Charging for bathrooms and the free market

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 17, 2008 in Commentary |

We only asked ourselves: what would Adam Sandler do?

We only asked ourselves: what would Adam Sandler do?

It was 11 p.m. and we had just finished singing “Twist and Shout” to a very confused but enthusiastic group of Belgians. As I finished my drink, I gestured to the bartender that I was finished, and began cutting my way through the crowd to go to the bathroom.  For some reason, no matter the continent, I have been cursed with the bladder of a 70 year old. Right as I was about to reach for my French phrasebook to determine which door was for me, an elderly woman approached me and outstretched her hand.  Thinking she was a panhandler, I told her I didn’t have any money.  It was then she pointed to the sign behind her:

“Toilet: 50 cents”

There are certain rights granted onto human beings by our great creator: life, liberty, and the ability to go the bathroom without digging in your pocket for some change.  In Europe, it is commonplace to charge for the toilet - and we’re referring to more than just your occasional money grubbing public restroom.  Pubs will sell you drink after drink and then ambush you with a quaint elderly woman standing guard over the bathroom.  Train stations will capitalize on the fact that you are in a hurry, and in all likelihood, have no idea where you are.

This, of course, evokes a discussion of the free market and capitalism.  Why are bathrooms expected to be free in the United States?  After all, you are using a service that costs someone money to maintain.  One can only guess that as more and more establishments charge, competing free bathrooms eventually become the norm.  But why hasn’t this happened in Europe?  Suddenly having ownership of a public restroom becomes a business unto itself.

But charging for basic biological functions such as a glass of tap water or the desire to clear your excretory system on occasion is a slippery slope.

If I remember back to basic Economics, supply and demand dictate pricing.  Theoretically, at a certain point the need to use the restroom will override any rational thought process and market theory.  As a wise man once said: “when ya gotta go, ya gotta go,” sanitary conditions be damned.  And if our first two weeks in Europe are any indication, sometimes we Americans need to teach a lesson in the free market and take our “business” elsewhere.

Like the wall outside.

1 Comment

Ian Fulguirinas
Oct 18, 2008 at 7:48 am

I’m over paying for toilets…usually, if I’m catching a metro or something, I’ll just go to a stop that isn’t the main, central stop and the toilets are free…but I’ve had to make do wherever I can at times.

Does a bear s**t in the woods? I dunno, but I sure have! Desperate times call for desperate measures.

By the way guys, I’ll be heading up through Germany this week, if you’re there. I won’t be staying long though.



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