When is a customer not a customer?

by Chris MacDonald

paying_customersI love normative signs that clearly have a story behind them. This is never more the case than in the case of hand-written (or better, hand-modified) signs.

This picture is of the front door of a cafe on Manitoulin Island, in Ontario, Canada.

It is of course common for restaurants and other establishments to reserve the use of their washrooms for customers. The provision and maintenance of washrooms isn’t free, and so it’s reasonable for such places to at least try to limit their use. Such washrooms are not ‘public goods,’ but benefits of patronage.

But I wonder what it was that inspired the owners of this place to specify that washrooms are not just for customers, but for paying customers? Is the word “paying” just for emphasis, like the word “strictly” on the sign that says parking spots are “strictly reserved for customers”? Or did someone at some point cause a hassle (a major one?) by availing themselves of the facilities based on their status as an occasional customer, rather than a spending-money-today customer?

Thanks to Samantha for the photo.