The Customer Isn’t Always Right

You advise clients on the best way to provide restroom service, but sometimes they don’t want to follow through on your recommendations

The Customer Isn’t Always Right

Jim Kneiszel

If you’ve been providing restrooms for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly encountered customers who don’t trust your judgment on matters of placement and service protocols. It might be a construction site where the builder won’t let you put the unit where you can easily access it. Or it might be your favorite local event, where the planner won’t listen to your expert opinion on the number of restrooms needed.

A couple of interesting stories in the news bring light to unfortunate situations where a customer has probably waved off the legitimate concerns of a portable restroom operator, only to regret that decision later. I’ll mention a few, if only in hopes that a few of the most stubborn restroom customers start paying attention when PROs share their hard-earned wisdom.

ADDING UNITS

For instance, there was the Bluesfest in Ottawa, Ontario, which was plagued by drunken concertgoers using private yards neighboring the festival grounds as urinals. According to a story at www.reminetwork.com, area residents including Sarah Taylor were fed up with the situation and complained. Bluesfest eventually added 40 units outside the festival grounds. Guess what? It made a difference.

“I think (the extra restrooms) definitely helped. The people who were peeing last year kind of out of desperation with nowhere else to go, those people are using the port-a-potties,” Taylor observes. “I don’t think I should expect urinating and defecating in my space, in my home. I don’t think that’s a regular expectation of living downtown.”

Or how about the restroom at the General Franklin E. Miles Park in Santa Fe, New Mexico? It was serviced so infrequently that citizens had enough and finally stepped in and complained via a Facebook page rant at City Hall. According to a www.krqe.com report, photos posted to the social media site showed the unit filled with trash including hypodermic needles and a filthy toilet.

“Start the discussion and hopefully get something resolved to either have someone come and remove the port-a-potties or clean them,” one resident complains. “I understand they’re short staffed,” another resident says of the city charged with inspecting the units. “Have a contract that maybe comes and cleans up the parks.” The city decided to remove the unit but said it would be returned.

WINDY CONDITIONS

Lastly, a snafu at the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater outside of Denver caught my eye recently. During an event, a gust of wind blew over several restrooms in a parking lot, damaging a car and almost hitting a passerby. You can see a dramatic video of the incident here: www.kdvr.com/2018/11/08/video-shows-wind-blowing-port-a-potties-damaging-mans-car-at-red-rocks.

You might expect high winds to be an issue in an open parking lot on top of a mountain. But the city of Denver, which manages the popular mountaintop concert venue, neglected to pay extra to have the restrooms staked down. They won’t make that mistake again. According to a Fox 31 Denver news report, the units were staked into the ground shortly after the incident. The reporters went a step further and dug up the contract between the city of Denver and the PRO, Liberty Waste Management, in which they only required restrooms to be anchored at an airport location.

The owner of the car that was hit by a flying restroom, Andy Mowery, filed a claim with the city asking for $6,000 to repair the damage. The claim was denied by the city. However, Liberty Waste Management stepped in and said it would pay for the repairs.

“They have a manager at the venue, and she stated that the incident that occurred is an act of God, and they’re not responsible for wind,” Mowery tells the news outlet. “It’s revealed that the city is basically being irresponsible about safety and they’re doing it for financial reasons that aren’t justified.”

GET THEM TO LISTEN

In each of these cases, I can imagine a portable restroom company had assessed the needs of the customer and made sound recommendations about safety, adequate number of units and the proper number of service calls. I know experienced and responsible contractors take their time to make appropriate recommendations. It’s just that customers don’t always listen … or listen and don’t want to adequately fund their portable sanitation needs.

How will the professionals in our industry react? They will continue to do a thorough job assessing needs when bidding for jobs and offer their knowledge to decision-makers. They have no other choice. After all, their names are on the door and their reputations are on the line.

Why can’t two Oregon churches pay for a portable restroom for the homeless?

Two churches in Albany, Oregon, have been blocked from providing a portable restroom for the homeless because city code doesn’t allow temporary restrooms to be placed for more than 90 days. This doesn’t seem right.

The United Presbyterian Church and First Christian Church were splitting the cost of the restroom and a service contract with a local PRO, which was set up at First Christian Church and was being cleaned weekly because of steady usage.

“We have a meal each Tuesday and serve 150 to 200 people. I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me, ‘Thank you for this restroom,’” the Rev. Tim Graves, of First Christian Church, tells the Albany Democrat-Herald. The restroom was placed to serve the needs of the community and to ease a problem of cleaning up human waste in the downtown area.

Officials told the churches that the city code would have to be changed to allow use of restrooms extending beyond 90 days. They argued the churches should encourage the homeless to seek out bathrooms at overnight homeless shelters. The pastors reports that the unit is needed, kept clean and has not been vandalized.

“Both (churches) have real concerns about homelessness, and that’s a huge part of our motivation here. But being downtown churches, we’ve also dealt with urination around our buildings, and as we began to look into it, there were no public restrooms in the area. This was a solution for those two problems,” Graves tells the newspaper.

First of all, the city should be aware about growing concern of sanitation for homeless populations across the U.S. More and more groups are taking an initiative to provide restrooms to serve this segment of the population, as well as keep the streets clean and sanitary. The city is fortunate the churches are stepping up and paying for this service so taxpayers don’t have to.

Secondly, there should be fewer restrictions in general preventing individuals or groups from placing restrooms wherever they want, so long as they are properly serviced and don’t draw complaints. There could be any number of legitimate reasons a private business, nonprofit group or property owners would want to keep a restroom. Why should the government get in the way?

Send your questions to Jeff and Terri Wigley

You’ve seen our new column, At Your Service, published in the magazine for several months. Jeff and Terri Wigley, former owners of Pit Stop Sanitation Services in Atlanta, are here to research and answer any questions you have regarding the portable sanitation industry. The Wigleys draw from vast experience operating a restroom business; Terri Wigley is still consulting with the new Pit Stop owner and Jeff Wigley continues to work with the Portable Sanitation Association International on the trade group’s initiatives.

This is an invitation to send the Wigleys topics you would like to see addressed in their column. These may include marketing your services, handling employee issues, small-business management and financing, maintaining or buying equipment, and many more. All questions and suggestions are welcome. Send questions for Jeff and Terri Wigley to editor@promonthly.com and we will pass them along for an answer. 



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