Eliminating Negative Connotations Surrounding Portable Restrooms

We have to work hard to please the sharpest critics facing the portable restroom industry.

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A few months ago, I came across a blog post from a mother with three children who wrote about her young son's fascination with portable restrooms. She found it interesting that everywhere he goes, he's attracted to the colorful plastic cubes and wants to know all about them. She even muses that her son, Buzz, might have a future working in the portable sanitation industry.

But Tina, the mom who wrote about the experience for the blog Little Tots/Big Ideas, has a negative opinion of all portable restrooms. She says in the blog that she "avoids them like the plague.

"Perhaps Buzz is fascinated by the mystique of portable toilets. He has never been inside one. I avoid them at all costs, and do the same for my children," Tina writes. You can see the full blog post here: www.littletotsbigideas.blogspot.com/2012/11/portable-toilets.html.

Unfortunately, Tina isn't alone. I've found that many people express a general disappointment in the cleanliness of portable restrooms. And often it's moms who have the most negative perception of restrooms. If you ask them to elaborate on their attitude, they might tell you about a specific bad experience that's been burned into their minds. Or maybe their opinion is based on a patchwork of their own experiences and stories shared by other moms they know.


In many cases, these notions are deeply rooted and it will take a lot of work to turn them around to the point where they won't balk at ushering their children into a restroom. And you can't turn this negative into a positive by yourself. PROs everywhere will have to concentrate on satisfying mothers with fresh and clean service. One service stumble can set back the effort and put off moms like Tina for another few years.

We need to always strive to keep the sharpest critics happy with their restroom service if we hope to build on a professional reputation for the industry. That means working to make mom happy. And here are a few ways you can start today:

Keep an attendant on location.

Evidence of inadequate service is the most common reason moms turn away from portable restrooms for their families. The image of an over-full tank, a neglected mess, or the lack of paper products leave moms with lingering concerns about using a portable restroom. Certainly so does the unpleasant odor of a unit that has had its deodorizer overpowered by overuse. For those reasons, a restroom attendant can offer a reassuring presence and send the message to moms that you care about keeping restrooms fresh and clean. Have the attendant wear a uniform and check on each of your restrooms frequently during special event service. Keep the attendant supplied with cleaners and deodorant, and make sure they can communicate with your service technicians when a unit needs some attention. Have the attendant zip-tie restrooms that need cleaning to keep unsuspecting moms from using one that's not up to your high standards.

Always provide a sanitizer or sink.

A mom's complaint about portable restrooms might not be so much the cleanliness of the unit itself, but the lack of hand-wash facilities. What will a mom always tell a kid coming out of a bathroom? "Don't forget to wash your hands!" The first time Mom says that and the child has nowhere to turn to clean his or her hands, that might be the last time she'll let them use a portable restroom. A hand-wash station placed in front of a bank of restrooms, well stocked with soap and paper toweling, can make a big difference in the public's perception of sanitary conditions. So can a hand sanitizer, whether it's placed in or outside of the unit. Hand-wash facilities become more of a prerequisite for any restroom placement every year.

Make flush units standard at events.

At the heart of a mom's apprehension about using portable restrooms could be the traditional drop tank. While seeing through the seat and inside the holding tank might not be a deal-breaker on the construction site, it can be a real turn-off for families visiting the county fair. People are used to flush toilets and the drop tank in and of itself can lower the quality of the user experience to that of an outhouse for some users. You might not want to convert your entire event inventory to more costly flushable units, but consider starting with a few units to be earmarked for family events and small backyard parties.

Shed some light in the restroom unit.

A brightly lit restroom cabin can allay mom's fears about cleanliness. You can easily add a motion-sensing or tap light to each unit, which will shine down along the walls and into nooks and crannies to show off how well you maintain your inventory. Another confidence-builder for moms would be to go with restrooms in a lighter color to reflect more light inside the unit and make them more inviting. Of course when you add lighting, you must keep up with the careful cleaning. Any dirt you leave behind will be easier to see.

Designate a family unit.

For family events, such as a harvest festival in the fall or a carnival in the summer, set aside a larger handicap or ADA-accessible unit for family use. If you serve enough family events to warrant it, add a fold-down baby-changing table and a diaper caddie. To make the unit stand out from the crowd, decorate the exterior with a kid's touch, with colorful painted hand prints or appropriate vinyl graphics that tell Mom this restroom is especially for the little ones.


It's time once again for the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International, which will be held Feb. 25-28 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. In fact, this issue of PRO is being distributed at the Expo, so you may be reading this from the exhibit floor at Indy.

If you're still contemplating attending the Expo this year, what are you waiting for? Make your plans to see all the portable sanitation industry has to offer. If you're reading this from the Expo, please look me up and introduce yourself.

The Expo is my best chance to visit with PROs and find out what issues concern them most from year to year. Learning what makes your business tick helps me improve the magazine. And even more, meeting you always gives me a sense of how great this community of contractors is.

To contact me at the Expo, simply track down someone from COLE Publishing and ask them to find me. COLE Publishing editors will be staffing a booth and working on the exhibit floor every day during the Expo.


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