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You shouldn’t miss this one.

This past week a woman traveler stopped at a restaurant called the Floor Zone to use the bathroom. (I won’t give them any additional press by highlighting their link.)

She really had to go—I’m sure sometime in life you’ve experienced this problem. She didn’t purchase anything and obviously didn’t see the sign that said, “No Public Rest Rooms.”

It didn’t really matter because later that week she received a letter in the mail explaining the sign and informing her the charge was five dollars.

How did they find her? Apparently they wrote down her license plate number and called DMV and got the information they needed to track her down. The local sheriff also  helped the restaurant owners get in touch with her.

Is this a real offense?

When the ‘perp’ called the restaurant, they told her they didn’t want the five dollars they just wanted her to know their policy. (Teaching her a lesson I suppose.)

The customer was on television explaining  she didn’t see the sign but now that she has it’s doubtful she will use their rest room or eat lunch! She said she felt humiliated.

So what’s the point of all this?

If you’re going to track the customer down, you might as well take the five dollars. It all has the same effect. As I put on my psychologist’s hat, I wonder if the restaurant owner had been humiliated by her mother and was paying the customer back?

I’ve had the occasion to need a rest room and asked the clerk if I can use theirs. If they tell me no, I continue on my way and remember not to shop them. It’s not that I stalk businesses to dirty their bath rooms.

If they didn’t want her to use the rest room, why not tackle her as she came out of the restaurant and ask for the five dollars. Let’s really humiliate her.

What value is it to prove a customer wrong? One of the rules of customer service is customers aren’t always right but if you want them to be your customers, you will make them right. I can almost understand if she really messed up the floor like a customer at Old Navy who had a ‘major accident’  after being told she couldn’t use the rest room.  This woman felt humiliated too. (It’s likely she won’t be back either.) Everyone lost on this one.

Suppose the woman was sight impaired? Does she get a pass?

It’s certainly up to the business to determine who can and can’t use their restrooms. The Price Chopper in Westgate Plaza has public rest rooms that are spotless and they must have lots of visitors.

I think a business has to ask itself—is a bad customer one who uses the rest room bathroom and doesn’t buy? How do you know? There’s a convenience store outside of Tampa, Florida called the Pit Stop. I was driving in the area and asked if I could use the rest room.

“Of course you can the woman said; I have the cleanest rest rooms in the area.” She was right. It had a hair dryer, smelled great and cut flowers! I’ve never forgotten it. I also decided to get gas and a sandwich.

How about stopping the customer and asking her if she was okay? Maybe she would have seen the sign and they could have said, of course you can use it if it’s an emergency.

Even my local Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t have a fit if you use their rest rooms.

Shall I call  restaurant and ask if they think it was a good idea to send the note to the customer? Stay tuned.

By the way, what do you think about it?What would you do?

Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses build loyal customers through customer service training and social media marketing. Her book, Red Hot Customer Service provides tips for attracting and keeping customers. She can be reached at [email protected]

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