An urbanist movement in Warsaw grabbed headlines in Poland when it shared adverts for a new app that purported to allow users to rent out their toilets for a fee.
“We all have basic physiological needs,” the advert for Airpnp (Air Poo and Pee) read. “Many of us have trouble using public toilets. It is often difficult to quickly find a toilet that is near or clean enough. Now you don”t have to worry about that anymore.”
It’s unclear how many went to download the app or were put off by the multiple hygiene-related issues the concept throws up.
Regardless, the app was later revealed as a fake. It was all a stunt to highlight an alleged lack of public toilets in the Polish capital.
“We were thinking about how to raise the issue of lack of availability of public toilets in the city in the city, and thought if we raise this issue in a standard way, perhaps we wouldn’t get much attention,” Jan Mencwel, president of Miasto Jest Nasze, told Euronews.
The fake advert resembles an app that was tested at the New Orleans Mardi Gras in 2014, which allowed people to charge members of the public to use their private toilet.
Within 24 hours of being published online, the Polish advert had been shared by hundreds of users on Facebook and Twitter, as well as being picked up by some national media including Polsat News and Business Insider.
A few clocked on to the fact it was a stunt, others did not.
“In the ’80s people thought we would have flying cars … What do we have? An app allows you to earn money by sharing the loo,” wrote one person on Twitter.
“I can provide a litter box,” one user quipped.
Mencwel said the idea of campaigning for more public toilets came about after Miasto Jest Nasze found Warsaw had far less public toilets that some neighbouring capitals.
When looking at the total from the Polish capital, it recorded 153 toilets, which is “not terrible, but not good compared to the likes of Berlin and Prague”, which have 653 and 243 respectively.
As well as drawing attention to Warsaw’s lack of public lavatories, Mencwel also said his association thought it would be interesting to “raise the question if the peer-to-peer model used by Uber and Airbnb has many faults that we don’t see”.
“It’s based on interactions between people, but at the same time monetising these interactions, and often based on a lack of public services,” he said. “And also a lack of regulations and a lack of control.”
Euronews contacted Airbnb for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication. Uber declined to comment.
Miasto Jest Nasze, which is the largest movement of its kind in Poland and has seen candidates elected to the district council, aims to build support for the idea of sustainable development and modernisation of the city.
The political association has created an app in light of the findings on public toilets, which takes data on their locations from the city authority’s website and presents it in a mobile-ready format.
Mencwel said the association encourages people to check the toilets that are flagged on the map to see what condition they are in and email them to imp.
The group plans to “add more information so when you’re out in the street you can see via your mobile phone if these are proper facilities for disabled people, pregnant women, or people with a small child, for example”.
Euronews contacted the Warsaw mayor’s office but had not received a response at the time of publication.