Let the Free Market Take Over the Line for the Loo - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Let the Free Market Take Over the Line for the Loo

Let the Free Market Take Over the Line for the Loo

By Taylor Mayol


Because everyone wants the VIPee treatment. 

By Taylor Mayol

It’s almost midnight and your friends are ready to head to the next bar. But first you’ve got to go; you’ve really got to go. “Be right back!” you say, but you’ve spoken too soon: The line is 15 women deep and there’s just one stall. Is this the lot of woman, who must consign hundreds of hours of her lifetime waiting to relieve her bladder?

Nonsense, we say: It’s time to disrupt this business of doing your business. Rethink the stall tactic. Find a shortcut to the porcelain throne. In fact, a solution has been deployed to less urgent ends: At Disneyland, you can buy a Fastpass, and TSA pre-check is basically a $75 tax for impatient rich people to skip the line. So why not apply free-market principles to one of the most universally irksome lines in places like football stadiums, concert venues and bars? Let people pay to skip the bathroom line. 

It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. After all, restaurants in some parts of Europe already charge customers to use their golden thrones. In our conception, a hired bathroom attendant could inquire “cash or card?” Prices could be set on an Uber model, with surge pricing during peak hours. Those who couldn’t or choose not to pay can wait in a separate line. Voilà — public accommodations enter our postcapitalist world! Happier patrons, more jobs and an extra source of income for venues.

Some find the notion of privatizing the privy line offensive. After all, waiting for the water closet is one of the few great levelers remaining in the United States. In venues like the San Francisco Giants stadium, the loo line is the last remaining bastion of “free,” says Shana Daum, its VP of communications. The bathroom line is “one of the few things that’s equal opportunity for all,” she adds. Then there’s the nagging fact that “some people don’t have money,” points out Robert Dekle, an economist at the University of Southern California. Do they get stuck in bathroom purgatory, at the end of the line? Would we segregate bathrooms based on the ability to pay? 

We certainly don’t want that. Yet, if you don’t think bathroom lines are a real issue, we salute you and your massive bladder. And perhaps free-market principles could actually neuter other kinds of discrimination, from the kind trans people face to the continuing lack of potty parity for women. Anyone who has waited in a long line knows that supply and demand can be terribly out of sync. Auctioning places in toilet lines would undoubtedly be more “efficient,” Dekle concedes, and at times, even forestall crisis. At one game at Wrigley Field this year, the men’s line was literally innings long. Fans took to Twitter to complain. Some posted pictures of would-be beer cups filled with you-know-what from men who just couldn’t or wouldn’t wait.

Would an auction make such distress go away? It’s time to find out: Let the bidding war commence! 

Do line jumpers make your blood boil? Would you happily spend a few bucks to skip the line? Let us know. 


Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories