Why would a business operating out of a $6 million building install a ten cent lock to secure the door for customers using the women’s handicap washroom?
That question arose last Monday when I made my annual spring trip to Canadian Tire for manure, topsoil, and bedding plants.
Canadian Tire’s women’s public washroom has two stalls, one regular, one for handicapped. I chose the only one free at the time.
But when I tried to shoot the lock, it bumped by as little as 1/16 of an inch into the metal slot. Lifting the door that 1/16” would have let the lock mesh, but I couldn’t budge the door. If I had brought along a car jack, I might have been able to raise the door that smidge, but jacks not being a standard accessory I take along when visiting a public washroom, I was stymied. I had to settle for a door that stayed shut by a whisker; the tiniest jar and the door swung half open.
Now I’m no prude and judging by the low necklines and high skirt hems commonly worn around town, few other females are either; but still I prefer the guarantee of a little privacy in a public washroom.
Later when I reached the service counter, I reported the non-working lock to the cashier.
“Oh, we’ve reported that lock many times,” she said. “They say all you need to do is lift the door.” She could not or would not tell me who “they” were. Some contracted maintenance service?
“Could I talk to the manager?”
“The assistant manager is on duty,” the cashier said, “but she’s gone for lunch.”
“Who else could I speak to?”
Just then a young man appeared beside the cashier. “What is the problem?” he asked, a furrow on his brow.
The cashier and I explained.
“Oh, that lock shouldn’t be like that,” he said, with the first hint of concern I’d detected so far. “I’ll check on it.”
If the lock had been reported broken many times, why had it not been promptly and properly repaired? Who had the problem been reported to?
Was there no established chain of command for propelling such complaints up the line to someone tasked with getting the lock rectified?
Was reporting the defect not part of the staff member’s job description? Or did the person receiving the public complaint short circuit it because he/she deemed the complaint more vexatious than valid? Was the staff member too busy to pass on the complaint?
An insecure lock could prove to be more than vexatious. Aside from prudery, what if I had arrived in a wheelchair, on crutches or a cane. If the door had swung open at an inopportune time, no way could I have made a grab to close it. The space between toilet and door is too far to reach, even for someone with orangutan arms.
And what if a thief had taken advantage of my dishabille and grabbed my purse? Or even worse, thumped me over the head and made off with anything I had of even modest value when fenced for drugs or alcohol?
Next morning before drafting this column, I phoned the manager of Canadian Tire.
“Yesterday was the first time I had heard of this door lock not working properly,” he said, sounding as sincere as the cashier who claimed the broken lock had been reported many times.
So to whom had the broken lock been reported before?
The manager went on, “I had it fixed right away.”
June 3 to 9 is Seniors’ Week in B.C. when businesses are urged to make their establishments senior friendly.
Fixing a bathroom lock is a modest move toward being customer friendly, once the manager receives the complaint.