back to article Beijing deploys facial scanners to counter public toilet abuse

Beijing authorities are forcing desperate defecators to submit to a facial scan before receiving an allotment of toilet paper, sparking a debate over privacy, crowd control and the toxic qualities of Chinese loo roll. The city's crapper commissars have installed a phalanx of automated loo roll dispensers at Beijing’s biggest …

  1. malle-herbert Silver badge

    six squares ?

    No way that's enough to wipe my hairy ass !

    Guess i'll have to stand in line twice then...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: six squares ?

      Guess i'll have to stand in line twice then...

      What will you present to the face-scanner, second time around?

      And even that works, you're up to a miserly twelve squares of communist loo roll. I think the Chinese authorities shouldn't be looking to expensive and fallible technology, but should take a hint from UK local authorities, who for many years avoided the problem by only offering Medicated Izal* that nobody would steal.

      * For any international readers who may not have encountered it, Izal was (maybe still is) a quite unique product, wholly unsuitable for its supposed purpose, managing to combine contradictory properties of being both slippery and abrasive. As comfortable to use as sandpaper, and as effective at wiping as non-stick baking parchment.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: communist loo roll?

        What? Where "resources" are spread around evenly ? Yes. Izal can do that for you.

      2. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: six squares ?

        Ah, Izal!

        As Ben Elton once said, "Hmmm, doesn't so much soak it up as sort of...smear it around! Before you know it it's all up your back and you're walking out with a fresh jobbie on your head!"

      3. PNGuinn
        Black Helicopters


        Wonderful waterproof splash guard over the water in the pan, though. Just don't put in more than 2 squares,

        Can you still get it?

        >>for our Aussie readers. Beware of 'ol redback!

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: IZAL

          Looks like you just missed it:

          Description says no longer manufactured.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: IZAL

            Description says no longer manufactured.

            The end of an era.

            Thank $DEITY. It should have been banned under the Geneva Convention.

            1. TRT Silver badge
        2. hatti

          Re: IZAL

          AKA tracing paper

      4. Eddie Hotchkiss

        Re: six squares ?

        Ahhhhh good old tracing paper, one side to wipe the other to polish.... so the claim goes, more like a reverse helter-skelter that could cover any service guys yellow streak.

        1. paulc

          Re: six squares ?

          fold the square into four, tear the folded corner and retain, unfold the square, put finger through the hole in the middle, wipe orifice with finger, use the square wit wipe off the finger... and the important bit... use the retained torn off corner to clean under the fingernail.

          that's how I remember we were to maximise the use of the paltry few squares of Izal we got each in a 24 hour ration pack...

      5. matchbx

        Re: six squares ?

        Ahhh.... the old John Wayne toilet paper....

        tough as sandpaper and won't take crap off nobody....

      6. madick

        Re: six squares ?

        There was also a government version of Izal - supplied to loos in MoD and DoT establishments (and probably other ministries departments). Although identical to Izal, it didn't have the brand name, but each sheet was printed with the inspiring slogan "Property of HM Government".

    2. Ralph B

      Re: six squares ?

      I think I need this for at home. 16yo dorter#2 uses about a roll a day. That can't be normal, can it?

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: six squares ?

        Ralph B, what do you feed her?

        Anyway, a 16yo female may be the very definition of not normal. Don't worry too much though, that phase will pass. When she moves out. Good luck!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: six squares ?

          You obviously don't have a daugher. If you do, she does not wear makeup.

          Mine used lots and lots of ultra soft tissue to help removing the copious amounts of back she put around her eyes on a daily basis.

          Then she grew out of it. Then 10 years later she started wearing it again. That was just after her now 'ex hubby' got caught in bed with her BFF. Now she wouldn't be seen dead outside without her war paint.

          Anon for obvious reasons.

      2. Mr_Pitiful

        Re: six squares ?

        Does our 14yo DORTER know your 16yo?

        Are they comparing toilet paper for some kind of survey, or is it something they sell at school?

        Maybe they sell it as dope to.... well dopes

        Ours was caught just last week with three rolls in her school bag!

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: six squares ?

          I think mine was under the impression that if she collected enough tokens, she could claim a free puppy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: six squares ?

            "I think mine was under the impression that if she collected enough tokens, she could claim a free puppy."

            All that kitten soft, and puppy soft advertising around bog roll, its a bit of a puzzle, isn't it? How do they know what "kitten soft" feels like round the back? Whilst I wouldn't put it past the marketing people to actually try it, I'd have thought there's a slight problem of claws and teeth (and growling and yowling as they get wiped upon would probably be offputting). In fact, I'd imagine that using Izal is pretty similar to try to wipe your arse on a furry animal - shit everywhere and a badly bitten and scratched arse, along with a bowl full of soiled wiping material that won't flush away.

