The toilet paper experiment

If there’s one thing that annoys me is racing into a stall to go to the loo and finding – after you’ve started – that there is no toilet paper!


I noticed that it happened quite often in my stall of choice at work while other stalls seemed to be well supplied.

It occurred to me that my toilet stalls are very likely not equally used and I wondered which ones were used more often.

Knowing the popularity of the stall position would inform my choice and give me a greater chance of getting a stall with paper.

Up there for thinking – right?

Last night I was at work late – there was a quiz night on site – my table won – and I realised that now was the perfect time to see which stalls get the most use.

I snuck upstairs to the ladies and took a photograph in each stall and this is what I found.

Our facilities have a mirror/washbasin area followed by four stalls in a row. 

Stall 1

Stall 2

Stall 3

Stall 4

Now as you can see Stall 1 has the least toilet paper. For some reason… laziness(?), urgency(?)… people choose the stall closest to the door.

Stall 2 has the most.

Stall 3 still has quite a bit

Stall 4 had already gone through a whole roll and nearly finished another two.

From this I concluded that people feel more comfortable at the extremities of the room.  Perhaps it was the fact you only have one shared wall.  Stalls 1 and 4 were definitely the most used.

For those who don’t mind the middle stalls, I’m guessing they choose to leave a gap between them and the occupied toilet – most likely to be stall 1 – you know for privacy.  Not that you can’t hear EVERYTHING.

Which means, if you want to be guaranteed a better chance of being able to wipe your bum – choose stall 2.

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Over to you

Does your experience back my conclusions? Why not do the same experiment and compare results?

And by the way, what is the etiquette when you are caught short in a public loo?

12 Replies to “The toilet paper experiment”

  1. I have often wondered about this and deliberately choose what I imagine to be the least popular stalls (for cleanliness reasons as well as toilet paper ones). However, never have I come across such excellent research on the matter. I think you should undertake a longitudinal study across a diverse cross section and report your findings.


  2. I always go for the stall in the corner too so I would have been out of luck with no toilet paper! I’ve gotten stuck too many times with none so I check before I close the door so it doesn’t happen. If I’m alone and it does, I reach under and steal some from nextdoor, must be an interesting sight to see! Thanks for keeping us up to date on the TP at your place!

  3. I’d like to see you do a study on which toilet seat is the cleanest !
    I never havea problem with toilet paper, seeing as I lay toilet paper down on the toilet first and then do the toilet “squat”.

  4. That is just too funny, I agree, never have I come across such thorough research! I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it before – but you can be guarnateed I will be now! I think it’s often a case of which stall is empty, then the farthest away – and I do always try and do a quick check of the paper (if I remember!!)

  5. All I know about the toilet where I work there’s a 7 year old edition of Cosmo sitting in there, and a 12 year old edition of New Idea…it’s like a dentists waiting room, but it taught me a lot about the All New Price Is Right…

  6. After being caught without several times I now carry a pocket pack of tissues into public toilets.
    At work there are 5 stalls. When I get there in the mornings first thing I do is check the loos. If there’s paper, fine. If the stalls have none but there’s a basket of spares, I distribute them. If there’s none at all (this is most often the case) I’m off downstairs to the selling area where I’ll pick up a nice big pack, mark it off as store-used and go back upstairs with them. I often wonder why the night staff can’t do a quick check and get some if necessary before closing the store.

  7. OK Cello….I hate to use your last sheet on this one, but men have been pondering the mathematics and psychology of washroom selection strategies since we first learned how to lift the seat and then chose NOT to do it anyway.

    Can I direct you to the wonderfully named Blue Monster (Where Thinking Ends and Over Thinking Begins) to experience just a dribble of the dilemmas faced by the half of the population who do it standing up.

  8. Studies have been done before on which cubicles people prefer, and the outer ones are always more popular.

    I guess if someone is doing number twos they’re more likely to use a stall with a wall on one side and therefore more toilet paper will get used there as well.

    So there could be almost the same number of people using the middle stalls as the outside, but the people in the outside stalls are using more paper.

  9. That is a very good explanation Maja… yes it would certainly explain the lack of loo paper…

    But the conclusion remains the same…

    If in a hurry and no time to check the stock of loo paper – choose the middle stalls to ensure the paperwork can be done. 🙂

  10. Stall 4 was me. i get so annoyed with those silly dispensers that only give you 2 sheets at once, so i took a new roll and used that , getting as much paper as i want.

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