I, however, have a slightly different kind of question. It's a bit more...personal. This question was posed to me many years ago, when I was a teenage counselor at summer camp. It shocked me, and it may shock you too.
On the first night of camp, before the kids arrived, the counselors were playing getting-to-know-you games. One went like this: the camp director would call out a category with two options, and we'd self-organize into groups based on our choices. For instance, he'd say "Peanut butter: creamy or crunchy?" The creamy folks would run to one side of the room; the crunchy folks, the other. We'd all laugh and high-five over our shared preferences. The game went on for a while - "Airplane seat: window or aisle?" "Superpower: flight or invisibility?"
But then came a question that reverberated throughout the big rec hall. "Toilet paper: crumple or fold?"
Wait - people fold?
I had no idea anyone folded their toilet paper. What, like, in half? In thirds? In origami cranes? I was shocked and intrigued. But no time for questions - I ran to the crumple team, where everyone was hysterical. We crumplers were cracking up with lines like, "Hell yeah I crumple!" and "Who has time to fold?" Meanwhile, the folders were looking at us like we were heathens: "Those people scrunch up their toilet paper?" "Do they not care about anything?"
As you may know, I am forever preoccupied with an ongoing quest to better understand the details of people's everyday lives. Not only their shopping lists, but their secrets, their morning rituals, what they have in their bags, wallets and fridges. And today is no exception. Dear reader, please take my poll.
Thanks. I can't tell you how excited I am to see these results.
Now, when I heard this question for the first time, not only was I surprised to learn that people did things differently than me, I was amazed at how enthusiastic the two sides became. We immediately bonded within our groups. I think there was even some chanting, along the lines of "CRUM-PLE! CRUM-PLE!" Men and women, old and young, we all cared passionately about our TP.
And we still do. I would argue that toilet paper represents the make-or-break moment of the restroom experience. If it's great, everything else can be forgiven. And if it's bad, or (gasp) gone, well, all the scented soap in the world won't bring it back.
Because let's get specific for a moment here. There are a number of ways in which we physically interact with the bathroom around us. Our feet touch the floor. Our hands touch the doors, the flushers and the faucets. Sometimes our waists touch the counter. But our nether regions - invariably our most personal, private parts - touch one thing and one thing only. So what are we going to care most about?
Now I don't think any sane consumer would articulate this if asked, but I believe that every other element in a restroom only serves as a clue as to whether or not the toilet paper is good. When I'm waiting in line, I'm subconsciously evaluating all these elements, in an effort to guess at what the TP situation will be. If I step into a restroom and the floor is marble, I heave a secret sigh of relief. I know it'll be plush. And if I step into a restroom and there is garbage on the floor, fear strikes my heart. I check to make sure there is some in my stall before I even shut the door.
Now sometimes, the toilet paper is inconsistent with the rest of the experience. In this case, I typically weight TP higher when casting my overall vote. If the bathroom is nice but the toilet paper is thin and abrasive, it speaks volumes. I now know that this store/office/restaurant has tried to make surface improvements in order to wow people, but the fancy tissue box and designer art are only aesthetic. This place doesn't really care. And conversely, if the bathroom is nothing special but the toilet paper is soft and durable, with ribs or quilts or clouds, I feel that the place is reaching out to me. That they are saying, "We know where it counts."
Like any experience, we expect bathrooms to be consistent. And obviously, women and men would love it if they were all havens of comfort and relaxation. But in reality, they can't all be the Shangri-La of restrooms, and I understand that. My assertion is simply that if you were going to do one thing to improve your restroom - just ONE thing - that one thing should be to upgrade your toilet paper. People will appreciate this on a much deeper level than if you went for fancy faucets. It's, shall we say, closer to home.
Whether you crumple or fold, welcome to the Bathroom Blogfest!
For more Bathroom Blogfest all week long, please check out:
Blog Till You Drop
Checking Out and Checking In
Customer Experience Crossroads
Customers Are Always
The Engaging Brand
Fast Company Now
Flooring the Consumer
Life and Its Little Pleasures
The Ultimate Corporate Entrepreneur