ToiletFinder.com: Where to Go When You Gotta Go

PHOTO: ToiletFinder.com directs users-in-need to the nearest public toilet.

If you were thinking of applying for that job posted on Craigslist—the one for a professional toilet reviewer--you are too late. The position has been filled says, Michael Li, creator of the website ToiletFinder.com.

Li, a professional computer programmer and web architect, tells ABC News that he came up with the idea of a toilet-locator tool this past summer. He says the site's goal is to serve "a universal, legitimate human need, and to have fun in the process."

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The site is up and running. An app will be released in another couple of months, he says.

A relief-seeker gives the site his or her location, and whoosh!, up come listings for the 10 nearest toilets, ranked by Li's proprietary algorithm, ToiletRank, which takes into consideration what he says are 100 different variables, including public accessibility and the distance from the user's location.

Li says he has over 1,000 users, and that he just recently closed his first deal with an advertiser--SitFresh, a hygienic cleansing lotion.

What he lacked, however, until now was a dedicated toilet reviewer and copywriter. The Craigslist ad said applicants had to have a degree in the humanities from a four-year university; had to be dependable and accountable; had to a humorous writer; and had to "share in the overall vision of making it easier for people to find a toilet." The lucky hire would get $100 a day, plus a percentage of the site's daily Google Adsense profits.

Li says that though the application period technically is still open, he has found his writer and is finalizing contract details now.

Just as with Yelp, TripAdvisor or other rating sites, most reviews come from amateurs pleased or appalled by their bathroom experience. "Run far, far away," begins a review of a Manhattan retail store's bathroom. "I don't care how cheap their Christmas-themed socks are. You will contract Gonorrhea."

Li has competition, including an app for the iPhone, iPad or iPod called iPee.

There are local toilet-locator sites for many cities, including San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Portland, Ore. There are also company-sponsored sites, including SitOrSquat.com (by Charmin bathroom tissue), where users rate the quality of the facilities, and Bathroom Finder (by diarrhea medicine Imodium).

A coast-to-coast guide to restrooms written in 2005 by travel authority Arthur Frommer—"Where to Stop And Where to Go"—currently is out of print. Used copies--used where we don't know--can be found online.

The American Restroom Association ("America's advocate for the availability of clean, safe, well designed public restrooms") does not recommend or distinguish between these various finding-aides, but it does offer a general critique: Too few of the sites, says Robert Brubaker, program manager for the association, have the rigor to limit their listings to restrooms that are truly public.

"While being directed to a large box store or a food court may not be a problem," says the association's literature, "many people will hesitate when they realize they've been directed to a restaurant or other small business." Brubaker says older people in particular feel awkward finding relief in small private establishments.

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He tells ABC News he thinks the usefulness of sites' listings would improved if they offered more information about hours and accessibility: some public restrooms, such as those in parks, he says, are open only seasonally and are closed on holidays. Others are open only during daylight hours.

"They get there, and the thing is closed," he complains. The American Restroom Association, he says, has a narrow mission: To make the public aware of the fact that there are a lot of people who hesitate to get out of range of proper facilities, once they leave the house. "A lot of veterans, if they have an ostomy bag, need to know where they can use a restroom--or else they can't go out."

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