One of my children’s favorite stores is the Borders Bookstore. My wonderful wife of 19 years, Judie, must have done something right to have our children enjoy reading so much. A new Borders Bookstore opened a couple of months ago just a few blocks from our house. It is right next to the supermarket, so the kids are always sneaking over to pull a few books off the shelf.

Borders is one of those new style bookstores that has easy chairs, a coffee shop and entertainment. I must admit you can really get lost in these stores. I spend my time in the technical book section.

One day after spending too much time at the bookstore, my two daughters came in to greet me with a funny episode they encountered at the Borders. They were in the store so long that they had to use the plumbing facilities. It was their first time in the new store’s toilet room. When they closed the water closet compartment, there was a sign on the inside of the compartment door that read “Please use bathroom tissue sparingly. We have water-conserving toilets that are easily clogged. Thank you.”

Knowing that I was currently involved in testing some 1.6 gpf water closets, they wanted to quiz me on why such a sign was necessary. They were good spies. They gathered all of the information regarding the installation to report back to me.

When they reported the make and model of the toilet, their eyes lit up when I said, “Yup, they need the sign for that particular toilet. It’s considered a lousy flusher in the industry.” Of course, I passed the test as the father. I knew the right answer.

How Come? My wife got involved in the conversation. “If you know that these toilets are no good, why doesn’t everybody know it?” she asked. “Doesn’t the manufacturer know that the toilet flushes poorly?” This series of questions continued. This was a little more difficult line of questions to answer than my children’s.

I started my response with, “Did you ever read Catch 22?” Judie knew she was in trouble. I explained that the model installed at the bookstore is one of the more popular models of 1.6 gpf water closets. The plumbers buy it because all of the other plumbers buy it. The manufacturer thinks that the water closet is fine because the sales volumes are high. They promote the sales volumes so that more plumbers buy it. No one stops to figure out that the people hate the water closet and put signs on the compartment doors.

The questions continued. “Does it sell so well because it is the cheapest?” My response was, “No, as a matter of fact, there are cheaper water closets available by different manufacturers that flush much better than this model.” Judie asked, “Is this the most popular 1.6 gpf water closet?” I responded, “No, some other models sell better. Actually, one model that outsells this model flushes just as bad, if not worse!”

The assistant manager of the Borders Bookstore is a good friend of ours. We ran into her at a recent Boy Scout dinner. We were talking about the sign on the compartment door. She said she wanted her boss to call me to investigate why the toilets are always stopping up. Naturally, she assumed that something was wrong with the plumbing system.

Judie was happy to jump in and say, “It’s not the plumbing system, you just have a water closet that is a lousy flusher.” Our friend said she helped open a new Borders about 100 miles away and the water closets in that store worked fine. So over dinner we discussed the merits of good and poor flushing 1.6 gpf water closets. Her husband got up and excused himself early on.

PR Campaign: We talked about the sign that really belonged on the compartment door. To make sure that sales would plummet, we came up with a sign that would read “This toilet is manufactured by Lousy Plumbing Fixtures. It stinks. Try to flush it and it stops up. Whatever you do, don’t buy one of these toilets.”

As our conversation got around to the plumber who installed the toilet, the question was raised as to whether the plumber should have installed such a miserable piece of china. Another sign came about, this time reading “This toilet was installed by Bum Plumbing Co. They apparently don’t know what they’re doing since they installed this lousy flushing toilet. When you flush, it will probably stop up. So don’t hire Bum Plumbing Co. to install your next toilet.”

I came to the defense of the plumber by saying that, quite often, the engineer specifies the water closet that has to be installed. At that point, the plumber has no choice but to install what is specified. So the last sign that was developed, read “Moron Engineering Co. specified this toilet. The toilet stinks. It can’t flush much of anything. Don’t use this engineering firm.”

Of course, all of the signs could appear on the compartment door. Instead, the public gets the perception that all 1.6 gpf water closets stink. Yet, that is not true. If certain manufacturers are going to continue to produce lousy flushing 1.6 gpf water closets, we should stop buying them. In every price range, there are 1.6 gpf water closets that perform. You have to know which ones they are.

When is the last time you called a customer and asked them how they like their new water closet, or how it flushes? Install the different models in your own house, or shop around and find out which ones really work. Otherwise, don’t be surprised to go to the bookstore and read in the water closet compartment a sign that says, “Your company installed this toilet and it stinks. We tell all of our customers not to call you for plumbing help.”