Conventional wisdom: A toilet is a toilet.
On the contrary: A bidet is a toilet, but better.
Toilets made headlines this week when New York City reporters uncovered that not-so-flushable wet wipes were clogging the city's sewage system, creating an $18 million dollar infrastructure problem. This story brings together three things I'm passionate about: solving problems, sustainability and the science of good toilets.
Of course of those three, toilets are most likely to grab people's attention. Of all the green building techniques and air movement innovations included in my company's 80,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, a product that often gets people talking is in the bathroom.
The Equitable Toilet Principle of Management
Each of our restrooms includes Toto washlets, which feature built-in bidets, seat heaters, and a host of front and rear washing options. The model of a hybrid bidet-toilet was invented in the 1960s to merge the traditional European fixture with the American toilet. Toto successfully marketed the design in Japan, where over half of homeowners installed them.
The trend never caught on in the United States, despite the fact that they are cleaner than a wipe. I don't understand the resistance. The best bidet analogy I've heard compares it to cleaning your boots after you muck a stall--what's more effective--wiping them with paper or hosing them down?
Fancy toilets in the company bathrooms started as a simple equity gesture--I had a washlet and I wanted to offer that to my employees. I can't expect the people who work in my building to do anything I wouldn't do, and that principle extends to the toilets. And, as you might imagine, the fact that our employees consume several hundreds of pounds of fruit each week (see my blog post of Feb. 27, 2015, "Perks that Matter: Feed Your Staff and Sweat the Small Stuff") makes the washlets that much more appreciated (and used).
Offer an Experience, Not Just a Perk
The bidets are also a part of a larger idea that we refer to within the company as "Live Life Big Ass." I try to offer our employees experiences that match the company's ideals and practices. Some of those, like our fine dining outings or use of high-end hotels for business travel, offer everyone an experience with the level of customer service and elevated taste we offer others.
Other experiences are small exercises in stretching our limits. Risk is key to success in business and the introduction of new experiences is a way to spread that ethic throughout the company in small ways. You'll find me walking around the sales floor offering people kumquats or a taste of durian, the foul-smelling king of fruit.
Sustainability Is in the Details
Like most things I champion, a good bidet weaves together practicality, an elevated aesthetic and sustainability--which, in my mind, is the natural result of any well-engineered product. That brings us back to New York's sewer problems. The backup of the sewage system due to wet wipes is an example of the problems created by adopting cheap, disposable products instead of paying a little more for a high-quality product that solves a long-term problem.
In that respect, offering a washlet is just another extension of our core values. You can create a great mission statement or build a beautiful product, but changing people's habits is a measure of success. The bathroom is one of the best places to showcase sustainability.
Our toilets make a statement--what are yours saying about you?