Home > The Monday Musings Column > Musings from the facilities front #4

Musings from the facilities front #4

The Case of the Vanishing Bog Roll is not one that you will find amongst the cases of Mr Holmes nor, perhaps, is it likely to crop up as a plot on Midsomer Murders, but it has kept us amused for a day or two and has added to the range of memories I have of this mundane, yet essential, consumable.

My first encounter with the realities of providing toilets for the workers was nearly fifty years ago when, in one of my first jobs, as the newest on the team I was giving to job of making sure that there were toilet rolls in each cubicle at the building that I worked in. That was an enlightening experience for an innocent country buy, especially when dealing with the accommodation provided for the opposite sex.

It quickly dawned on me that it reduced my workload if I left a packet of rolls in each loo so that I could top up from that rather that have to cart a supply all around the building with me. It also occurred that users of each loo might just use said stocks to replace any empty rolls as and when necessary to save me further work (I did mention that I was an innocent country lad?).

Such efforts to save the company a bit of time and allow me to do more interesting (and, as far as the third floor ladies loo was concerned) less dangerous work came to an abrupt halt at the end of the first week when my pay was docked for the cost of six packets of toilet rolls. Yes, all of the stocks that I had put out had gone to new homes shall we say.

Over the years since I have seen at first hand the ingenious battle between management and workers on the toilet roll front and wondered just how successful an organisation might have been if that ingenuity had been ploughed into the business rather that of toilet tissue. At one site a variety of devices had been deployed to stop workers from either stealing toilet rolls or from stuffing new ones down the toilet to block the pan. In triumph a new metal case had been designed by a local engineering company. It was alleged that this cage was unbreakable, but there was some paranoia around whether or not someone might try and smuggle in an oxy-acetylene torch. Yes, really.

The outcome was only slightly less dramatic; in one cubicle someone just wrenched down the wall of the cubicle to which the cage was attached and in several others lighter fluid (or similar) was squirted up through the aperture where the sheets emerged and the contents were set on fire (this had the added benefit, for the workers, of everyone having to spend half an hour or so out in the car park while the fire brigade dealt with things and pronounced it safe to re-enter the building). Such were industrial relations in the late seventies and early eighties.

Our problem in the last week or so has had echoes of the one from my youth. This time it involves one of the floors in an office building where the tenant had specified normal single roll toilet holders rather than a more industrial or public toilet look. A nine pack of spare rolls was replaced as and when necessary in each toilet until a few days ago when this became a daily event. The cause? A sudden rumour that there was going to be a shortage of toilet rolls in the shops this Christmas and despite most of the local supermarkets having toilet roll displays resembling a section of The Great Wall of China employees were hording whatever they could pinch from work. We left the evidence with our client’s HR people to deal with and instigated a bog roll patrol four times a day to top up. Oh the nostalgia!

Meanwhile on the facilities front line life rolls on.


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