Skip ‘2theloo’ in Paris

the louvre

You’re in Paris. You’ve done the sights, you’ve done the shopping and your feet are asking why you didn’t wear more sensible shoes.

You’ve collapsed into a chair on the terrace of an establishment where you order coffee and a pastry.
Your order arrives: the pastry was clearly aptly named being strong on the paste and light on the filling.
The coffee appears to have been made from ground chicory roots seasoned with a suggestion of Robusta beans roast to a cinder.
You understand why the guidebooks recommend that you take a pastry with your coffee when in France….the unadulterated liquid would hit your stomach like a dose of nitric acid and have you convulsed on the floor in seconds, posing an obstacle to the safe passage of waiters.

To cap it all, the price is astronomical, but you console yourself with the notion that you are, after all, on holiday and can afford some of life’s little indulgences, while hoping to goodness that you’d packed the Alka Seltzer.

Then, inevitably, someone needs to go to the loo.
Usually mother.
She departs, only to return at speed to declare that the state of the conveniences resembles old Tangier in time of plague and, with a suspicious look at the crockery, that your cup seems to have a crack in it.
The bags are gathered and your party departs.

But mother still needs to skip to the loo.

You spot one of the Tardis installations on the corner. A sanisette.
self cleaning loos

These are self cleaning loos….and some, to gladden a Scots heart, are even free.
The paying ones gladden a Scots heart even further….yes, you have to pay, but when your sixteen mates slip in as you open the door to come out they get a free shower as the cabinet cleans itself. Thoroughly.
Just the thing after a celebration of victory on the rugby field…who am I trying to kid…

Mother has seen one of these before and regards it with deep suspicion but as the only other alternative is another high risk coffee she resigns herself to the worst and enters.

But these days are over for the highspots of Paris…and in the mainline stations.
There is an alternative to using a public loo….in fact, a whole new concept!

You can use a ‘2theloo’ restroom.

Rather like the old Marks and Spencer advert…this is not any loo, it is a ‘2theloo’!

According to the company’s blurb, these offer an entirely new concept of….going to the loo.

For a start, the usage is – almost – free.
You buy a ticket…and receive an immediate discount on the price of the goods in their online shop….which sells everything…. toilet.
You can buy this combined loo roll holder and magazine rack for only fifty five euros, though you’d need a serious bowel complaint for the ‘discount’ to be worth having there…:distributeur-papier-wc-et-porte-revue-trinium

Or – for those commuters who harbour unlovely thoughts of the ’emmerdant’ suburban Paris metro system – this:
abattant-wc-metro-parisien

And even this….don’t worry, you don’t have to take it away with you:
wastafel-flush-3-300x300

The service is claimed to be more like a home experience: for example you can pay a supplement to use a Japanese superloo.
Now, this might bear out the ‘home’ nature of the experience as I reckon I’d need an hour with the instruction book before approaching the thing without a suit of armour and a sharp stick.
In the somewhat hurried circumstances associated with using a public convenience I suspect that the thing would blow me sky high on a blast of hot air worthy of a politician at election time before I’d finished fiddling with my faulds.

Their loos are not only clean…but soundproof.
Perhaps this is to reassure those who run the taps while having a pee. but I’m not sure that that is an advantage. At least those trapped in a Tardis can bang on the walls and shout for rescue.
The fate of the three old ladies comes forcibly to mind.

But ‘2theloo’ have thought of that.

There are attendants.

Not the traditional gorgon with her saucer of small coins and barbed wire entanglements surrounding her stash of loo paper…no, someone who can speak a couple of languages – to explain the Japanese kamikaze machine perhaps; someone who can sell things like the items pictured above to desperate punters whose mind is on other more urgent matters.

And this is where I would urge you, should you be thinking of visiting Paris, to skip ‘2the loo’.
Skip…as in don’t use their facilities.

Because ‘2theloo’ has taken a contract to operate these restrooms with the Ville de Paris (City council).
It succeeds another private operator, which was delegated by the Ville de Paris to run the loos.
That operator continued to employ the ladies who were previously employed by the council – at equivalent, though hardly munificent, rates of pay.

2theloo, holding a straight contract rather than a delegation, has refused to take the ladies with the loos.
The company spokesman has said that the company would be willing to interview the ladies for any positions vacant – though without respect to their pay and seniority – but doubts that they would fulfill the company’s requirements.

