Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Spending Twenty Pennies

Some time ago, the shopping centre in a neighbouring town introduced charges to use the public toilets. The conveniences themselves were refurbished, a turnstile entry system installed and a 20p charge applied.

Decided on symbolic rather than graphic picture
A large number of people then proceeded to moan about the charges, which admittedly took a bit of getting used to after being free for so long. However, I have seen the benefits of this system – cleaner toilets with paper and soap always readily available and no graffiti or vandalism!

Meanwhile, some shoppers were so outraged (I presume this was a small minority) that they refused to use the toilets, and a nearby clothing retailer had to close off their changing cubicles due to ‘misuse’. I will spare you the details as related to me by a shocked shop assistant, but can you believe that people would stoop so low?

Years ago, there was commonly a charge in place for public toilets, originally a penny, later I remember a 2p charge. In those days you put your money directly in the door of a cubicle, sometimes discovering that you had got the short straw and had paid for a cubicle in a right old state. At least now with the turnstile system, you can opt for a toilet that you actually feel that you can use.

The first recorded incidence of having to ‘spend a penny’ to use a public toilet was at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The phrase has stuck as a euphemism to this day, although not so widely used.

So whilst many public toilets remain free to use, there are cases where the introduction of charges has definitely lead to an improvement to facilities. Do you agree with charges to use a public toilet?

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1 comment:

  1. Oh, don't get me started ... 30p in the London stations, (except for Cannon Street, where it's free)

    And in Venice - by the Accademia Bridge - €1.50!!!