This article appeared on Nudge.org’s blog site in 2010, but I love how the ideas presented about keeping toilets clean with stickers, as well as with floor mats, is timeless. Check it out…
The Amsterdam urinals
The recent piece “Easy Does it” about choice architecture in the New Republic by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler opened with the example of bathroom urinals. Bathroom urinals in the Amsterdam airport, more specifically.
As all women who have ever shared a toilet with a man can attest, men can be especially spacey when it comes to their, er, aim. In the privacy of a home, that may be a mere annoyance. But, in a busy airport restroom used by throngs of travelers each day, the unpleasant effects of bad aim can add up rather quickly. Enter an ingenious economist who worked for Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam. His idea was to etch an image of a black house fly onto the bowls of the airport’s urinals, just to the left of the drain. The result: Spillage declined 80 percent. It turns out that, if you give men a target, they can’t help but aim at it.
Some have wondered what exactly these famous behavior-shaping urinals look like. By popular demand, here they are. Two of them. A wide shot and a close-up.
By coincidence, Nudge reader Anthony Garone sent along another nudge idea for bathroom urinals. (If he was inspirited by the New Republic piece, he didn’t mention it.) He suggests a bath mat that makes annoying sounds whenever a guy misses and his “spillage” hits the floor.
For some reason, the men at my work place have a hard time not leaving puddles in front of the urinals. When I go to the bathroom, it disgusts me to stand there with my shoes next to these miniature germ-lakes. So, my nudge idea is to create a floormat that sits under the urinal and makes a loud and/or obnoxious noise when a guy misses the target. Preferably, this noise would be audible from outside the men’s room to maximize potential embarrassment.