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Russian Utility Company Installs Wooden Outdoor Toilet Outside Apartment Buildings to Remind People to Pay Their Bills

A public utility company in the Russian city of Irkutsk has come up with an ingenious way of reminding people to pay their bills if they want to continue using their indoor toilets.

In November of last year, the Irkutsk Northern Housing and Utility Systems Directorate installed a wooden cabin toilet outside an apartment building with a sign that read “Toilet for Debtors” on the front door. This was the company’s unique way of reminding residents that it could cut off their utilities if they didn’t settle their debts. The measure was apparently so successful that the company has been moving the outdoor toilet to problem areas of the city for the last couple of months.

“This artistic object is like a weapon of mass destruction, that is, it immediately hits the debtor’s mindset and makes them think,” Alexei Mikhailov, director of the Northern Housing and Utility Systems Directorate, told Russian news station 5TV.

“The toilet is set as a reminder that utility services are not free, and and that they can be cut off at any time,” a company representative added.

By law, public utility companies can plug the sewers of apartment buildings where the debt exceeds a certain amount of money, but in Irkutsk, the directorate decided to try psychological pressure before enforcing more drastic measures. For now, the company is targeting buildings where residents have accumulated debts exceeding 3 million rubles ($45,000), of which there are over a dozen.

 

The Toilet for Debtors was inspired by a similar tactic used by a public utility company in the Russian region of Samara. Last year, it introduced the “Pyramid of Shame“, a three-ton stone pyramid featuring slogans like “A Debtor Lives Here” and “You Must Pay Your Water Bill” designed to shame debtors into settling their debts. The pyramid was dumped in front of debtors’ homes and remained there until they paid up.

China has its own unique way of dealing with debtors. Authorities in Hejiang county, Sichuan province, started showing their faces and names during short clips played in cinemas before movie screenings. The shaming tactic even has a catchy name, the “Reel of Shame“.

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