"Washrooms for Customers Only": Space, Dignity, and Sh*itting in the City




Wilson, Edith

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University of Guelph


This thesis examines the narratives that explain the existence of washrooms for customers only (W4CO) rules in the City of Toronto. Fifteen interviews were conducted with workers and managers at both chain and independent fast food and coffee shops along five strips in Toronto’s downtown core. In addition, a full listing of the public washrooms already available in the city was assembled, since no previous complete list existed. Descriptive statistics gathered show that 37.62% of the businesses in the research area have W4CO signs. Findings also show that although W4CO signs are much less frequent in independent shops, independent shops also have many fewer washroom uses per hour than chain shops. Findings from interviews show that the high prevalence of homelessness and the intersection of homelessness with mental health issues and drug addiction were concerns for workers. However, most interviewees were interested in policy solutions and tried to separate their often difficult experiences with the washrooms in businesses from discourse that stigmatizes vulnerable populations.



sociology, washrooms, sanitation, public space, semi-public space, private space, safe injection sites, supervised injection sites, worker's rights, right to the city, public washrooms, bathrooms, public bathrooms, toilets, public toilets, rules, washrooms for customers only, dignity