Paper Towel Dispensers Shouldn’t Be Hard to Figure Out


It’s amazing how something as simple as paper towel dispensers can become annoying when someone else doesn’t seem to understand how they work.

The other day I saw an interesting question: What’s the most annoying technology in your workplace. For me, the answer was so low-tech that it barely qualified as tech at all: the paper towel dispensers.

In my workplace, those dispensers aren’t those fancy air-blowers that you stick your hands inside and get a nearly-instant drying. They aren’t those motion-detector models that spit out a not-quite-long-enough piece of paper for you as you move your hand towards it.

No, in my workplace, the dispenser is old school: it’s a metal holder that houses a stack of C-fold paper towel sheets that you pull out one by one.

Because this is the internet, and because somewhere, there’s probably a video about absolutely everything, I was actually able to find a quick video demonstrating the extraordinary technology that is a C-fold paper towel dispenser. Grab some popcorn:

Is that actually “technology?” Well, we may have to agree to disagree on that point.

But at my workplace, the paper towel dispensers are ridiculously annoying for a very simple reason: no one can seem to figure out how to load them properly.

And this fact completely mystifies me.

The paper towels these things hold have two flaps on one side and no flaps on the other. Again, refer to that photo at Staples’ site. Those two flaps that are sticking up go on the bottom of the stack when the paper towels are being loaded into the actual dispenser.

The dispenser is designed to allow one side of the flaps to stick out of the slot at the bottom of the box. You can then pull out a paper towel by the flap. You don’t have to touch the dispenser and you only end up touching the single paper towel you’re pulling out.

This does not seem overly complicated to me. I’m pretty sure I could have figured this out when I was about 5 years old, but that’s just a guess.

However, the various people who’ve come in and filled our paper towel boxes over the years seem to not understand this: they load the stacks upside down with the flaps up, not down.

This means that when your hands are dripping and you need a paper towel, there’s no flap to pull. You have to try to pinch a towel and pull it out of the box or reach a finger in at the edge of the slot and end up pulling five of six towels out at once when you just need the single one.

We’ve had multiple cleaning companies over the past decade. All of them have in common the apparent inability to figure out something as simple as loading a paper towel dispenser.

It’s a very little thing in the grand scheme of things. But it’s because it’s such a small detail that we ought to be able to not worry about it and spend our time fighting much larger battles than this.

I’ve actually been tempted to leave a little sign asking — begging, pleading — that time be spent double-checking the towel loading process.

One of these days, I might just do it.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.