The first time Stefan George tried out his invention, he chugged a big bottle of water, waited an hour, and deposited himself in Midtown. When the urge to pee became too much to bear, he looked up WeeWeeFree.com, which quickly gave him directions to the nearest free bathroom. Now he does something like this in different Manhattan neighborhoods three or four times a week.
That’s it. The nearest free bathroom. George says that the idea struck him when he was still a computer science undergrad at Stony Brook University, and watched a news program report on a two-year-old who had been fined by Philadelphia police for urinating in public.
“He actually went and [unsuccessfully] asked a retailer to use the restroom, so the kid couldn’t hold it, and got fined for $50,” George says. “I was like, you know what, this might happen more often in New York City.”
Two years later, and George’s website, WeeWeeFree.com, is up and running. He originally envisioned the program as an app, but then realized that tourists often have phones that aren’t Android or iOS compatible. Instead, he’s tailored the website for mobile use, so anyone can access it.
Finding places that take stray tourists doing the pee-pee dance is a bigger challenge. George secures permission for every site on his app, which means walking into a bunch of retailers and restaurants and asking. Some places turn him down, he says, but mom-and-pop shops have been pretty receptive. George estimates that the cost of doing business to the shop-owner is $0.03 per flush, but even if one out of every hundred WeeWeeFree users buys something like bread, the shop-owner would break even.
Even though he spends so much time on the site, George himself isn’t taking any pay. He doesn’t want banner ads on the site to detract from the user experience, which also means he’s forgoing revenue. George, who doesn’t yet have a day job after graduating this summer, says he’ll take a full-time sales job if he has to, if only so he can do more networking and convince more establishments to sign on to WeeWeeFree.
So far, he only has 12 retailers, restaurants, and chains in on the site. But George has faith that number will grow. After all, he’s still making his way around the boroughs, walking into establishments, and asking if the rest of the world might be able to use the bathroom, please.