Buy Something or Forever Hold Your Pee!

By Andrea Freedman

How many times have you seen a sign in a donut shop or coffee shop window that reads “Washrooms are for customers only”?

So, in other words, if you are not taking anything with you, please don’t leave anything behind.

Obviously coffee shop owners have gotten used to people coming in off the street only to use the washroom. Still, it got me thinking: Is asking to use a restaurant bathroom in order to avoid an accident an unreasonable request and further, is it justifiable for business owners to deny such a request?

There are those establishments that do allow patrons to use their restrooms, but only after the person gets a key from the staff to open said restroom. Sometimes there are only seconds to spare when one has to use the facilities, and having to go through this extra step could actually make a difference in whether that person makes it to the washroom in time. Not to mention, in my view, putting locks on the doors shows customers a lack of trust.

You never know who could be a future customer; if people are treated with dignity and respect, it just may encourage them to come back at another date to purchase something.

I realize that people do sometimes go into coffee shops or donut shops when they are drunk or high on drugs, often late at night, and perhaps some business owners try to prevent those people from using their washrooms for safety reasons.

The staff may feel threatened or fear that someone drunk may pass out or throw up in the washroom and make a mess; but if you don’t let a person who might be sick make it to the washroom, he or she might just end up vomiting on the floor of the establishment, making the clean-up even worse and making for an unpleasant dining or coffee sipping experience for the rest of the patrons.

I remember an incident that took place over thirty years ago as if it were yesterday. I was working in a video store and myself and some of the other staff members were in the process of closing the store for the night. All of a sudden there was an urgent knock at the door. A young adolescent boy pleaded “Please can I use your washroom? I have colitis, it’s an emergency!”

Of course the owner of the store, a kind and compassionate man who was also no stranger to stomach troubles, did not hesitate to open the door and escorted the boy to the store washroom, no questions asked. There are some coffee shop or fast food restaurant managers and proprietors that would not have let that boy in to use the bathroom, no matter the consequences that poor young man might have had to suffer.

Having to use the bathroom is a bodily function that one often has little if any control over. People should not have to beg to use a bathroom, especially if they are pregnant or elderly, ill, have incontinence issues, and may have only seconds to spare before peeing in their pants. In fact, some seniors I have spoken with tell me they can’t go out for the day unless they know there are restrooms around which they will be permitted to use.

When a person needs to use the washroom, they often don’t have time to stop to buy a coffee. It is insensitive to embarrass someone by denying them the use of a washroom. If someone suffers from a medical condition that leaves that person with no choice but to use – sometimes frequently – whatever washroom they can find in a hurry.

A bathroom emergency can strike any one of us at any time, sometimes out of the blue. Restaurant and coffee shop owners – have a heart and try to remember that we are all human beings, and that hopefully the majority of us are well-intentioned.

Treat others as you would want to be treated; put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Who knows? Perhaps one day that person just might come back and actually buy a coffee.●


How would you feel if you needed to go to the bathroom in an emergency and you were turned away?


Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2015


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on June 17, 2015, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. East York Chronicle

    I was expecting you might also include a reference to the “insurance pee”. I’ve used that phrase a couple of times since I heard it from you and people have all nodded knowingly and appreciatively at it.
    Anyways, this is yet another very entertaining “pee”ce of writing!
    Gary Webb-Proctor, Publisher
    East York Chronicle

    Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:52:47 +0000


  2. That was a great article! I know there are times when that has happened to me, and even though I usually get someone who goes before me to check the condition of the room, I sometimes have no choice but to go there and close my eyes when I can. I can understand the reasoning behind restaurant owners being skepticle about certain people who could be using the washroom to conduct some of their business, but, they do have to consider that most people really do have to pee and allow for the ones who are sincere, as well as those who aren’t.


  3. Great article! I have often gone into a coffee shop fully intending to buy something but needed to pee first before ordering. One time I was actually denied access to a Timothy’s coffee shop washroom unless I ordered a beverage first. I had to pee so badly I couldn’t even think about what I wanted! I couldn’t believe how ridiculous the owner was behaving! I was so insulted and turned off that I left Timothy’s and walked up the street to Starbucks who graciously allowed me to pee before ordering!


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