Apple’s Grand Central public toilet distortion field

December 24, 2011, 9:21 AM UTC

Trying to get a straight answer to one of life’s simplest questions

The facilities at the top of these stairs are off limits.

One of the great public services Apple (AAPL) offers in its flagship stores — besides free repairs at the Genius Bars — is bathrooms for its customers.

So when Apple was getting ready to open an enormous new store in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal — its fifth retail outlet in a city notorious for its lack of public facilities — I made a point of asking whether there were toilets in the store for customers.

Here are the answers I got:

  • Yes (from a senior Apple public relations staffer at the press preview)
  • No (from the same staffer a few minutes later)
  • Yes! (by urgent voice mail, after I wrote a headline that mentioned “no public toilets”)
  • No (from store security, when I asked to visit the facilities after the store had opened. The restrooms were for staff only.)
  • Yes (from the original PR staffer, who finally answered her phone. Store security was wrong.)
  • No (from store security and a pair of Genius Bar staffers two days before Christmas. Not even for paying customers.)

I’ve known Apple public relations operatives to duck questions, decline to comment and go on background at the drop of a hat. But I’ve never known one to deliberately mislead me.

The company has not yet returned my requests for an explanation.