The toilet paper thieves of the Temple of Heaven Park were an elusive bunch.
They looked like most park visitors, practicing tai chi, dancing in the courtyards and stopping to take in the scent of ancient cypress and juniper trees. But hidden in their oversize shopping bags and backpacks was a secret: sheet upon sheet of crumpled toilet paper, plucked surreptitiously from public restrooms.
Now the authorities in Beijing are fighting back, going so far as to install high-tech toilet paper dispensers equipped with facial recognition software in several restrooms.
Before entering restrooms in the park, visitors must now stare into a computer mounted on the wall for three seconds before a machine dispenses a sheet of toilet paper, precisely two feet in length. If visitors require more, they are out of luck. The machine will not dispense a second roll to the same person for nine minutes.
At the Temple of Heaven Park, one of Beijing’s busiest tourist sites, many people said on Monday they were pleased by the new machines.
“The people who steal toilet paper are greedy,” said He Zhiqiang, 19, a customer service worker from the northwestern region of Ningxia. “Toilet paper is a public resource. We need to prevent waste.”
Qin Gang, 63, taking a stroll through the park with his wife, said China’s history of crippling poverty had left some people eager to exploit public goods.
“It’s a very bad habit,” Mr. Qin said. “Maybe we can use technology to change how people think.”
Not everyone was enthusiastic. Some people, frustrated by the new technology, banged their fists against the machines, which park employees said cost about $720 each.
Other visitors had more exacting critiques.
“The sheets are too short,” said Wang Jianquan, 63, a retired shopping mall manager.
Lei Zhenshan, marketing director for Shoulian Zhineng, the company in Tianjin that designed the device, said in an interview: “We brainstormed many options: fingerprints, infrared and facial recognition. We went with facial recognition, because it’s the most hygienic way.’’
Mr. Lei said an earlier version of the device was installed last year at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. An official at the Temple of Heaven, who would not give her name, said the facial recognition dispensers there were on trial, and if judged a success, would be placed in all the park’s toilet
Source: New York Times
Why It’s Hot
Somethings technology can go too far. I like the idea of getting creative and using technology to solve low-tech problems, but this seems to have gone too far for what it’s worth.