If you use a store bathroom do you have to make a small purchase?

Dear Liz,
My roommate and I went on a road trip for spring break and we made a stop at a grocery store to use the bathroom. I made a small purchase because I thought that was the customary thing to do, but my roommate didn’t. We ended up getting into a debate about whether or not a person should buy something after using a store bathroom. What do you think?
– Really Had To Go

Dear Really Had To Go,

LOL! Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but my husband and I argue about this ALL. THE. TIME. He gets so annoyed that I will take longer to buy something after I use a bathroom, while he’ll just walk in and do this thing.


  1. Is there is a sign posted that tells you “bathroom for paying customers only”? If there is then yes, you need to make a purchase. If there is not, and it is a gas station or grocery store, then you’re probably not obligated to but it is customary and polite to buy something small.
  2. Is it a small Mom and Pop type shop that requires you to ask for the bathroom and get directions or a key to even find it? If yes, then most definitely make a small purchase!
  3. Is it a truck stop? Nah…a truck stop is a place where people expect to fill up on gas, grab some to go food, and use the bathroom. It is like the Mecca of pit stops, but if you’re just using the bathroom and then you’re likely off the hook for buying something.

While we’re on the topic of public bathrooms, though…let me just mention a few other rules of etiquette that are well worth paying attention to.

  1. Flush the darn toilet and clean up after yourself. If you made the room smell and there is an air freshener then please, use it.
  2. Wash your hands, obviously, but don’t be that person that splashes water everywhere or leaves globs of soap on the floor or sink. Yuck.
  3. Throw your trash and personal hygiene products away. No one wants to see or touch that.
  4. The bathroom is not exactly the place to strike up a conversation with a stranger, do your business and go.
  5. Give other people personal space. If all the stalls are empty and the are not clogged or gross then be kind and put a stall in between you and the person nearest to you.
  6. For the love of all good things, please do not text or chat on your cell phone while you’re holed up in a stall.


Good luck!

~ Liz

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