Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

September 2013

Warning: Don't Overlook Your Restrooms

Have you checked the condition of your facility's restrooms lately? A new national hand-washing survey reveals an increasing majority of Americans (63 percent) say they've had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the condition of the facilities. That's up from 51 percent just one year ago.

An unpleasant restroom experience creates negative perceptions, according to the national survey conducted by Bradley Corp., manufacturer of bathroom and locker room furnishings. Almost three-fourths (73 percent) of consumers believe a bad restroom indicates poor management. Another two-thirds say an unsavory restroom lowers their opinion of the company, shows the business doesn't care about customers, and gives the impression that the company is lazy or sloppy. In addition, 64 percent of Americans say they'll either think twice about patronizing the business or will never frequent it again.

The top restroom complaints were: a really bad smell (cited by 82 percent); toilets that were clogged or not flushed (79 percent); and an overall appearance that's dirty, unkempt or old (73 percent).

"In our fifth year of doing this national survey, it remains clear that the cleanliness of the public restroom is very important to customers, employees and other stakeholders who engage with your business," said Jon Dommisse, director of global marketing and strategic development for Bradley Corp. "It pays off for businesses to provide clean, easy-to-use washroom facilities with touch-free fixtures to ensure the user has a good experience."

The survey demonstrates how Americans go to great lengths to avoid coming into contact with germs in a public restroom. They commonly employ such tactics as: operating the toilet flusher with their foot (64 percent); using a paper towel when touching the restroom door (60 percent) and faucet handles (37 percent); and opening and closing doors with their hip (48 percent).

Despite trepidation over touching germs and people not washing their hands, more Americans are simply rinsing their hands with water instead of soaping up after using a public restroom. Some 70 percent admit they've skipped the important cleansing step. Two years ago when the question was asked, only 54 percent confessed to just rinsing with water.

In addition, more Americans say they've seen someone else leave a public restroom without washing their hands at all. This year, 81 percent witnessed a non-washing event compared to 74 percent last year.

The survey highlights interesting disparities between men and women in their hand-washing habits. Nearly three-fourths of women (74 percent) say they always wash their hands after using a public restroom, compared to just 60 percent of men.

When asked why they didn't wash up, the No. 1 reason women give is the use of hand sanitizer. Men cite the lack of soap as their primary reason, followed by an unclean sink or washbasin and then the use of hand sanitizer. Interestingly, men were almost two-and-a-half times more likely than women to say they didn't wash up because they didn't feel the need.

"Men need to get the memo that hand-washing is important no matter what," Dommisse said. "You just can't argue with the research that says it is the No. 1 way to prevent illness and stay healthy."

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