I don’t want to kick up a stink, but…


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Back when Twitter was Twitter, but after Prince was Prince, I remember tweeting from outside a petrol station in Hamilton: Y R the toilets wth a whitebrd showng when they were lst cleaned & by who look and stink 10X worse than othz?

Rhetorical question, but my harrowing experience focused me at the time on that observation.

That was back in 2019. I’m pleased(sic) to report things haven’t changed. The public bathroom (that’s means toilet, but the fast-food chains insist on an Americanisation – it’s just cuddlier I think) at a central Auckland fast-food chain I visited recently took my top-spot in both the ‘worst smelling WC’ and ‘grubbiest windowless room’ categories. I won’t name the outlet; suffice to say you’d recognise their livery immediately if I described the colour scheme.

Graffiti in toilets – I can dig it – it has always existed. And should you end up delayed on a visit, you at least have something colourful to read.

Not that such reading is always fun. I recall a bus ride on a social outing with an aunty who was a ‘proof-reader’ (that used to be a thing before the internet). She considered the graffiti on the back of the bus seats at the time as something of a commentary on the state of our education system. A disgrace she proclaimed. She lamented at the time that Yous’ is not a valid plural, and the placement of the apostrophe on Timothys’ Mums a **** could be quite derogatory toward the mothers of Timothys who had never worked in the sex industry; Yes, grammar and punctuation are still important.

But I digress. My point is in neither instance – the petrol station (Am. Gas station) or the burger joint – did the ‘BATHROOM WAS LAST SERVICED’ whiteboard work. In both cases the whiteboard had not been updated in the current year. Effectiveness rating of cleaning whiteboard: ZERO.

We all encounter instances in our business and personal lives of well-intentioned systems being implemented but the accompanying rules of engagement not being enforced. A lesson for managers: follow-up on the effectiveness of systems you put in place, and if they’re not working, do something about it.

Why am I making a big deal about smelly loos? Because if you’re running a business, be aware, it’s often the little things that count when it comes to customers’ repeat business.

In my business life I deal with a wide cross-section of businesses and businesspeople, from gritty trades and industrial environments to poncy corporate engagements. Sometimes it’s a suit and tie, other times gumboots and overalls.

Numerous factors effect perceptions of a business when it comes to good old fashioned face-to-face visits. For example, the state of their premises, the availability of visitor parking, ease of access (finding the door and getting inside), and the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff you meet – all the things that happen before we’ve even talked business.

Why are these things important? Because all competitive businesses should want customers to feel comfortable and enjoy dealing with them, to know they run a tight ship, but they care.

On that very note, maybe some air freshener, a litter bin and some clean wipes wouldn’t be a bad investment when you’re wondering why the cleaning whiteboard doesn’t seem to be working out. I might only be getting gas or a burger, but surely you’d like me to feel good about coming back again soon?

Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders.

Related: HYPOCRITICAL OATH: ‘We will support you’
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Alan Neben
Alan Neben
Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders

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