            I suppose at least the Izal isn't going to make a break for freedom, and run off rubbing its payload all over the house. And you probably won't find the RSPCA prosecuting you for using Izal.

      3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: six squares ?

        And I thought my 4 year old daughter was bad (she uses about a third over a day)

      4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: dorter#2

        >That can't be normal, can it?

        Perhaps she feels she has to live up to her nickname.

      5. Rattus Rattus

        @Ralph B

        I think that might be common to women in general. I normally go through less than one roll per month. When a female friend visits for the evening I typically find at least a quarter of the roll has gone.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: six squares ?

      just grab some paper towels. to hell with their plumbing. Wash your ass in the sink when you're done. More paper towels after.

      and hope you don't have the runs from inadequate water supplies or tainted food...

  2. Andy Non

    What a crap idea.

    The designers are on a roll now...

  3. creepy gecko

    El Reg typo?

    "Beijing authorities are forcing desperate defectors to submit to a facial scan"

    Surely that should be "desperate defecators" ?

    1. adnim Silver badge

      Re: El Reg typo?

      Surely that should be "desperate defecators" ?

      And feacal scan?

      I get my coat too

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    TP is very expensive, ecologically damaging, and woefully ineffective on any post-Deuce assignments.

    Go Roman -- natural sponges are reusable, exhilaratingly soft, and will leave you squeaky clean even if you have a asscrack like a sasquatch.

    1. PNGuinn

      Re: _"squeaky clean even if you have a asscrack like a sasquatch."

      Mindbleach. NOW

    2. A K Stiles

      Re: _

      Just maybe remember to take your own sponge... Or at least don't get hold of the wrong end of the stick!

      (coat please - the one with the etymological dictionary in the inside pocket, no sorry, the other inside pocket!)

    3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: _

      Sponges - that is the answer! Always found those bog brushes a little rough...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: _

        Nah mate. Brillo pad on a stick for me.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: _

      Three shells, maybe? Easily cleaned for the next user. Corncobs are only suitable for pit toilets (loos).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better than having none I guess

    Having seen people follow city workers to remove all paper (towels and toilet) and plastic (trash and doggy bags), fill all emptied trash bins from public parks, toilets and other areas, I can understand the frustration the city has.

    Of course being Canadian I never spoke out but I did witness a more recent Canadian walking their dog confront someone who was in the progress of removing all the Doggy Waste bags that had just been refilled. I only caught the first part of the conversation where the person responded they didn't speak English but the animated conversation that followed in Chinese wasn't too hard to figure out.

    Didn't work, a week later I saw the same person filling the park trash bins and removing the plastic shopping bags someone had kindly stuffed into the emptied Doggy Waste bag holder, though that time the offender did look around more before returning to their BMW.

    I'm thinking China is showing us our future, maybe if we cooperate we can get a higher allowance to accommodate our, how to say, our larger requirements.

    1. Toltec

      Re: Better than having none I guess

      "the offender did look around more before returning to their BMW."

      They are probably paying so much a month on a car they hope makes them look afluent they cannot afford to go to poundsavers and buy the bags.

      I just hope they can afford the calories to make the effort to use the bags and put them in a bin.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Better than having none I guess

        "the offender did look around more before returning to their BMW."

        cheapskate. or 'third world mentality'. or the side-effect of being under communist rule...

  6. wolfetone Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The Roman's Had It Right

    A stick, a bit of sponge, and a friendly person who didn't mind helping you wipe your own arse.

    Environmentally friendly AND sociable.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TP != paper handkerchiefs

    One place I worked it was common for people to take a whole roll of toilet paper to use as a substitute for paper handkerchiefs.

    One day, when the stock in the toilet was very low, I mentioned to people that if ever I went for a crap and there was no paper because they'd nicked it all to blow their noses on, I'd be wiping my arse on their noses.

    Seemed to do the trick. A few rolls magically reappeared in the toilet.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Six squares is fine

    The unfortunate people living in the US in the future will only get three seashells.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Six squares is fine

      Come on though, you know you want to know how the three seashells works!

      I know I do.

      Anon because I should be working.

    2. TRT Silver badge
  9. Dan 10

    "we can’t help thinking one solution would be for the scanner to be installed in the cubicle itself"

    Programmed to recognise me only when my face is red and the forehead vein is bulging.

  10. adnim Silver badge

    Potential clients

    of this fine establishment should all shit in an envelope and post it off to whom ever signed off on this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Potential clients

      is that like Cash for Gold ?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "some kind of retinal scan might be quicker"

    I think you are approaching the problem from the wrong end. Scan the other end and you don't have to worry about hats, or sunglasses, ...

