Today’s example of dystopian monetization comes from San Francisco, of course:
You know we’ve reached peak San Francisco when a coffee shop makes you download an app to pee in order to prevent the homeless from using the bathroom.
— Anna Pulley (@annapulley) May 3, 2019
The first thing I saw on their website was the motto “Unlock the door to a brand new restroom experience” — er, no. The only “restroom experience” I want is the old familiar one where I empty my bladder and bowels. I am not open to new experiences in public restrooms.
Oh, wait, they aren’t public restrooms, as they say in response to a one-star review on their app’s Google Play Store page.
Just to clarify, Good2Go restrooms located within retail outlets are an alternative to public restrooms— not a replacement. Access to Good2Go facilities will always remain free to patrons of our retail partners and each of our retail partners sets their own restroom policy for non-customers.
They carefully avoid calling their public restrooms “public restrooms” — see another example on their terms of service page — probably to avoid pesky regulations. (I’m not opposed in principle to regulation avoidance, but this is just bullshit.)
And I’m sure that those stores and cafes that allow Good2Go to set up on their premises have great non-customer restroom policies. Or maybe not, as Good2Go acknowledges itself. Back to the Play Store page and another response to a one-star review:
The paid option is for people who want access to the network of Good2Go restrooms without having to make a purchase at the retailer they visit (requiring a purchase is common for most stores)
(Good2Go’s prices are here, if you want to know how much they think the market will bear at the moment.)
What would a more relaxed bathroom policy look like, anyway? “Sure, you can use the bathroom, if it’s empty. I’ll give you the code to put in the app. Oh, you don’t have the app? Well, I’ll give you the code when you’ve downloaded and installed it, I guess.” (I couldn’t quickly find information on how people actually input that code, other than paying Good2Go directly. And no, I’m not downloading an app I’ll hopefully never use just to check out the UI, not with those permissions.)
Oh, people allegedly don’t have to download an app, but if you go back to Good2Go’s home page, you’ll see that the bathroom door is unlocked by a wireless sensor, and the app’s permissions list includes Bluetooth. Do retailers keep a loaner smartphone on the counter? Oh, there’s also a QR code floating in midair — is that just visual shorthand for “code,” or does the door lock include a camera? Again with the bathroom cameras?
At least if you don’t download the app, though, your location isn’t being tracked at all times. And the app’s permissions list also includes camera access. I’m not sure I want to know why.
Reactions on Twitter included some scorn for the retailers:
Peet’s, Whole Foods, The Creamery, Rigolo, Sextant, Station, Stanza, Cafe La Boheme, Chevron, Church St. Cafe.
Mega cool of all of you. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/To0NWs3iDD
— Eric Tjossem (@etjossem) May 3, 2019
And some healthy cynicism:
Then they sell that data to an aggegator
— Roger M (@RogerMacNicol) May 3, 2019
Yep, and you go too often, you’ll start seeing Depends ads everywhere.
— Chekhov’s Gun (@epi_ontic) May 3, 2019
Meanwhile, out here in the hinterlands of northern New England, if a retailer wants to restrict who uses their restroom, they have this thing called a key. Often attached to something big, like a dowel rod or piece of wood, to keep customers from putting it in their pocket and forgetting to returning it. Minimal installation cost — just the cost of the dowel rod, usually, since the door lock probably came with a spare key — and no need for FAQs assuring customers that they can still leave the bathroom if the power goes out.
Exactly one business I patronize uses this method. The rest of them operate on the principle that if someone has to take a leak, they’d rather it happened in a bathroom. Sure, some people come in just to use their bathroom, but how many hundreds or thousands of them would it take to be worse for the retailer than one guy shitting himself at the counter or pissing on the side of the building?
P.S. Good2Go’s “About us” page includes this gem:
At Good2Go, we believe that technology can serve people’s everyday needs. Our secure access technology will transform the way people interact with buildings and spaces (office lobbies, restrooms, and parking structures.
They’re dreaming big. If they play their cards right, they could be the next Security Systems.