Japanese people reflect on examples of excess customer service

Japanese people reflect on examples of excess customer service

TOKYO —

Unless you grew up in Japan, you may be baffled by the emphasis that Japanese employees place on customer service. Customers in Japan are treated as royalty from every possible angle, even if they’re just out buying a few pieces of fried chicken at the local convenience store. If you’re not used to it, you may find the special treatment to be endearing, but after a while you may come to think of all the excess services as unnecessary and annoying.

It turns out that some Japanese people feel the same way about their own country’s customs regarding customer service. Have you ever felt the same about any of the following situations?

MyNavi Woman surveyed 388 Japanese people (129 men and 259 women) to determine what they thought to be the most irritating customer service behaviors in Japan. We’ll introduce the top five responses below, followed by some other reader comments and our own personal experiences in Japan scattered throughout.

1 (Tie). When shop workers insist on carrying your new purchase to the entrance of the store for you (20.1%)

“If there are still things I want to look at in the shop, I don’t want them to walk me out right away and mess up my shopping pace.” (33-year-old woman)

This situation happened to me once after I bought one blouse at a clothing store. After putting my purchase in a bag, the cashier insisted on walking me to the door of the store while carrying the bag for me, which weighed barely anything to begin with. Although I can see how the act was intended to be a special service for paying customers, it made me feel more embarrassed than anything at receiving the extra attention. Maybe I would have felt differently if my purchase had been heavier or I had spent a fortune at the store, but for a single shirt I felt like it was an over-the-top gesture.

1 (Tie). Shop workers who ask if you’d like to make a point card for their store (20.1%)

“If I wanted one, I’d ask them for it myself.” (30-year-old woman)

Japan is all about saving up points to get special discount coupons. Workers at almost any store that sells anything are bound to ask you if you’d like in on all the bonuses that come with joining their special member club. Of course, you can see how things could get annoying if you’re repeatedly asked over and over again, especially if you don’t frequent the store much.

I myself had a ridiculously huge stack of point cards while living in Japan–one for my nearby grocery store, about a dozen for the local cafes, a few for my favorite clothing chains, a couple for the local karaoke joints, one which I totally overused at Tower Records, one for the bookstore in the station, one for the drugstore, and even one for the Tohoku Pokémon Center! Of course, I probably spent way more money than I would have without the cards. I always found myself thinking, “I’m so close to completing this row of stamps; I might as well go buy a crêpe today just to fill it up!” In other words, if you get a point card in Japan, beware of overspending.

3. How the entire staff, including the kitchen workers, yell “arigato gozaimasu” whenever you order something at certain izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) (18%)

“That shouldn’t be called a service – it’s just plain noisy.” (44-year-old man)

I’ve personally heard the entire staff yell “thank you” upon leaving an izakaya more often than I have when ordering, but even then the sudden outburst of noise can definitely take you by surprise. The same goes for the incessant chorus of “irasshaimase!” (“welcome!”) whenever you set foot into a restaurant or shop anywhere in Japan. I’ve grown quite immune to the high-pitched shouts by now, but when I first moved to Japan, it was just as disrupting to me as the ceaseless droning of all those cicadas during the summertime.

Apparently many Japanese agree about the whole volume thing, since this item garnered so many votes in the survey. One man even gave a brief anecdote about how his wife was so startled by the deafening shouts of “irasshaimase” when they entered an izakaya once that she screamed “kyaa!” in surprise, which in return scared the staff, who screamed back.

Similarly, I think many foreigners would agree about feeling uncomfortable when calling “sumimasen!” to attract a server’s attention. Whenever I was with my Western friends at a restaurant in Japan, we would play rock, paper, scissors before ordering, and the loser would be the one who had to yell across the room. I’m sure there are many non-Japanese who wouldn’t bat an eye to grab the server’s attention in this way, but as an American who was raised in a country where the servers automatically come to your table, it’s still not second nature to me.

