Still, the toilet’s creator, Mahabir Gill, told Wired UK on Monday that the StandardToilet’s “main benefit is to the employers, not the employees. It saves the employer money.” StandardToilet contends that needlessly long bathroom breaks are costing employers billions of dollars each year. In addition to offices, the company’s website lists shopping malls, restaurants, and, curiously, “seaside resorts” as potential venues.
Read: The long lines for women's bathrooms could be eliminated. Why haven’t they been?
It’s a bit difficult to say how seriously one should take this sinister toilet. Its stock-image-heavy, typo-laden website is almost charmingly shoddy. And its dystopian premise seems straight out of Nathan for You, a Comedy Central show in which the host convinces small-business owners to undertake harebrained promotional schemes. (In one episode, a gas station offers customers a generous rebate that can be redeemed if they solve a series of riddles on a mountain that’s more than an hour’s drive away.)
On the other hand, the StandardToilet has earned the approval of the British Toilet Association, a real organization. And StandardToilet told me that the product is real (though in an “early concept stage”), adding that that a few dozen American companies have expressed interest in it since word spread online. (StandardToilet says the names of these companies are “confidential.”)
If the interest is genuine, StandardToilet will likely have to confront some logistical issues. On a technical level, Christopher Chwedyk, a building-code consultant at the firm Burnham Nationwide, expressed concern that the sloped seat would pose problems with respect to managing “the flood-level rim of the fixture” (spillover) and “backflow” (when contaminated water seeps back into the clean-water supply).
A tilted toilet could be excessively burdensome for some people to use. “I imagine that the slanted seat would pose a problem to people with disabilities, the aging population, and children,” says Meghan Dufresne, an architect at the nonprofit Institute for Human Centered Design. “There will be people who have trouble moving or may need more time toileting who will be struggling.” (People who have digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome might also fall in that latter category.)
And that’s to say nothing of the disdain workers would likely feel for an employer manipulative enough to install a StandardToilet. The toilet seems just as likely to make people quit their jobs as it does to make them leave the bathroom sooner than planned.
When I asked Kathryn Anthony, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author of Defined by Design, what she made of the toilet, she gamely tried to simulate the effect of using it by sitting on a rocking chair tipped forward for five minutes. “Even for just a few seconds it felt uncomfortable and jarring,” she wrote in an email. “After a minute or two it felt very painful behind the shins. After five minutes minutes it felt even worse, and I was pleased when time was up.”