AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Millions of Americans have hit the roads this week for the Fourth of July holiday. And with a road trip comes the inevitable pit stop. And come on; nearly all of us have had a really bad experience at a gas station bathroom. Well, the fuel price-tracking app GasBuddy is coming to the rescue. It's recently released a list of the best gas station brands for bathrooms. GasBuddy analyst Frank Beard, who tracks trends at gas station convenience stores, joins us now to discuss this extremely important issue.
Thank you so much for being here. America thanks you.
FRANK BEARD: Well, hi. Thanks for having me on the show.
CHANG: (Laughter) So I know the GasBuddy asks users to review gas stations, submit gas prices, and when you're looking through all that user data, how obsessed do people seem to be about bathroom conditions at gas stations?
BEARD: Well, restrooms are actually one of the most common reasons why people get on GasBuddy to leave a rating or a review. I mean, restrooms are - it's a source of frustration for a lot of people.
CHANG: I can relate.
BEARD: We've all had that experience...
CHANG: Oh, yeah.
BEARD: ...Of a really dirty bathroom. And let's be honest. When you have to use a restroom, you don't have the luxury to look for four or five different options. You have to pick one and go. And so that's why a list like this is great, because we're hoping it can maybe remove a little bit the anxiety for people who are in a different state and aren't familiar with the brands.
CHANG: So when you were compiling this list of the top-rated bathrooms in America, what was the kind of criteria you used?
BEARD: Well, I think it comes down to a couple things. It doesn't always have to be the newest or the most upscale. It just has to be - although that's nice - it just has to be very well-maintained. When you go in a restroom, you don't want to see a wet floor. You don't want to see trash. You don't want to see graffiti. And fortunately...
CHANG: I want to see toilet seat covers. Like, I'm obsessed with toilet seat covers.
CHANG: My colleagues make fun of me for it. But do people talk about that, which bathrooms have those?
BEARD: You know, sometimes, that stuff does come through the written reviews that are left. There's a couple gas stations, for example, that have really just gone above and beyond in their experience and done things like put hand sanitizer in the stalls.
BEARD: ...So you can wipe a toilet seat down, which is actually really nice.
CHANG: Well, OK, let's get to it. What gas station brand has the best bathrooms in America? I'm dying to know.
BEARD: So there's two answers. We have the highest-rated and the one that won the most number of states. The highest-rated overall is a brand in Texas called Buc-ee's. This is a great example of how a good restroom can draw significant business. But as far as the number-of-states one, QuikTrip with a Q, or QT - they won seven states.
BEARD: ...Followed very closely by Wawa with six.
CHANG: OK. So I get that everyone likes a nice bathroom, but if you got to go, you got to go. And I'm wondering - how much does consumer choice really get involved ultimately when you need to go really bad, you know?
BEARD: You know, you would be surprised on this. So we looked at stations near interstates specifically because they tend to be in clusters; you tend to have some options. And we wanted to see if there was a correlation between consumer visits and restroom ratings on the GasBuddy app.
BEARD: And what we found by tracking this is that the stations with the above-average restroom ratings that were near interstates had actually captured 33 percent more visits...
BEARD: ...Than those with below-average ratings.
CHANG: All right.
CHANG: Listen up, gas stations. There's an incentive to keep your bathrooms clean.
CHANG: Frank Beard is an analyst with GasBuddy. Thank you very much for joining us today.
BEARD: Yeah. Thanks for having me on the show.
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