PHOTO: .China is getting serious about toilet paper thievery at public attractions like the Temple of Heaven. (Photo via Flickr/Nikolaj Potanin)
Remember the good old days, when using a public restroom in a foreign country meant forking over a few coins to a happy attendant, who in return would hand you a few sheets of toilet paper?
If you’re heading to China, you can probably expect to skip the attendant. Instead, your quest for toilet paper could result in a process that rivals airport security. You’ll be photographed and your facial image will be searched. If you’re a frequent visitor to that particular restroom, your face will be flagged, and there will be no toilet paper for you.
The Temple of Heaven, one of China’s most popular visitor attractions, has recently installed this software, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
In China, toilet paper isn’t located to the side of the commode as it is in the United States. While many restrooms don’t provide tissue at all, those in public attractions usually include on public dispensary.
Apparently, however, there has been a rash of toilet paper theft at the Temple of Heaven as well as at many other public restrooms across Beijing. After an investigation by local news sources, it turned out that the “toilet paper bandits” were mostly senior citizens. And these tissue-starved seniors would often deplete a new roll of paper in minutes, leaving no options for other restroom patrons.
The newly installed cameras have spurred a large public discussion through Chinese social media. While many users have expressed concerns about privacy issues others complain that the processing time can be lengthy. The software is supposed to take just a few seconds to identify, or not, the needy patron. But users have said that it can take upwards of a minute, a lengthy wait when you just have to go.
Another user from China’s WeChat social network points out that taking large quantities of toilet paper probably isn’t a good idea anyway.
“The cheap paper in public toilet contains lots of toxic materials such as fluorescent agents,” wrote the users. “Excessive use will only damage their health.”
If you pass the facial scan, the toilet paper allotment seems to be a generous one. Users are eligible to receive two feet (60 cm) of paper every nine minutes. But if you’re concerned about privacy issues or fluorescent toxins, it might be a good idea to carry your own toilet paper.