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "some kind of retinal scan might be quicker"

      Rectinal scan was that?

  12. Sleep deprived

    “The cheap paper contains [...] fluorescent agents."

    Make it phosphorescent instead and then save on light too :)

  13. Joe Gurman

    An American visitor to London during WW II....

    ....complained about the rationing of (small) squares of bog paper, but the attendant told him all he needed was three: "One up, one down, one for polish."

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: An American visitor to London during WW II....

      I believe the same thing was said to explain why Army 24 hour ration packs only contained three sheets (of the shiny Izal type). Whether that's enough for the effects of coming under fire several times a day I don't know...

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: An American visitor to London during WW II....

      Nah, you only need one square.

      Tear off one corner, about as big as your thumbnail, stick it on the end of your finger and use that to wipe.

      The rest of the square is for cleaning your finger...

  14. MrXavia

    Toilet Paper in chinese toilets?

    When did they introduce this revolutionary idea?

    Last time I was there, it was standard practice to carry your own toilet paper, personally I found carrying wipes was a more compact and clean solution (since they double to clean your hands if there was no wash basin)

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Toilet Paper in chinese toilets?

      My thought as well, even some fairly posh restaurants didnt have any when I was last there, as for public toilets (especially in summer), I would rather crap my pants than go within 100m of one (500m down wind). The stench is unbelievable - and this from someone who used to work on sewage farms for Severn Trent

      With my stomach issues, I would be stuck there waiting for extra paper for about 2 hours; having said that, my Chinese wife manages to use about TWENTY sheets just to pat herself dry after a pee.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Toilet Paper in chinese toilets?

        The Chinese 'squat' types do smell lots but IMHO nowhere near as much as those in rural Africa.

        The locals prefer to 'go into the bush' rather than use them even if there are snakes etc around.

        The worst I encountered was in southern Malawi. you could literally smell it from 400 yds away even if you were upwind of it.

        mind you, doing your business in N.E Siberia in January presents another problem entirely

    2. adnim Silver badge

      Re: Toilet Paper in chinese toilets?

      (since they double to clean your hands if there was no wash basin).

      However, one has to be careful which order one chooses.

  15. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Oh sh*t

    retinal scan

    I expect I wasn't the only person to misread this at first.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're going about it all from the wrong end. Simply install the scanner in the loo itself and dispense TP based upon the scan results. There's days where two squares is sufficient for me, and there's days where six squares just clears the way to the scene of the crime. Those are the days where I'd feel sorry if I had to use one of those intelligent toilets.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge

    Calling Elaine Benes!

    What, you can't spare a square?? Just one? One Square?!!

  18. Tikimon Silver badge

    Heard on the street

    "Hey Mister, I got toilet paper in 24-square pack, top quality only 5,000 yuan. Got American paper, 6,000 yuan, I give you bulk discount. Wipe you long time."

    No apology is sufficient, so I won't bother trying.

  19. JLV Silver badge

    %-( ?

    Wow, toilet paper must be very expensive in China!

    "Enculer une mouche" seems a broadly applicable French saying.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


      "concerns that pensioners are purloining large amounts of tissue from municipal facilities to use at home"

      There's your problem. No use trying to restrict public toilet usage, the solution is to distribute toilet rolls among the public. There must be some assbackwards (sorry, couldn't resist) economy rule at play here for this to even be a thing.

      I think we can file this under "growing pains".

  20. TRT Silver badge
  21. NBCanuck


    One thing I always take with me when travelling is a roll of TP. Hardly ever need it, but it has come in handy in places that were out, or had sandpaper single-ply stuff where you cold rub a couple sheets together to start a fire.

  22. David 45

    A motion was passed.

    Police thought a crime had been committed but they had nothing to go on.

  23. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    If 6 squares of toilet paper aren't enough.

    I think you can still get copies of Mao Tse-Tung's "Little Red Book" very cheaply, pretty much anywhere in Beijing :)

    "Yes Comrade Chairman, I am using your wisdom to wipe out the decadent filth!"

  24. Herby Silver badge

    In the USA we have Charmin commercials on TV

    Now there is something that might be interesting in China.

    The commercials try to extol the virtues of using LESS TP.

    Me? I like a nice wad!

  25. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Have someone posted outside with a placard that says:-

    "Say NO to Paper Cuts"

    This may frighten people enough for them to bring in their own supply.

  26. Andy Non

    Due to the current toilet paper shortage...

    Customers are requested to use both sides of each sheet.

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