Black Toilet Paper


Day 3 of a whistle stop tour across Europe speaking on innovation and design.  Have you ever had the strange feeling of waking up in a strange hotel and not knowing for sure what country, city or time zone you are in?

The morning we awoke  in Paris was one of those mornings.  Except it’s not what you think.  It wasn’t the result of jet lag or having been on the road for an extended period of time.  Let me explain.

Last night, we arrived in Paris by train and took a cab to our hotel.  From the outside, it looked like one of those small boutique hotels you drive past but never stay at.

Once we walked through the front door of the hotel, that’s when the strangeness began.

First:  There were no room keys or room numbers.  Access to your room is by fingerprint.  Ok – so this has the cool factor to it but I couldn’t shake the concern that I would cut my finger at dinner and would never be able to get back in the room.

Second: When I walked into the room, the lights were flashing in the room – in different colors!  From a control next to the bed, you can choose the color (blue, pink, green, yellow, etc.).  Needless to say, my boring and conservative self kicked in, I stayed with the traditional white.

Third: When I walked into the bathroom – what did I see?  Black toilet paper!  Now, I travel a lot (+250,000 air miles last year) and have stayed in a lot of hotels but I have never seen black toilet paper!!  My immediate reaction was that this “is wrong”.  Experience and habit says that toilet paper is white – not black.  It was a feeling I couldn’t shake the entire time I was in the hotel.  Now I will avoid the crude jokes about black toilet paper – but the team that is traveling with me had great fun at dinner that night. 

Later, when we were discussing the hotel with the local country team that setup the event,  I learned that that the press relations agency picked the hotel because it was hip, trendy, cool.  All in keeping with the theme of the event (Innovation & Design Tour).

I guess they thought someone who was speaking on innovation would get into this type of experience.  What I realized was that this little experience forced me out of my comfort zone.  The black toilet paper was way out of my comfort zone.  In hindsight, it also awakened me to the realization that there are people who are into this type of experience.  Otherwise there wouldn’t be business providing it.

Assumptions, perspective and habits are hard to change.  They provide us with comfort.  Comfort in that we can use our experiences to recognize patterns (e.g danger) and know how to respond.  At the same time, we will tend to miss opportunities because we don’t see the new patterns.

When was the last time you stayed at a hotel you’ve never considered before?  Or maybe a restaurant?

Take a look for yourself at the hotel 

UPDATE (10/14):  For those who have emailed me asking about where you can purchase black toilet paper, check out Renova.  They offer multiple colors.


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