Send An Unspoken Quality Message

By Beacon Staff

As you walk down the street in this trendy, somewhat pricey shopping area, you can’t help but notice the attention that has been paid to some shops. One, an upscale women’s clothing boutique, simply exudes class. Fine furniture, meticulously chosen fonts and signage that screams “I spent a lot of time and money to get this just right.” Just the right music, carpet, merchandising and only “those” lines of clothing and accessories.

When you walk into the restroom of this boutique, it’s warm (figuratively and literally) and inviting. A lightly scented candle (probably not condoned by the fire chief) burns on a small table next to a small vase of fresh flowers, at the vanity (not just a sink), couture soaps (do NOT wash with these), makeup lights, and way over the top upscale towels just get you started. Clearly, they realize that selling the store is as important as selling the merchandise, to this clientèle.

I pay attention to bathrooms. It’s my dirty little secret. Until now. Your store or restaurant’s restroom sends a silent (sometimes deadly) message about your business.

Later, I slither into a nice upscale bookstore and coffee place around the corner.

Again, it’s laid out to be like comfort food. Warm, inviting and sorta chocolately. A “thirdplace” that I’d want to hang out in between work and home. While the restroom is not nearly as focused on being congruent with the rest of the store as is the boutique’s, it isn’t bad. Spice, baskets, a generic platform sink (not a leftover from 1973), and a few current issue magazines. Some room for improvement, but not a negative. Often, these are rather barren. While they might be clean, they aren’t inviting or congruent with the rest of the store’s appearance. This one is better than the norm.

Another door or two down, a small cafe. For the most part, the cafe decor and “inviting factor” fits in with the rest of the shops around it, as it should.

But then, there’s the restroom. A generic $49 Home Depot sink. Dirty, urine-infused footprints on the floor. Cheapest possible see-thru toilet paper. No mirror. You’re only here long enough to take care of business, and if you’re the woman of the house – you’ll probably never return. I can hear my wife saying “That was gross” from here.

Why? Because you naturally wonder if they keep the kitchen like they keep the bathroom. Bleah.

To steal a line from a few elections ago: “It’s the bathrooms, stupid.”

Little, almost-effortless details mean a lot.

Quite a few women will cross their legs and put themselves through mortal pain to avoid a convenience store or gas station restroom. Many of those restrooms appear they haven’t been cleaned since Mr. Clean entered puberty. How much does that cost you? Sure, some will come in, do their thing and leave without spending a dime. This time, perhaps. Meanwhile, many will stop at your place and grab a Diet Coke and a pastry, and maybe some gas – because they know your bathrooms are always clean. And they’ll force their spouses to stop there. Influence…

So maybe keeping it clean earns you an extra 10 visitors a day or a week. What’s that worth? If they drive my Suburban, it might be $125 in gas and a Diet Coke. Each.

Some store managers understand this perfectly. Last month in the Columbus, MT Town Pump I encountered the proverbial “restroom so clean, I could eat off of the floor”. Ok, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but *amazingly* clean for a truck stop, gas and go kind of joint. At 10:30pm. Not exactly expected.

Light years ahead of a nice, upscale cafe in a fancy shopping area.

Send an unspoken quality message to your customers. You can do with with fresh flowers, minty-fresh floors, or urine-soaked footprints. Your choice.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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