Restroom sign

According to new research from GP PRO, the latest controversy to hit America’s public restrooms centers on the long-standing euphemism of “doing your business.” The survey, which polled 500 consumers who visited a high-traffic venue in the last six months, such as a stadium, airport, or movie theater, shows that some Americans are taking the phrase quite literally. 

Among the findings are that 90 percent of respondents state they have observed others using their cell phone in a public restroom, with 84 percent witnessing voice calls, 27 percent observing video calls, and 19 percent seeing photos being taken. As for their own behavior, 41 percent admit to voice calls, 21 percent to video calls, and 23 percent to taking photos. Despite their own behavior, well over one-third of respondents say it’s “disgusting” when others conduct a video call or take a picture in a public restroom.

With so much restroom phone use, GP PRO wanted to know if respondents’ devices ever fall victim to gravity. A slim 14 percent admitted to dropping their phone in a public toilet, but, of those, 84 percent said they reached in to retrieve it.

Recognizing that consumers often enjoy food and beverages in high-traffic venues, GP PRO also sought to learn if these items are brought into venue restrooms. The survey shows that they are not only brought in, but they are consumed. Thirty-eight percent of respondents have witnessed others actively eating and 48 percent actively drinking in a public restroom; and 15 percent and 18 percent respectively admit to these behaviors themselves. Nearly two-thirds of respondents think such behavior is “disgusting.”

“The debate used to be which way to hang your toilet paper, but times have certainly changed, and perhaps not in a way that would make grandma proud,” says Ronnie Phillips, Ph.D., senior director of Innovation for GP PRO. “All joking aside, as a leader in restroom hygiene and innovation, it’s important that GP PRO be aware of behaviors that might make the work of maintainers more challenging. While we can’t keep a cell phone from clogging a toilet or a sticky soda from falling to the floor, we can ensure our dispensing products are as durable and hassle-free as possible so maintainers have time to address these consumer behavior-related issues and keep public restrooms clean and in working order.”

Based on its survey findings, GP PRO developed five personas that capture Americans’ beliefs and behaviors in regard to conducting business in the restroom, both at home and in public. At one end of the spectrum are “restroom purists,” who recognize the restroom is for one kind of business only; at the other are “restroom retreatists,” who believe the restroom is their personal office or sanctuary. 

Said Phillips, “I’m happy to share that more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers are those ‘restroom purists,’ and another third are ‘restroom realists,’ meaning they’ll take a call or answer a text in the restroom only if necessary. I think grandma’s going to be okay!”