In the very first days of 2017 a news story quickly spread about a penny-pinching Australian landlord who had installed a coin-operated toilet in a Melbourne rental.
“The worst thing is not having any dollar coins on hand. Especially when I have guests over. It’s really embarrassing and gross for them,” said the renter who claimed to be on the receiving end of the upgrade.
Did a stingy landlord really demand $1-a-flush from his tenant?
So is the image real?
In short: no.
What appears to be depicted is some sort of coin mechanism that prevents flushing (or perhaps refilling the cistern?) until payment is received. While this would be technically possible in a number a ways, it seems unlikely that any such device would be as simple as depicted.
Coin-operated valves, for example, are usually significantly more complicated – involving electronics to control solenoid valves. And any such mechanism, including the one pictured, would need at least some source of power, but there are no wires evident anywhere in the photo.
Instead what we see in the image is a standard washing machine coin mechanism. What is also notable is that it has slots for eight coins (the typical layout when working with US quarters, or laundry tokens) – not the Australian $1 coin that the story’s author claims to need.
A search for “coin operated washer” in Google Images filtering for only large images returns this image in the top results – with a coin mechanism that looks like a pretty good match.
And after just a minute or two in Photoshop with the basic Free Transform tools we find that it’s actually a perfect match, even down to shadows and scuff marks.
The News.com.au story ends with: “News.com.au has contacted the tenant for comment” – perhaps they should have waited for a response before spreading this hoax into the world?
There’s a post and thread now in /r/melbourne from the person who posted the original image talking about the fake and the response.