Revisited: Dispensing with good taste

If we could apply some of the same principles used by manufacturers of toilet paper dispensers to our country’s ports and immigration checkpoints, our concerns about national security would be over.

Bathroom tissue located in public restrooms is way more secure than it needs to be, if you ask me. American industry has developed highly engineered systems mounted in our nation’s stalls that are designed to allow users the absolute minimum amount of product while simultaneously making that product maddening to get at. These hulking plastic cases dribble a thin, single-ply dangle of paper with a fitfulness disturbingly similar to what I’m feeling in my own mid-section while trying to wrestle a few squares free.

Managers of these communal bathroom facilities – in restaurants, offices, government buildings – know this is a service they have to provide free of charge to their customers. So they’re obviously interested in limiting their expense as much as possible without putting their drapes and other nearby textiles in jeopardy. I sympathize with their situation in these hard economic times, but I also have similarly urgent hygiene concerns that need to be addressed. I decided to learn more about the companies that build and market these stingy dispensers.

Not surprisingly, most of them are manufactured by multinational corporations with interests in many sanitization-related areas. They are typically sold as part of a package that includes both the dispensers and the toilet paper, which I guess makes sense if you think about it. (The Pez analogy is one that unfortunately comes to mind; you rarely see the candy sold without the dispenser.) Bay West is one such company, offering a broad array of services in the environmental, industrial and emergency segments. Their corporate motto – “Slide Door Right for More Paper”– is printed proudly on each of their dispensers, and belies their larger mission in fields like brownfield site remediation (ew!) and hospital waste management. It’s good to know they have something to fall back on if bidets ever catch on in this country.

Another name that I came across in my research in the lavatory at a local bagel seller was SCA. When I searched for this firm on-line, I came back with several hits that caused me concern that this trend toward synergy in the industry was spinning out of control. Was SCA the Society for Creative Anachronism? The Student Conservation Association? The Society of Crystallographers of Australia? I could imagine any of these names being euphemisms for the business of helping the public do their business in public, but none turned out to be the company I was looking for. A link to “SCA Armor (Heavy)” seemed promising, considering the amount of protection these devices provide, but also led to a dead end. Finally I was routed to something called “Tork Online,” which referenced an SCA that sold “away-from-home tissue products,” and I knew I had struck pay dirt.

“An in-depth knowledge of our customers’ businesses means our products work hard to eliminate waste, reduce maintenance costs and offer hygienic solutions,” reads the products page. “Our dependable, attractive dispensers are designed to optimize hygiene, function and cost-in-use through designs that reduce consumption and maintenance time, dispense effortlessly and discourage pilferage.” Note that it’s only in the last two words of their blurb that they hint at their true purpose, keeping me and others from making off with free toilet tissue.

A more thorough look at the products section shows a fine array of conventional and jumbo dispensers, and a certain genius of these producers that I hadn’t considered before. The conventional model is described as “preventing waste by dropping a reserve roll only after the primary roll is depleted, keeping the used roll core in the unit and washroom floors clear of debris.” The jumbo model — for high-traffic facilities and, I presume, the waiting rooms of gastroenterologists — offers a “unique tear feature that eliminates the risk of cutting or scratching hands,” convenient for those moments of desperation we’ve all experienced but are too fortunate to remember in any detail.

Another maker is a company called Merfin, which I’m proud to say services my own workplace. With their system, “time spent replacing rolls can be reduced by up to 90%, and savings are increased by reducing waste and over-consumption with virtually indestructible locking dispensers.” I knew over-consumption was the problem that hyper-extended our nation’s credit system, but I never thought of it as an issue in the area of personal hygiene. Who are they to judge what’s enough or what’s too much? Anyway, I will give them credit for coming up with a cool trademarked and intercapped name for their line – VersaCore, offering the most versatile (bold italic theirs) tissue dispensing options in the world.

Finally, I want to reference probably the best-known company in this field, Georgia-Pacific. I didn’t go to their website because I found out enough to convince me that they are the future of public bathroom tissue during a recent and urgent visit to the toilet in the new upscale Barnes & Noble not far from my home. This casing, while still made of the traditional PMMA polystyrene that seems to be an industry standard, features a stylish, sloped front-end and an overall design that would be at home in the lobby of Europe’s trendiest boutique hotels. I was so impressed that I took a picture with my cell phone, even at the risk of criminal prosecution and a probable listing on certain predator lists. (I’ll include the photo with this posting if I can figure out how to get it off my phone and onto my computer). Even better, it dispensed paper easily in a free-flowing, luxuriant manner that tempted me to roll a mound out onto the floor and lay down for a nice nap.


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One Response to “Revisited: Dispensing with good taste”

  1. tom1950 Says:

    While I sometimes have no problem with the dispenser, I almost always take issue with the quality of tissue dispensed. In most cases (with rare exceptions) it is indeed single-ply. In the local NTB repair facility, I encountered tissue so thin that I could actually read a book through it. When I pointed this out to the manager he simply shrugged his shoulders in a “well, whatcha you gonna do?” manner.

    Tissue that thin just begs a person to use much more than would be normal. I question just how this could possibly be more economical.

    I don’t even want to get in to how slippery and non-porous it is.


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