not trying to argue with you. I’m just stating that stores that post customers only usually have restrooms for customers. Employee only is a different question. I think the two are related in that either way it’s nice for an employee to make an exception when someone obviously really needs to use the bathroom and asks for the favor.

The significant difference is employee bathrooms are located in an area for employees only.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@canidmajor It was the manager, and it’s about being a decent human being. One look at me would have told you how violently ill I was. I’ve broken the “employee only” rule quite a few times for customers in the past because well, I’m not an asshole. You have to go, you have to go, no real controlling the emergencies.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s been my experience that doors are so often locked, sign or not, but the key is usually given to whomever requests it, customer or not. For a lot of folks the hangup is in the time involved with locating and retrieving the key.

canidmajor's avatar

Well, @El_Cadejo, if you were so obviously sick that the manager should have known it, maybe he thought you were drunk. Or a junkie. Or maybe the owners or corporate had come down on him in the past for letting people use the restroom. Or maybe he didn’t know there weren’t other options nearby. Or maybe he was just a jerk.
And since you were able to notice all that, ask and be turned down, the vomiting on the deli counter seems deliberate. Not the vomiting, but the placement. You couldn’t turn your head and spew in the floor? Guess not, huh.
“Decent human being. ”. Hmmm.

Never mind.

JLeslie's avatar

He probably either didn’t want a sick person using their bathroom or he was one of those people who is such a rule follower he has no common sense or judgement.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@canidmajor *“I specified a brown bag lunch, which presupposes, in the restaurant industry, a specific set of time parameters. “Why not” is because five minutes after that brown bag person sits down, maybe (likely, in fact) that customers will come in, perhaps see that there aren’t enough seats and leave.
As far as the restroom goes, a private business selectively choosing who can use property features for which they are paying, whether we find it socially beneficial or not, is part of a free market economy. Do you know that the person who they let use the restroom is not a customer at other times? And maybe it is nastier than that, maybe they refuse the facilities to obviously marginalized folks, but not if they buy something.
As unpleasant as it is, should a small business risk going bankrupt because all of the homeless or junkies know that their bathroom is open?
The issue should be about having more public facilities available, not putting the burden onto business owners to make decisions that they may find morally repugnant in order to survive.”*

- No, the term “lunch” does not presuppose a certain time. People eat their brown bag lunch at all sorts of times depending on their schedule.

- Yup. Free market economy. Unfortunately for all that typing you did there none of it has anything to do whatsoever with how I answered. You asked for opinions (“is it ok for someone to bring their brown bag lunch to a restaurant and eat it there while ordering nothing”), I gave you mine. Whather or not the business chooses to allow it is a separate matter. Your attempts to browbeat me with “free market” and “survival of the business” are entirely irrelevant to my answer to your initial question.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@El_Cadejo It was the manager, and it’s about being a decent human being.
What a wonderful world this would be if we put ourselves in the shoes of others and empathize with their needs. Based off answers to this question, online and off, some people can’t stretch that far due to policy or protocol.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@canidmajor There are many sides to this subject. No one wants to see Urinetown happen, but there needs to be social changes for public good, not simply vilifying small businesses for seeming to marginalize part of the population
John Q may not want to see “Urinetown”, but he is not repulsed enough about it to relent on having a center or such, to house and train the homeless to re-enter society as self-sufficient people. John Q’s solution to not having “Urinetown” is not to have more public facilities (that is still him and his neighbors), but ”get those lousy homeless scum out of here”; in short, move the homeless away, preferably a whole other city or county.

jca's avatar

It benefits stores to have restrooms for their customers because if you’re shopping and have to go to the bathroom and there’s no restroom available, what are you going to do? You’re going to leave, possibly without buying anything or maybe by buying less. That’s why some stores sell food and/or drinks (for example, IKEA or large dept stores), because if you’re hungry, you may leave. Satiate that hunger and now, ready for round 2 of shopping.

If restaurants and coffee shops allowed non-paying guests to sit and eat, not only would it take up table space from paying customers, but it would more quickly fill up garbage pails as the non-payers would be disposing of their brown bags, plastic utensils and cups and bottles in the garbage pails of the restaurants. In a city like NYC, with thousands of workers looking for places to eat, in the winter, if restaurants allowed “open season” on coming and using their tables (the equivalent of a cafeteria), there definitely would be no room for paying customers. In NYC in the warm weather, the thousands of workers are in parks and on public benches eating lunch. In cold weather, those workers are going to look for indoor seats. If I were a restaurant owner, I would not want them all coming in to take up my valuable table space (especially because I’d be paying high rent for my location and getting nothing back from these non-paying guests).

If I had to use a restroom and were turned away when asking, I might explain that I had to go so badly that I may pee on the floor. Hopefully that would be an incentive for the store or restaurant worker to let me go.

canidmajor's avatar

Some here are addressing an ideal abstract, I am not (and @jca understands the implications as well). All of you prating on about basic human dignity and decency, find the owners of these “customer only” places (and I stressed the small businesses in all of my posts) and ask them why they have such a policy. You’ll likely find that it’s not about being snotty, snobby or racist, it’s about the fine fine line between doing what their conscience might prefer and maintaining the narrow profit margin that allows them to survive.

JLeslie's avatar

I didn’t feel like jellies were saying they are snotty or snobby. Just stupid when they can’t figure a particular person really needs to go.

Most people don’t try to use the bathroom in a place they are not patronizing, there is a common, sometimes unspoken, sometimes posted, understanding. The exceptions are places that have bathrooms for the masses like gas stations and large department stores. If someone is trying to use the bathroom they probably really need to go.

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