Industry View: Why I Go With the Overflow
Decades ago, I quit drinking Tang, playing with dolls and making prank phone calls. I also assumed one day I’d no longer find potty humor amusing. Many consider such material unoriginal and immature, but using the restroom is an equalizer for all of humanity and relatable at any age. A lot of crap happens at our stores. Instead of getting disgusted, I choose to get a laugh out of it. Our industry has long been disparaged for the slovenly state of its bathrooms, but the public lacks appreciation for the challenging messes they leave behind for us.
I recently attended a store meeting in a cramped back room, where I stood against the wall so we all could fit. Before it started, I overheard some team members chatting about “Mr. Poopy Pants.” My ears pricked up the way my dog’s do when I say the word “walk” around him. I butted into the conversation and asked who that was. They nonchalantly told me about an older guy who “isn’t all there” who came in and left a stomach-turning trail throughout his visit. They pointed to the mat just inches behind me and said that although they had hosed it off, our rug company wouldn’t pick it up because it was now a biohazard. I immediately made the executive decision to trash it.
Years ago, we had a mysterious “whodunit” case in the men’s room. UFOs (unidentified fecal objects) were mysteriously landing on top of a nest of toilet paper next to the commode. The crime scene was shocking, even to seasoned attendants accustomed to sickening sights. After the weekly pattern persisted, the manager organized a makeshift CSI (Crap Scene Investigators) to catch the offender. Yet despite substantial DNA evidence, video surveillance and eliminating persons of interest, we never nailed the pooping perp.
Revenge of the Turd
Many people have had the cringe-worthy “Oh *#%!” experience of nearly dropping their phones while using the restroom. Our maintenance guys have had the loathsome duty of unclogging hundreds of toilets over the years. The culprits are usually feminine items, boxing gloves’ worth of toilet paper, diapers, etc. But if there were a list on “Family Feud” of the items that most often obstruct toilets, some might be surprised that underwear would take a top 5 spot, just below paper towels and above socks and bras. My twisted mind has no trouble imagining how a sock could come in handy in a nightmarish time of need, but I hadn’t considered the desperate straits in which a woman wearing flip-flops might find herself. Evidently, there isn’t enough signage or common sense in the world to convey that unless it’s gone through your body, it usually doesn’t belong in the potty.
Everyone older than 20 has had an encounter with an overflowing toilet. Unlike Greg Fokker’s hilarious scene involving a catastrophic flush in “Meet the Parents,” this type of story is funny only when you are not involved in the cleanup. While in a store’s office one day, I heard a team member say that he needed a mop because the toilet was clogged. The manager grabbed a “wet floor” sign as she walked up front and casually remarked that she’d never seen it overflow so badly. Several minutes later, I still heard them cautioning customers to avoid the area, so I got up to survey the situation. I looked to my right and saw a wet, clean floor, so I tiptoed around the island and stopped dead in my tracks.
There it was. A lifeless, single turd was lying about 2 feet from the register! My first reaction was unlike any normal person’s. I peered around the corner to see if the manager or team member saw me see it. They were both inside the restroom, so I quickly fumbled with my phone and took a picture. It’s safe to guess that you’re wondering, “Why???” I’m not sure there’s any good explanation, but I’ll bet my friends found my texted photo more interesting than others’ boring Facebook posts that day.
Despite a Starbucks on every corner, convenience stores have remained America’s favorite dumping ground. Maybe it sounds odd, but I want people to continue coming to our stores to relieve and refresh themselves. Here’s hoping customers keep ranking us No. 1 for their defecation stations and that we never drop to No. 2.