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Monica Hamburg sends over another goodie. Bring on the bathroom graffiti. Poetry, at least in Japan, can cut down on toilet paper usage.

A study by the research center Japan Toilet Labo showed that it can make a big difference – cutting down paper use by 20%. Written poetically, the posters send messages like: “That paper will meet you only for a moment,” “Fold the paper over and over and over again,” and “Love the toilet.”

Researchers said that toilet paper usage has been increasing in Japan as of late, and they hypothesize it’s because it’s free – people scrimp when they’re at home. So they’re pushing to have 1,000 posters put in public stalls to encourage people to cut down on how much toilet paper the use as one more small step to save the planet.

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Assorted links

1) Pepsi is calculating the carbon footprints of popular food products like Tropicana orange juice, Quaker granola bars, and Pepsi cola. No plans yet to put those footprints on its boxes, a la Sapporo.

2) More on credit cards. Companies will change interest rates depending on where you shop. They call it behavioral financing. The minimum payment acts as an anchor, but companies don’t want to anchor you on such a low number that you pile up so much interest that you go bankrupt. They want to push your debt load right up to the penultimate straw that breaks the camel’s back. Ahem, yours.

3) A Council of Economic Advisers? How about a Council of Psychological Advisers, says one psychologist.

4) A German group adapts the fly-in-the-urinal idea to Bulimia. Reducing it, that is. Hat tip: John Hsu.

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More college cafeterias are eliminating trays. Unfortunately, Time Magazine decided to call this decision an act of “war,” vitiating the editorial judgment of its headline writers.

Tim Harford and Pete Lunn debate the impact of behavioral economics in the Prospect (the U.K. version), which reviewed the book in July. Harford says behavioral economics isn’t a big deal; Lunn says it is.

Addendum: Harford also wrote a column for the Financial Times cautioning Tories about their eager embrace of “nudging,” and distinguishing it from libertarian paternalism.

Do behavioral biases affect the macroeconomy? The punch line: “Collectively, our evidence indicates that the high risk sharing potential of financial markets is not fully realized because the aggregate behavioral biases of individual investors impede state-level risk sharing.” (Hat tip: Mostly Economics)

One of the cheapest ways to channel your anger at the IRS.


Dean Karlan sends along this photo from the Bali airport as an example of poor urinal choice architecture. Think of it as the Balinese equivalent of putting a sports page above a urinal at a bar.

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With so many sightings of flies in urinals around the world, some readers have wondered about the urinal entrepreneurs enabling this choice architecture. Meet Doug Kempel, engineer and owner of Urinal Fly, aka. the “Fly Guy,” who sells flies, trees, and rifle-scoped targets for the benefit of men and janitors everywhere. (Price: Starting at 4 flies for $4.99 up to 100 for $59.99.)

Kempel also gives away a free four-pack of flies (like the one shown at the right) to anyone who asks, and advertises spillage reductions of up to 85 percent, slightly more than the results from the Amsterdam Airport experiment. Kempel, whose office is in Colorado, agreed to answer some questions about the flies, his elevator pitch, and where business is booming.

Continue reading the post here.


Michael Darnell keeps track of poor choice architecture at the site Bad Designs. While previous urinal posts (read parts I, II, III, and IV) have highlighted some of the better designed commodes, Darnell has highlighted two confusing ones. First, is a mop sink in a Santa Barbara men’s room that looks like the urinals you might find in elementary school bathrooms.

Continue reading the post here.

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From Germany comes the “Piss Screen — An interactive experience – not to be mistaken for the Wii”

This almost unbelievable, almost ridiculous video game urinal is no joke. And its origins are serious too. It’s developers teamed up with Frankfurt Taxi Services to try and persuade drunks to take taxis home. The challenge, they say, was to grab drunks’ attentions. “Well, where do most people go when they’re drunk? (Apart from the bar, that is. Or maybe a kebab.)” they ask? “They go to the toilet,” where they are met by a Gran Turismo-like video game where your urine controls your car. The game starts when you, well, begin.

The overall design of the driving game was similar in style to that of Need for Speed, requiring relatively quick reactions. Obviously the more drunk you are, the slower your response, reinforcing the effects of alcohol to the gamer. The game ultimately culminates in a shocking crash-sequence, leaving the viewer with little doubt as to the repercussions of driving while drunk.

Visit the web site, with videos about the product and how it was made.

(Hat tip: Andrew Webber)

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When we last discussed urinals, we closed by raising the possible existence of a urinal inspired by the beautiful game. An intrepid reporter from Bonn snaps these two photos at a stadium in Bonn, Germany.

Another urinal story from Germany:

At a pub in Zurich I encountered a urinal with an ad for a local urologist’s office. It consisted of a target, rather high up on the back wall of the unit, and a challenge to hit it. Presumably those who could not suffered from poor prostate health. Of course I took aim and hit the target, whereupon its musical chip played “Ole, ole ole ole.” I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself.

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Since blogging about fly etchings on the Amsterdam airport urinals, reports of similar “nudging” porcelain fixtures have trickled in. To find out more about other similar urinals (and to see some photos) click here. If you know of others, let us know.

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The recent piece “Easy Does it” about choice architecture in the New Republic by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler opened with the example of bathroom urinals. Bathroom urinals in the Amsterdam airport, more specifically.

As all women who have ever shared a toilet with a man can attest, men can be especially spacey when it comes to their, er, aim. In the privacy of a home, that may be a mere annoyance. But, in a busy airport restroom used by throngs of travelers each day, the unpleasant effects of bad aim can add up rather quickly. Enter an ingenious economist who worked for Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam. His idea was to etch an image of a black house fly onto the bowls of the airport’s urinals, just to the left of the drain. The result: Spillage declined 80 percent. It turns out that, if you give men a target, they can’t help but aim at it.

Some have wondered what exactly these famous behavior-shaping urinals look like. By popular demand, here they are. Two of them. A wide shot and a close-up. (If you’re at work, use some discretion when viewing these.)

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