Service of Paper Towels in Public WCs

October 26th, 2009

Categories: Blogfests, Customer Service, Management, Marketing, Restaurant

Photo 5: The winner, Millbrook Free Library, N.Y.

Photo 5: The winner, Millbrook Free Library, N.Y.

This is my first blogfest–the 2009 Bathroom Blogfest –where writers from around the world will post about all aspects of this subject between October 26 and 28. Christine Whittemore, Simple Marketing Now LLC is directing it.

I joined for the fun of it and to meet 17 other bloggers-I already know three of the 20. I list them all below, should you want to see their take on the topic. This blogfest began in 2006 as the brainchild of two consultants to generate awareness for bloggers passionate about the bathroom customer experience at a time when blogging was more experimental. 

So here’s the first of my three posts on the subject.


Long before all the talk about the swine flu pandemic‑‑H1N1 virus‑-now a national emergency, I was aware of germs on surfaces of things such as ATM and public library computer keyboards; office building and subway swinging door bars and bus poles, to name just a few.


Years ago, my sister warned me to protect my hands when opening the doors to and from public bathrooms. She urged me to use a paper towel to turn a knob or pull open a door handle. I admit that it seemed a bit excessive at the time, but no longer. It has become essential.

Photo 1: Concert hall

Photo 1: Concert hall

I am amazed at how many business owners with public bathrooms still place their trash baskets miles from the door, even if there is room for them nearby. Others design the bathroom with either electric hand dryers–green, yes, but not the greatest to make a clean exit. And I’ve found most don’t dry my hands. I’ve seen many paper towel dispensers with built-in receptacles for garbage that are so far from the door that they might as well be installed on the moon.

If this trend persists, gloves in summer might come back in fashion, or handbags designed to hold moist, germy paper towels. Maybe jacket and coat pockets bulging with paper will become the rage.

I took Photo 1 [above, left], in a bathroom in a concert hall designed by one of the most famous architects in the world and built within the last five years. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t toss your towel into the used towel bin after pulling open the door.

Photo 2: Midtown NYC office

Photo 2: Midtown NYC office

Photo 2 shows the bathroom door in a midtown New York City office. There’s room for a wastebasket to the left of the door, but it’s actually across the room and not even that close to the sink.


Photo 3: Unisex restaurant bathroom

Photo 3: Unisex restaurant bathroom

Photo 3 features a unisex bathroom in an upstate New York restaurant. There’s space under the sink by the door for a can to capture used paper towels. The container is nowhere near.



Photo 4: Loo in Metro-North Railroad train

Photo 4: Loo in Metro-North Railroad train

Photo 4

captures a once‑in‑a‑lifetime site: A literally spotless bathroom in a vintage train on the Metro-North Railroad. It doesn’t offer towels, only a useless blow‑dry device. I wonder if the water even works. Hard as I try I can’t get my kitchen sink to look like this!


Photo 5, [at the top of the post], is smart–maybe because it is in the Millbrook Free Library, N.Y., and it’s the winner. It’s a cinch to open the door and you don’t have to be a basketball star for your towel to land where it belongs in the bin once you’ve opened the door.

What gets to you about public bathrooms? Have you participated in a blogfest? If so, about what?

List of participating Bathroom Blogfest bloggers:

Susan Abbott at Customer Experience Crossroads

Reshma Anand at Qualitative Research Blog

Shannon Bilby at From the Floors Up

Shannon Bilby and Brad Millner at My Big Bob’s Blog

Laurence Borel at Blog Till You Drop   

Jeanne Byington at The Importance of Earnest Service

Becky Carroll at Customers Rock!;

Leslie Clagett at KB Culture

Katie Clark at Practical Katie;

Iris Shreve Garrott at Checking In and Checking Out;

Julie at Julie’s Cleaning Secrets Blog

Marianna Hayes at Results Revolution

Maria Palma at People To People Service 

Professor Toilet at Professor Toilet’s Blog

David Reich at My 2 Cents

Bethany Richmond at The Carpet and Rug Institute Blog http://www.carpet‑and‑rug‑institute‑

Carolyn Townes at Becoming a Woman of Purpose

Stephanie Weaver at Experienceology;

C.B. Whittemore at Flooring The Consumer and Simple Marketing Blog 

Linda Wright at Build Better Business with Better Bathrooms

Look for #ladiesrooms09 on Twitter.

8 Responses to “Service of Paper Towels in Public WCs”

  1. EAM Said:

    Pet peeves: dryers in placement of paper towels, people who do not flush or wash afterwards- not to mention doors that do not close.

    High recommendation to Ralph Lauren’s Corporate office bathroom, great soap and good quality paper towels and a basket by the door.

  2. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    I have no idea what a blogfest is, but I do find myself concerned with the hand-wipe challenge when using a public restroom. The worst scenario, of course, is finding no towels and having to use toilet tissue; the next is the air-dry machine that has not been maintained and, though it makes noise, does little drying.

    I wish there was some standardization—so that when you enter a restroom you know immediately that, yes, there’s a sink and faucet and, of course, there is a way to dry your hands. I feel guilty using paper towels, but in so many cases there’s no alternative.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Don’t forget soap and, if possible, hot water, especially if you are in a restaurant and if the staff uses the same facilities!

    Once, over a dozen years ago, I was sent [in NYC] to have blood taken for a blood test in a facility with no soap in the one bathroom and believe me, I never went back.

    Funny how you remember a fabulous bathroom as EAM did. It tells you a lot about a place.

  4. C.B. Whittemore Said:

    Jeanne, you hit on a hot opportunity to improve the bathroom experience! I love your photos and descriptive examples. Thank you so much for being a part of this year’s Bathroom Blogfest! CB

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks, CB. Think of how easy it would be for so many of the businesses to plant a basket by the door!

    I was in a bathroom at a school today that had no soap in the soap dispensers and most of the dispensers were broken. Hmmm. Forget about flu shots, folks, get some soap in the dispensers!

  6. AL Said:

    Pleased to see Millbrook made it to the top !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Ed Cassidy Said:

    Do any of you remember the days when if you went to a good restaurant and wanted “to wash your hands,” there was a usually obsequous little man, (or maid), who would hand you a cloth towel to wipe your hands on, and you had to tip or walk out with wet hands?

    It was almost as bad as those hot air blowers.

    There is still one of those bathrooms around. In case you don’t remember what it was like, go to the bathroom just off the back room of the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in New York. The man is probably there because the restaurant is a union shop — which incidentally explains why the waiters are so rude. He’s the real thing, but the towel he hands out isn’t. It’s some kind of composite stuff.

    God bless the paper towel!


  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I still see bathroom attendants at craft fairs, at the Monmouth Racetrack in New Jersey, in some theatres. I don’t recall when I last saw a cloth towel–except on Monk not long ago.

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