—Written by Natalie Shure
The toilet-mapping app sector (oh yes, that's a thing) just got hit with a high-end “black car” option: for 25 bucks a month, a new service called Looie promises its users access to a network of squeaky clean, vetted bathrooms whenever you find yourself in need.
CEO Yezin Al-Qaysi, a self-described “clean freak”, says he was sick of the constant hunt for facilities in a city whose frazzled residents spend so little time at home. “This city is so chaotic that anything consistent is a comfort,” he said.
Looie’s stability comes in the form of rigorously evaluated and cleaned bathrooms in a pre-approved network of restaurants, cafes and other businesses. Official Looie hotspots are outfitted with special locks, which app users get a key to. In exchange, the business gets to outsource the drudgery of daily restroom maintenance to Al-Qaysi’s team. To hear Al-Qaysi describe it, it’s a bit like community gardening: “we’re taking these neglected corners of businesses, and we’re giving them makeovers and making them beautiful.”
Looie is the latest—and ritziest—on-demand toilet finding service, but it’s by no means the only one. For the scuzzier among us, there are other options: AirPnP, whose name puns the mega-popular home rental app, charges users one-time fees to relieve themselves in private homes. There’s also ToiletFinder, which simply maps nearby locations of gratis potties to help users hone their search.
Looie is banking on the fact that enough users value the VIP potty experience to pay a monthly premium for it. Most of us appreciate a spiffy bathroom, of course, but the desperation of needing a quick fix does have a way of lowering one’s standards. Plus, app users are currently limited to only seven locations, all of which are in Tribeca. The limited scope falls short of Al-Qaysi’s eventual vision, which is a complete overhaul of bathroom infrastructure and urban space.
It's true that New Yorkers can all identify with the dread of nature calling unexpectedly, and most of us have wondered with baffled wrath why bathrooms can be so hard to come by. But bathroom logistics are like health insurance—no one really wants to think about it, as long as it’s there when you need it.