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Dutch Train Company ‘Solves’ Toilet Fiasco With Emergency Pee-In-A-Bag

About 130 of Dutch Rail’s new trains don’t have toilets. So what are passengers to do when nature calls? Call the company's proposed solution what you wish -- Travel John, Pee-in-a-bag, Urinal-in-a-box -- not all are convinced that this is a mark

Travel John-brand portable urinals
Travel John-brand portable urinals


The Dutch national rail company, the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), knows it has a good product. Despite tight scheduling and a complex railway system, NS's trains are almost always on time. The rail company is so confident, in fact, it guarantees passengers half the price of their ticket back if a train is 30 minutes late, and a free ride if a train is more than an hour late. Terms like this would drive a less efficient company to ruin.

But of course nobody's perfect. NS's solid reputation is suddenly being sullied over a matter involving nature, as in the kind that occasionally calls. It turns out that NS chose not to equip 131 of its new trains with toilets, figuring the travel distances for which the particular trains are used are short enough that passengers, even if they had to go, could just hold it.

Big mistake. Passengers, and even some politicians, say the oversight is no laughing matter. "It's unbelievable, nearly all trains offer Internet access, but you can't take a pee," said Green politician Ineke van Gent in the Dutch House of Representatives. Railway personnel also complained. But it was the NS's solution to the problem that really caused an outcry.

Introducing the "Travel John" – a "leak-proof, reusable, disposable urinal," as the packaging says. "The Civilized Solution! Anytime! Anywhere!" the manufacturer's website boasts. The NS says the pocket-potty is to be used in extreme emergencies, such as when "a train is unexpectedly stopped en route." Should, under such circumstances, a passenger have a very pressing need, he or she can ask the conductor for a Travel John and retire to the empty train driver's cabin at the end of the train.

Travel John pee bags are filled with white powder that turns to gel on impact with liquid. Passengers may either leave their Travel John on the train, or take it with them when they get off and toss it into the nearest trash container.

So what do passengers think about NS's "civilized solution"? Lieke van der Boom is on her way from Venlo to Nijmwegen. The train is on time, clean and fast, the air-conditioning system not only works it doesn't make any noise. And she has a seat. Van der Boom is not, however, happy. She can't get her head around having to pee into a bag. "Most people will probably just end up holding it," she says.

Read the full story in German by Torsten Thissen

Photo - hmboo

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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