Talking Points

It’s time to sift through the e-mail and start discussions on bathroom tissue, a new restroom concept and squat toilets.

As restroom contractors gear up for the busy season, I offer a springtime grab bag of news and views in the portable sanitation industry:

Too many rolls?

Eric DeJong, owner of San Diego-based Diamond Environmental Services, called recently to take issue with a customer service tip I passed along in March. In my column, “Getting Down with Upgrades,” I suggested that, among other things, contractors could enhance customer service by upsizing the tissue dispenser. I concluded that going from a two-roll to a three-roll dispenser may extend the time between services and ensure a positive experience for more users.

DeJong disagreed on both points. In an effort to provide opposing views, I’ll share his response. And I figure a fella like DeJong, who has grown from about 400 units, to his current inventory of more than 10,000 units, has to have a perspective worth listening to.

Providing an additional roll in a fresh restroom isn’t a good thing for the customer or the portable sanitation contractor, says DeJong. First, he argues, the longer service interval ensured by the extra roll will result in a fouler restroom when it comes time for cleaning. If a unit gets 20 more users and a longer period between cleaning, the result will be a less positive user experience.

And DeJong says extending service intervals flies in the face of the goal of running a profit-making venture. He wants to see his crew clean each restroom as often as possible to maximize profits. While some might argue that it’s a negative if the customer runs out of paper and has to call for a service, DeJong views that call as a good thing. It might convince the customer to opt for more cleanings, resulting in happier users and more profits for him.

Ultimately, DeJong believes that customer wants clean restrooms and frequent service more than saving a few bucks with fewer service stops. So he hasn’t switched any of his units to three-roll dispensers and has been trying to convince restroom manufacturers to go back to two-roll holders.

Again, I welcome any and all responses on the tissue issue.

Is it a phone booth or a portable restroom?

That’s a question folks might be asking about the Piccadilly Poly restroom that’s at the prototype stage this spring. The new restroom design is the brainchild of Tom Gebka, owner of Chicago-area industrial design business Piccadilly Concepts, who has been observing the portable sanitation industry at the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo for a few years.

Gebka, responsible for store merchandising packaging like the plastic product holders you see at discount and grocery stores, called me three years ago when he became fascinated with portable restroom designs. Well, the fascination has turned to obsession, and Gebka is currently taking a plywood prototype restroom — patterned after a European phone booth — to special events and recreational trade shows to gauge interest. Gebka most recently returned from the United Kingdom, where he showed the Piccadilly Poly at the Portable Sanitation Europe Ltd. show.

The major draw of the unit is a different exterior look and an integrated advertising display system, Gebka says. His target market is special events usage and recreational settings like golf courses. Gebka expects to begin manufacturing this year and have a production unit to introduce at the Portable Sanitation Association International convention in Florida in November.

We offer a sneak peek at the prototype here.

Squat or sit?

Americans and Europeans have adapted quite nicely to automobiles from Japan and Korea. But in the case of portable restrooms, I wonder if Asian markets will eventually come around to the Western style of toilet.

Evidence of the growing importance of the Asian portable sanitation market was seen at the Five Peaks Technology booth at the Pumper & Cleaner Expo two months ago. The manufacturer displayed a new squatting and flushing restroom unit base for Asian buyers visiting the show. The standard in Asia is to squat, not sit, while using the facilities, and Five Peaks is looking to provide Asians with a product they’re used to using, said Reg Adams, the company president.

I asked another manufacturer at the show about providing a squatting unit for international buyers. The theory from that maker, however, was that Asians will be starting to take a seat as they begin to experience Western restroom ways. Having never used a squatting toilet myself, I have to wonder if we Westerners haven’t come up with a better idea this time around. It seems like we’d have to give up the time-honored tradition of reading the sports page in the bathroom if we started using squat toilets.

Restroom tipping trend

Check out the PRO™ Forum Chatter in this issue, which discusses how to best clean out a tipped unit. I’m sure you have empathy for the poster who all too frequently has to deal with this unfortunate mess. The issue reminded me of my January 2007 editor’s column, in which I explained that many restroom tip-over videos are posted on the Web site YouTube (www.youtube.com).

I went back to check out the video vandalism situation again and found the trend continues … and perhaps is even intensifying. It seems that restroom tipping is becoming the 21st century recreational equivalent of the mythical cow tipping. Apparently there is nothing as riotous to the typical teen as pushing over a portable restroom and watching the tank contents ooze out all over the ground.

Last year I offered some tips on ways to curb the activity. But if a recent raft of homemade videos showing youths tipping, locking friends inside or throwing firecrackers into portable restrooms is any indication, nothing is going to buck this trend. If you’ve fallen victim to more tipping incidents lately, drop me a line and let me know what you’re doing to combat them.

I did run across one humorous video involving portable restrooms. You’ll appreciate this one if you recall a time when it was all the rage to stuff college students into a Volkswagen Beetle. Go to this link and see what I’m talking about: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=uUHc7A37Mu0&feature=related.

It appears that part of a soldier’s team-building routine these days is to cram the group into a PolyPortables Inc. Integra restroom. I’m not sure if anyone can beat the 14 brave souls who made it into that unit.



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