The ladies would, it was felt, be too stuck in their ways to accept the company’s way of working…too independent…not experienced in sales techniques.

And anyway, claims the company, they are not running loos…they are offering a concept… so there is a clear break which justifies them in not continuing to employ the ladies.

They tried this when they opened restrooms in the mainline Paris stations, but without success. SNCF – French railways – insisted on continuity of employment and its ladies are still in place. From what I remember of those ladies in my time if they tell you that you want to buy a thousand euro Japanese toilet…then that’s what you’ll be buying if you want to escape with your life, so the company could be making a big mistake in trying to get rid of them.

But the Ville de Paris is doing nothing to support its loyal workforce who face a miserable future, even if they win their claim in the Prud’hommes (the labour claims court): no big union is marching in protest…they are just ordinary ladies whose security has been torn from them by some smart alek set up who intend to make a fortune from human necessity.

The Emperor Vespasian, who set up the first public loos in Rome in the first century A.D,.was reproached as having bad taste in taxing the collection of urine as a source of ammonia to be used in tanning leather.
His response?
Pecunia non olet. Money doesn’t stink.

In this case, it does.

So, please: if you visit Paris…
Skip ‘2theloo’.

And now, just for fun and very little to do with the above, here’s Georges Brassens’ homage to his ladyfriend, the ’emmerderesse’.
Lyrics in French and English here.

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44 thoughts on “Skip ‘2theloo’ in Paris”

  1. Mon dieu! Although perhaps I could be allowed to exclaim “merde!” in this case. I was 7 when I found out that men didn’t have to “spend a penny” and I’ve campaigned ever since for free loos.

  2. . . here, in Turkey, we have watched with delight as the ‘facilities’ have evolved and blossomed from stinking, putrid holes-in-the-ground to modern, shining, marbled, tiled monuments to the deity ‘Godago’! There are still many a foetid, festering black hole to be found (usually in the grounds of some back street mosque) but municipalities have been busy upgrading this country’s image with excellent results. I recall with great warmth when a nearby town built its very first modern, public loo – what a sensation – a contemporary equivalent to the majestic loos at Ephesus. We used to make boat trips to take visiting family and friends on an outing – a cruise on the lake, a fine meal and a visit to, what was then, the finest kazi outside of Christendom!
    ps I wish I’d had your story to make the visit even more pleasurable!

    1. I don’t think that – apart from this scheme -loo provision has advanced much in France.
      Friends tell me that the woman in the loo in the park in the local town is still regulating how many times you can use the soap on your hands…but at least she provides soap…

  3. I had a blast reading this on the loo. Funny as ever. Now it’s time for me to wrap up this home experience and go to work .

  4. There was a young man in attendance at Austerlitz the other day. I wonder if he was part of this new regime? He sat behind a reception desk and was not wearing a housecoat. Anyway, I paid him 50c and for the second time that day had the privilege of cleaning up after someone who had stood on the toilet seat, not been able to hit the bowl and presumably saw no reason why they should clean up after themselves.

    1. I’m not sure if they are at Austerlitz…I know that they are at Lyons and Nord.

      Thinking it over I think I’ve worked out what is going on.
      It is not about loos at all.
      It is about getting ‘showrooms’ in high rent districts for next to nothing for their backers – manufacturers of loos, washbasins and all the rest of the crap.
      Thus the emphasis on selling skills.

  5. I used a sanisette when I was in Paris last March, and I was pleased to see it was free. Back when I was there as an au pair girl many moons ago, I recall always having to pay for a public toilet. Free toilets–ah, it’s the little things in life that bring us joy.

  6. What nonsense. But can expansion to London be far behind when there is a buck to be made? I hope not. I miss the days of plentiful public loos. I don’t trust auto door loos at all. My other half was exposed to half of La Rochelle due to a malfunctioning auto door one day. I’m not quite sure if La Rochelle has yet fully recovered.

    1. If the Francofolies don’t take place next year I think the answer will be that it has not.

      The first time I saw a sanisette was in Bergerac…mother had had one of her cafe loo experiences at the time. An elderly lady was shepherding other elderly ladies in and out and warned mother that she shouldn’t use it if she had a weak heart…

      As I said to Susan above, I think it is a wheeze to get prime location showrooms at rock bottom rents.

