On the evening of January 3, 2008, I had the misfortune of needing gasoline and a restroom break. I was in Anacortes, WA and did not see a familiar gas station along the route of Highway 20. So, I intentionally waited to get back out to I-5 before heading South to Seattle to get gas. I was hoping to find a nice, safe, clean place to refuel my truck.
From the Southbound lane of I-5, I exited and went Westbound on Highway 99 and pulled into the closest Shell station. I am a female and I was travelling alone. I was lured to the site by the cheery Shell Oil logo and my lifetime experience that told me that I would find good service, clean restrooms and an overall positive experience there.
I could not have been more incorrect.
I pulled in, swiped my credit card at the pump. I popped open the gas cap and set it up to automatically fill while I went inside the store to use the public facilities.
First, let me describe the setting. The location is immediately off of I-5 where it intersects with Old Highway 99. Though the time was early, it was quite dark as the days get dark around 3;30 pm in the Pacific Northwest in winter.
As I entered the double aluminum doors, I was suprised to see few patrons in the store. Instead there were two young staff people behind the counter. One male in his twenties about 6'3' and a deminuative female. Both were dressed rather sloppy and unprofessional wearing mismatched sweat clothing and t shirts. As I entered, I asked where I might find the public restrooms. The female issued what appeared to be a grunt and ushered me with a gesture, to go outside. I asked if I needed a key. She said "no". I went outside to the West side of the building where I found two portable toilets with the title "Honey Bucket" written on them. I was disappointed, but not daunted. I opened the first door to find that there were no lights in the unit and it was startlingly squalid. By using the illumination from my cell phone, I could see that over the primordeal ooze that appeared to cover nearly every surface, the toilet seat cover dispenser was empty as was the toilet paper dispenser. I was surprised, but I moved on to the next unit in hopes that it would be in more sanitary condition. It was not.
I returned to the store and explained to the female at the register that the portable toilets were in need of service and asked her to go prepare them, by at least refilling the seat covers and toilet paper. She refused. I was appalled, but I kept my composure.
Next, the tall fellow came to support her by making an excuse about the portable toilets. He said something to the effect that they have a small sewage system and it could not withstand being used by the public. I asked calmly, "What does that have to do with a request to put some toilet paper into the portable toilets?" He did not respond. I asked if he would put toilet paper into the units and he declined. By this time I was becoming disgusted- they are all working there in food service without a place to wash their hands. They don't have any accomodation for wheelchair accessibility. The list goes on.
My repeated requests for toilet paper and service to the inexcusably filthy toilets brought the manager out of his office. He asked what he could do. I suggested that he could put a roll of toilet paper into one or both of the portable toilets. He refused. I looked around the store and pointed to the fact that they sell toilet paper and I did not understand why they couldn't refill the portable toilet with paper for the patrons. I reminded them that gasoline for my truck was a substantial purchase. (It ended up being $68.42). And that I needed a restroom and that it was not beyond reason to suppose that he could use effective customer service skills and procure a 45 cent roll of toilet paper from the mini market to install into the portable toilet. He reiterated what the female employee had previously told me. He stated that it was his company policy. The scene was tense. This was all hashed out and publicly humiliating as a couple of other patrons scurried out the door of the store.
This was not a busy time for the store. There were only a couple of other vehicles in the ample pumping area. It was and still is unfathomable to me that people would treat a paying customer like this. I know that I am not the first. By the young man's response, I have to believe that they have such frequent complaints about the portable toilets that they didn't even hear that I wasn't complaining about the toilets, just their lack of paper!
I walked out of the store, shut down the gas pump, locked my car. I returned to the cash register to photograph all 3 of the world's worst customer service people. Only the younger man and woman were present. I snapped my shot. I asked them to get their manager. He came out but refused to be photographed. He asked if this was "really necessary". I took a photo of his office door.
I've never done anything like that before, nor have I complained about bad service in a public venue before. But this was so terrible. I can't imagine how this would have felt if I were a person of color and received this humiliating treatment. I would have probably presumed that they were discriminating against me.
When I left, I was shaking and I still needed to use the restroom. Their service is appalling and I will tell everyone in the region about the terrible service and passive-aggressive behavior punishing their customers who request the bathroom by directing them to the squalid portable toilets.