In the early 1990s, the story goes, the cleaning manager at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was trying to reduce “spillage” around urinals. He settled on etching small, photorealistic images of flies on the urinals, right near the drain. The idea was to give people something to aim at.
Why a fly? Flies are small and annoying and a little gross but they’re not scary like say, a spider, which might discourage people from using the urinal at all. As Aad Kieboom, the Schiphol Airport manager who oversaw the introduction of urinal flies, told Works that Work magazine in 2013, “a fly may have unsanitary connotations, but that is exactly why nobody feels guilty aiming at it!”
And aim they did. Kieboom reported an astonishing 80 percent reduction in urinal spillage after introducing the flies. He estimated this resulted in an 8 percent reduction in total bathroom cleaning costs at the airport. Since then, urinal flies have begun showing up in restrooms all over the world.
I heard the story on a podcast.
KRULWICH: So guys like flies because we can’t beat flies. Well, says May Berenbaum, maybe, but then how do you explain that 100-plus years ago in Britain they put a very different insect into their bowls - with a stinger?
Prof. BERENBAUM: In the late 19th century, in fact, Victorian urinals often had little pictures of bees. And this is hilarious if you’re an entomologist, because the scientific name, the genus name, of the honeybee is Apis.
An elegantly simple idea. Putting this in my shopping basket…
…and it almost qualifies as shopping local