  7. For all the problems we have in the USA we have at least largely done away with pay toilets. I think it began sometime in the 1970s. I vaguely remember seeing them as a kid. They cost 10 cents, and being about 10 years old and 10 cents being a whole lot of money to me then, I couldn’t understand why anyone would squander precious silver on something that could be taken care behind a nearby dumpster. Of course, I was a child of the suburbs/country so my visits to the city were, fortunately, rare.

    Today, being older and more digestively challenged, I’ve come to understand that shelling out cold cash for a bathroom is a wise investment.

    1. after life in France it is a relief to live in Costa Rica where little caffs have a washbasin for customers to wash their hands before a meal and a free, clean loo. Public loos aren’t frequent, but it’s an understood thing that you can nip into any public or semi public building and use the facilities.

  8. France has clearly been taking lessons from the UK – because those poor ladies have their twins in so many places here. The anger I feel about the way employment law is going here… ah, I am in a perpetual state of anger-readiness.
    You write sublimely well Helen – you should know that – but I feel the need to thank you for continuing to write and for writing so well.
    I always do laugh. But I always pay for that with the pain that comes with the understanding of your ultimate point.

  9. As you know, I am the proud owner of a $1,000 toilet seat, so it is fair to say I am very picky about the condition of the various lua (our local term for the loo) that I encounter in my travels. Price is a very secondary criterion in my evaluation. I dream of unattended toilets in pristine condition but have yet to find one of those on the street so I grumpily accept the presence of the worker doling out the paper whilst maintaining the louche in the loo. All the while I feel I should have the divine right of all males to simply use any tree in sight.

    1. You should go to live in France…..I am convinced that the planting of trees in urban areas is to provide relief for the city dwelling French male.
      But should you do so, do not, under any circumstances, allow a French plumber to install your Japanese wonderloo…otherwise it will be undertaking unassisted lift off the first time you use it.

      I’ve just caught up with your latest blog post…what a super outcome for that man you reported on before.

  10. Privatisation is the end of employment.
    There again in this nation the only folks you see regularly in loos are nancy boys…

    1. I’ve just seen a report that a quarter of the jobs offered to those unemployed are zero hours contracts….a disgrace.

      Wasn’t that called ‘cottaging’…a favourite pastime of M.P.s?

  11. When in a large town in France I tend not to drink much so I do not need to go to the loo. I flatten a bottle of water just before going back to my hotel room so that I am up all night peeing!!

  12. Thanks for that update on the latest advances in toiletry. No such advances here in Northern Ireland, traditional toilets still hold sway. In any case, rather than the latest technology, I’d like to see (1) more toilets for women to avoid the constant queues of desperate females (2) public loos that are cleaned more often and aren’t off-puttingly squalid (3) men cleaning the toilet after use and not leaving a disgusting mess for someone else to clear up.

    1. Friends’ children now teaching tell me that children don’t seem to have been shown how to use a loo properly…their mothers must be mad not to have trained them not to make a mess….
      As to men…can’t comment.

  13. The lack of ‘proper’ public lavatories in France meant that my mum did not come with us on holiday. She with her hip problems could not cope anymore with going behind the bushes and neither of us could cope with the eastern style hole while wearing trousers. How do the chic ladies manage with handbag, coat and bringing in your own paper I don’t know.
    One of the automatic loos was installed outside E.leClerc in Libourne and the seat was a metal bar and not a lot of anti splash below it. I remember perching on it and reading a small metal plate proudly telling who designed the horrible place. Things are better now. Just.

  14. Sounds nasty. I looked at their website. “It’s our mission to make the absolute most of your toilet break.” They seem coy about what it actually costs, I must say!!

  15. Why can it not be accepted that when you are out and about sightseeing or shopping and you need the loo, you just want to be in and out as quickly as possible. All we need are MORE public toilets that are clean and free.

  16. Were there not some glass sided boxes that supposedly blocked the view inwards while allowing the client the thought of performing in public with clear view of people and traffic?

  17. Cripes! It’s enough to make one never want to visit Paris again! One of joys of travelling with a campervan is taking your own loo with you. It does mean however that I have little recent experience of French public loos, other than at visitor attractions, which in Normandy tend to be rather better than I had expected. My real gripe is with the trend in the UK, at least in our county, for the local authority to keep closing public loos to save money – an this in an area which is trying to attract tourists!

    1. If you want to attract tourists then public loos are essential….it probably sounds daft, but the fact that I can dive into any public or semi public building to use the spotless loos is one of the big pluses of Costa Rica!
      And no Turkish loos, either…proper ones.

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