People living in Northern Ireland will splash out more than £70 a year – to ‘spend a penny’, a study has found.
Each year, the average adult in Northern Ireland will spend £73.17 on drinks, snacks and even full meals in order to use a shop or restaurant’s toilet guilt-free.
And £3.35 of that is spent just paying to get into public toilets in places such as train stations and parks.
But in a cruel twist of irony, more than one in three (35%) have paid to use a toilet only to then succumb to ‘stage fright’ and find themselves unable to go.
The research, commissioned by TENA, comes after it was revealed business rates will no longer apply to public toilets, while Network Rail has announced it will scrap toilet charges at all of its stations from April 1st.
A spokesman for TENA said: “Needing to use the loo when out and about can be fraught with tension.
“Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find a toilet nearby and even when you do, you may find you have to pay just to use it.
“As a result, we often find ourselves buying things we didn’t need or want from a café or pub so we can use their facilities.
“It might not seem a lot but it all adds up over time.
“What’s more, if you suffer from incontinence, the issue of finding a toilet when in public can be a constant worry – especially if you don’t have any cash or even the correct change on you.”
The study, of 2,000 adults, found people living in Northern Ireland will spend an average of £7.34 a year on bottled water to allow them to walk into the shop’s toilets after making a purchase, while £12.15 is lost on tea or coffee in a café.
Another £11.88 will be spent each year on snacks so they can use the toilet at the same time.
Soft drinks accounts for £12.15 a year and £12.57 is frittered away on a quick meal such as a sandwich – just to gain access to the loo.
And £13.73 goes on a proper meal they weren’t planning on buying.
Four in 10 have even bought something they had no use for – throwing it into the nearest bin shortly afterwards – just to use a company’s facilities.
But almost half (47%) would feel ‘guilty’ using a shop or restaurant’s toilet without making a purchase to justify it.
This is despite 55 per cent believing people should have a ‘right’ to use a toilet even if they’re not a paying customer.
It also emerged 35 per cent of those in Northern Ireland always make sure they have some small change on them – specifically in case they need to use a public toilet.
Although more than a third say they aren’t happy to pay to use a public toilet.
Fifty-eight per cent would be more likely to use their hard-earned cash to go to the toilet if it was clean and tidy, while 48 per cent would pay if it was stocked with nice hand soap or moisturiser.
Almost half (46%) even say they would happier to pay to use a toilet if the money was going to a good cause.
The study found a shopping centre is the most common place to go to the toilet when out and about, followed by public toilets or a nearby pub.
But while an honest 38 per cent ask to use a shop or restaurant’s toilet, 22 per cent admit they just try and sneak in without any staff spotting them.
For some, not knowing where they can go to a toilet is a worrying prospect with more than half admitting to feeling uncomfortable if they don’t know where the nearest useable toilet is.
And curiously, 54 per cent somehow feel they need the toilet more when they know there isn’t one nearby.