Quality Toilet Paper

I am interrupting my usual blog to playfully participate in Bathroom Blog Fest 2010.  To keep with the theme of blogging about “bathrooms” and given my customer experience focus, here is an archived blog….

Quality Toilet Paper

They could save a small fortune if only they would buy single ply toilet paper …. But single ply toilet paper is not consistent with the Starbucks experience.     In his book Emotional Branding Mark Gobe’ notes.  “Females (the primary target audience for all bathroom tissue advertising) are responsible for influencing or buying 80% of the products sold in America. That translates to over 3.2 trillion dollars in total buying power. And one would be hard pressed to find a woman who doesn’t become vocal upon having to use toilet paper that could double as gift bag wadding.”  Mark continues that even with cost considerations in play,  “Keepers of the Starbucks brand once decided against downgrading from two-ply to one-ply toilet paper. Why? Because Starbucks promises a great coffee experience. And, in order to do that, it takes more than a barista and a menu of coffee drinks that will make your head spin. It takes satisfaction at all touch-points.”

Lets face it we all know business leaders who develop the delusion that their company can “cut corners and no one will notice?”  Whether it’s attempts to cover up faulty product quality, the fact that their product endangers the consumer, a willingness to spy on their managers, or a propensity to mislead investors regarding their profitability, the business pages are filled with scandals caused by people believed that their shortcuts would not be detected.

Unless you are a traveling salesman selling snake oil from town to town, long-term business success requires integrity, transparency and a principle outlined in my new book the Starbucks experience, namely “everything matters.”  While strategic decisions often have to be made about staffing and the cost of delivering service, great leaders know that those decisions have tradeoffs.  For each cost cutting measure there is an attendant risk that a shift in quality will be recognized by the customer.

I’m reminded of a story I used to share with students in my role as a college professor.  It emphasizes that cutting corners seldom turns out the way we ideally would hope.  As the story goes, there once was a wealthy man who commissioned a builder to construct his mansion.  The man gave the builder carte blanche to do whatever he wished in the construction of the home.  Since the man exercised no oversight of the project the builder, charged top dollar while using inferior materials in the unseen areas of the home such as the studs and foundation.  He then covered-up the shoddy material with impeccable finish items (trim, faucets etc).  When the man came to take possession of his home the builder handed him the key.  The man was astonished by the home’s beauty and promptly said, you have taken such care and pride in this construction that I can’t possibly receive this key you keep it the home is yours.

As you look at your business, where have you attempted to cut corners?  Did you objectively assess the impact of that adjustment knowing that invariably the change will be noticed?  Hopefully, this podcast will prompt you to look at quality issues in your life both at work and at home.  You might possibly wish to share this podcast with your team to assure that all adjustments in the customer experience are considered with the full awareness that they will be noticed.”

Business Guru Peter Drucker, once said “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.” If you don’t believe “everything matters” when it comes to quality check out the toilet paper the next time you are in Starbucks.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli


  1. C.B. Whittemore on October 25, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Joseph, this blog post captures so many important elements of the retail experience. It’s a classic that generates conversation. Thanks for sharing it with us during Bathroom Blogfest 2010.


  2. […] Michelli wrote about Quality Toilet Paper on Dr. Joseph Michelli’s […]

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