Wednesday 18 July 2007

Environmentalism Hits Consumer Paradise

Orlando Premium Outlets
8200 Vineland Avenue,
Orlando, FL USA 32821

Where is it?

This really depends on where you start from so I’ll let you find your way to the food hall. From the northern entrance to the hall, turn directly right and follow along. There are a multitude of different toilets to your left.

What’s it like?

If there is one thing I don’t like it is tokenism. I’m as green as the next person, but I don’t believe companies when they do something that the customer might find slightly unpalatable and then blame it on ‘saving the environment’. This is exactly what got me here. Some fairly boring, but nevertheless well thought out toilets with nappy changing facilities and loads of space, were spoilt by the sign on the dryer.

What a poor excuse! If you want to save on cleaning by having a dryer tell us that. Or at least appeal to peoples’ in built snobbery (this is the Premium Outlets after all) and tell them you’ve installed dryers so they don’t have to touch something that the scumbag before them might have left their germs on. Don’t tell people that electricity-guzzling dryers are going to do less harm to the environment than a little two ply paper.

And don’t they see the contradiction. This puny ineffective measure is dwarfed by the fact that we are in the US – Environmental Pariah of the World – and in consumer heaven – one of the better outlet malls in Florida. Just reducing the air conditioning 5 degrees for the site would save enough power to run a small community in Scotland for a year. If they are serious about being green, this is the last place to start.

After that rant, I have to say they were ok. They were averagely clean, perfectly normal and utilitarian. In the end the person who designed these toilets said, “well they are only the toilets after all”. Maybe I’d like to see just a little bit more from this premium site.

Marks out of 10:


Comments to the management:

If you want to go green, do it properly.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Old Style is on Way Out at Thameside Fish and Chip Heaven

United Kingdom

Where is it?

Starting from the main bar head to the right (upriver) and through the door to the right. This takes you virtually outside. Go to the right and up the stairs. You’ll see the ladies in front of you. For the men’s, turn left and then the door is on the left.

What’s it like?

Let me start by saying I love these toilets.

Lots.... Get the picture?

(In fact I’m trying to make space for lots of pictures as this is as much a historical piece as anything else).

Now down to business. This is a biker pub turned good. No doubt to some peoples’ disgust this place is now a Gastro pub par excellence. And what’s more it serves the second best fish and chips I’ve had in years. It is absolutely marvellous. The only thing that would have made it better on this day would have been some sun to let us sit outside and take in the view of the Thames and the Eton footbridge.

So what about the toilets? Well they certainly provide a wow. Old built in wood cabinetry with old style china certainly provide a sense of style that you rarely get these days. The tiles add to the light but clean feel. The window looking over the Thames is frosted enough to provide privacy, but you can still get some of the view when you look out.

Having said all this they are showing the signs of age. The sink is chipped and I guess this has got the health inspectors going as the ladies’ were being refurbished. Nice modern very high quality units were going in as I passed by. It’s rare for me to say this, but I’d prefer to stick with the old. It had the feel of history and permanence that makes me want to campaign for refurbishment of what’s there rather than a stripping out and replacement.

So, I’d rush to get and see these before they go if they haven’t already.

Go on, you should be there already!

Marks out of 10:

10. Go and feel a piece of history.

Comments to the management:

Don’t destroy what you’ve got. Make it better!

Monday 16 July 2007

Smoking is Banned But Flashing is Just Fine

The Jolly Brewmaster
39 Painswick Road,
GL50 2EZ
United Kingdom

Where is it?

From the front door head to the right of the bar. Follow it around and down the steps. Pass the door on the left (which takes you out to the garden) and the men’s is on the right.

What’s it like?

This is a good locals’ pub by all accounts. That means you’ll get nothing flashy but the beer will be good and cheap. About 10 years back this place was a cosy warm place to come. Now it has started to turn from cosy to run down despite some efforts at redecorating. Mind you they do have a good BBQ on nice summer evenings.

So what bought me back? Well a hard week at the office and the introduction of the smoking ban made me wonder what a pint in this old place might be like. Well, the smoking ban, I’m sad to say, just makes the stale smell and stained walls just seem that much more forlorn. A pity.

As for the toilets, well they might have banned smoking but they certainly have not banned other activities. In fact you have no choice but to flash the other punters when you go! The door to the toilet is wedged open and as you enter you find yourself rather exposed. So you think, I’ll head to the end. Nope, that doesn’t quite do it. Sqeeze right up against the wall. Damn they could still see. Then, feeling the pressure of the last pint building up, you decide to take a quick pee hoping that no one will come past from the garden. Will this work? Quick, quick! Ahhhhh – phewwww.

Now involuntary flashing is certainly not my idea of fun, and if it is a ploy to distract you from what the facilities are really like I’d have to say it just about worked!

Marks out of 10:

3 Frightening indeed!

Comments to the management:

Shut the door for crying out loud.

Thursday 5 July 2007

Country-tinged toilets at Cecil's BBQ

Cecil's Texas Style Bar*B*Q
2800 S. Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL USA 32806

Where is it?

From the main entrance, go past the order station and buffet towards the back of the building. When you reach the cashier, turn right and enter the dining room, then take an immediate left. At that point, the drink fountain will be on your left, a soft-serve ice cream station will be in front of you and the restaurant's barbecue sauce station (with three buckets of warm sauce) will be to your far right. The various bathroom entrances are set in between these three markers, appropriately labeled of course.

What's it like?

Surprisingly entertaining. This down home BBQ spot, located just south of Orlando's city center offers, wonderful Texas-inspired BBQ. That means it's focus is on beef instead of the traditional pork. Of course, it offers pork too, as well as smoked chicken and turkey (the latter is stupendous), however brisket and spicy sausage are the specialties here, and Cecil's has some of the best in the city.

The atmosphere is much like a Texas roadhouse, with heavy wood tables, deep red brick walls and lots of humorous decor that pokes fun at the Texan spirit (Nolan Ryan posters, amusing licence plates, declarations of love to beef.....).

The bathrooms take that country spirit one step further, offering a homey (perhaps even homemade) environment that's made to look much like an outhouse. Wood paneling covers the walls. Red tile covers the floor. And, better still, the toilet stall isn't made of the standard metal divider but of wooden fence pickets, nailed loosely together with various bits of plywood and locked by a simple slip latch.

Of course, the stall does have a few scattered gaps in the wood -- not enough for someone to look in, mind you, but still enough to get the sitter to worry a little about his/her privacy, and that essentially makes up the loo's major misstep. On the flip side, however, the wood fence around the toilet offers a division line between the commode and urinal, which manages to increase the level of privacy there for the pee-er. Go figure.

The sink and mirror didn't quite match the decor (green tile against a wood look like hand-me-downs in the worst way, but they also were clean and well-kept, albeit a bit worn down and blended well with the down-home county charm exhibited here.

Marks out of 10:

7. The creativity used in the decor definitely lifts the score here. Yeehaw!

Comments to the Management:

Those little peepholes in the stall fencing make me want to paraphrase a line from the London Tube: "Mind the gaps."