Urinals part VI: An interview with mr. www.urinalfly.com
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.
Nudge blog: When did you get involved in the business of urinal choice architecture? Where did you get the idea? Was it from the Amsterdam Airport?
Doug Kempel: I started the UrinalFly.com in late 2005. I came across the idea completely by accident. I am an engineer by trade and was working on a bathroom-related product for a customer. As part of this project, I started doing research on restrooms and methods of keeping them cleaner. I came across photos of the fly emblem in the Amsterdam Airport and could not believe that no one had made a way to put the emblem in any urinal instead of having to buy a urinal with the fly emblem already in it. The idea was born.
NB: Was the first urinal fly in the Amsterdam Airport?
DK: I have never been able to confirm this fact, but it is the most cited use of the fly decal.
NB: What kind of reaction do people have when they find out you are in the urinal fly business? When you only have 30 seconds, how do you sell the urinal fly?
DK: The first reaction is a slightly stunned look followed by silence. I like to break the silence by saying “Yes, you heard me right, urinal flies. It’s ok to laugh.” My elevator pitch: The easiest, fastest way to keep restrooms clean while making sure that your customers remember you.
NB: Your slogan is “Give them something to aim for.” Is your goal a fly in every urinal?
DK: My goal is nothing less than to save the world, one urinal at a time. I truly believe that this simple product can keep restrooms cleaner and safer. Less cleaning means less harmful cleaners being used. It doesn’t hurt that it makes people laugh.
NB: What kind of traffic is your web site generating? You sell urinal flies and you give them away? How is business?
DK: The website started with about 10 hits per day in early 2006 and has far surpassed that. I can’t give specific numbers, but the web traffic has greatly exceeded our expectations. I will not be satisfied until someone walks up to a urinal without a fly in it and thinks, “Why don’t they get with it and get the fly?” The free fly concept is a way to expand the brand and give people a chance to try the product without a big commitment. “Try before you buy” has always been a great concept.
NB: Are you planning to make all your flies free?
DK: We are only giving away the one style of fly for free. I want to change the world but I could use some financial support in the process
NB: We’ve heard reports of these flies are in bathrooms around the globe. Where do you ship most of your flies? To a particular state or country? A particular type of business like restaurants or airports?
DK: Almost 50 percent of our business is in the U.K. They really understand the concept and have embraced it. There is no particular pattern to the places where the decals go. They are in bars, restaurants, schools, churches, airports, etc.
NB: You also sell trees and targets. How does their popularity compare with flies? Do they reduce spillage as much?
DK: The fly is easily the most popular of the three products, but each one has its dedicated customer. The target and tree fill a niche for people who like the product, know that it works, but don’t like the idea of flies in their urinals. All of the products are just as effective, guys just need something to aim for. They are not that picky.
NB: What is the best place for the fly on the urinal? How long does the sticker last?
DK: We give some basic guidelines for locating the fly but the location has to depend on the urinal. The best advice is to try it yourself and determine the location that gives the least amount of splashback. The decals will last for at least one year from installation.
NB: Do you think men will get smart to the flies? Will urinal choice architects have to evolve with new designs?
DK: Men are already smart to the flies. They understand it, they get it, and they use it. We will keep coming up with new designs to keep them excited though. We already have the “Urinal Etiquette” series in the making. Look for it in a urinal near you soon.