I had a bit of a Seth Godin moment in Savannah last night. My wife and I had finished dinner and walked to the Ghost Trolley for our evening ghost tour (its a Savannah thing). We desperately needed a restroom and the last thing I wanted was scary ghosts and a full bladder. The public restrooms were closed and a significant number of merchants along the strip by the river had signs indicating restroom for patrons only.
The thing about this is, even pay toilets are more friendly than “restrooms for patrons only”. Pay toilets lead to a simple bargain. Cash for facilities. The patrons sign invokes a sense of guilt and uncertainty. Does a pack of gum count? Can I buy a drink and not drink it? If I buy something can we both use the restroom?
There a story, probably apocryphal, that Ray Croc used clean restrooms as a lure to get mothers into McDonalds. I believe it because it would still work today.
If I owned one of these shops, I’d have big clean restrooms way in the back. Signs out front welcoming folks to use the restrooms and a string of impulse items all the way back. I’d swap advertising in the can with the ghost tour. In fact, I’d have the ghost tour send their potty people my way. Retail is about traffic. A clean free restroom will get you more traffic for less money than an awful lot of paid advertising.