4. The custom for the “okami” (hostess/owner) of a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) to greet you at your room (14.7%)

“I want to enjoy the meal in my private space, so I feel uneasy when the hostess comes in to ask me about the food.” (31-year-old woman)

In most ryokan, your elaborate (and expensive) dinner will be served in the privacy of your own room. The hostess will stop by once the food is served to explain each individual menu item and how to eat it (or brag about any local specialties). Sometimes the explanation is very lengthy, and if you’re hungry, it’s all you can do to stop yourself from stuffing your face in front of her. Plus, the food could get cold while you’re listening, some of the explanations go on so long.

5. When the cashiers at fast food chains try to get you to order a set menu or new menu items (13.9%)

“Just let me order what I want to!” (28-year-old woman)

When you walk up to the register at a fast food joint, be prepared for the cashier to rattle off all the new menu items before you even get a chance to speak. If you order only a hamburger, they may then prompt you to make your meal into a set with fries and a drink. We can see why some people may find this kind of blatant menu promotion to be annoying, since there are already big signs advertising the latest additions to the menu everywhere around the interior of the store.

In addition to the top five excessive customer service behaviors above, here are some additional ones that Japanese forum users described.

At convenience stores/supermarkets:

“It’s a waste of breath for the cashier to announce the price of each individual item as they scan it, and then go through the whole speech about giving me my change. Just say ‘That’ll be 300 yen, please.’”

“I wish they wouldn’t put each bar of ice cream I buy in a separate bag.”

“Why do the staff members need to constantly welcome customers into the store and yell things back and forth to each other?”

“[In response to the above] “I think it’s protocol to prevent shoplifting. The staff is constantly yelling back and forth so that any potential robbers will get the impression that they’re being watched at all times, making it harder for them to steal something.” (Writer’s note: Yes, robberies do exist in Japan, though it may be hard to believe. Not all the would-be criminals are cut out for the job though–take this chump, for example.)

“I don’t get those ‘I don’t need a bag’ cards near the register. Regardless of whether you put one in your basket, the cashier will still ask you, ‘Would you like a bag?’ Wouldn’t it make more sense to have an ‘I’d like a bag’ card? Also, it’s a waste of time for the cashier to bow to each person at the end of the transaction instead of moving on to the next customer in line.” (Writer’s note: I’ve personally never seen one of those “I don’t need a bag” cards, but I have seen the “I’d like a bag” kind. Japanese markets typically charge about 5 yen for each plastic bag you take, so people usually bring their own bags when grocery shopping.)

At other stores:

“I hate it when staff members bombard you with questions asking if you need any help the instant you walk in, but then never seem to be around later when you do have a question.”

“I don’t like going to department stores first thing in the morning, when all the staff members of each store line up and bow to the first customers of the day individually as they come in.” (Writer’s note: As someone who’s not used to it, you’ll either enjoy the royal sensation of walking past dozens of bowing salespeople or find it extremely unsettling.)

“Sometimes I feel weird when shop workers use extreme keigo (polite language) with me–honestly, it’s harder to understand and all those phrases are really long-winded.”

Let’s wrap up this discussion with a humorous one:

“A takoyaki vendor once told me “May it be eaten deliciously” as he handed me my food. I still don’t get what he was trying to say…”

Sources: 2ch Kopipe Johokyoku, BLOGOS, MyNavi Woman

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  • 2

    Strangerland

    Similarly, I think many foreigners would agree about feeling uncomfortable when calling “sumimasen!” to attract a server’s attention.

    as an American who was raised in a country where the servers automatically come to your table, it’s still not second nature to me.

    "Where the servers automatically come to your table" - if only that were always true, and if only they would come when you were ready for them. I hate it when I'm visiting the US and a server takes forever to come along when I need something - say a new spoon because mine had food stuck to it (as happened recently). You are at the mercy of the waiter, and if they are busy, or just don't think to come to your table, you can often wait a long time for whatever it is you need. I'll take the Japanese style any day, where you call them and they will either come right away, or indicate that they will come as soon as they've finished helping whatever customer it is they work with.

    The American style is that it is 'rude' to bother the servers, since they will come to you (when they are ready), but as a paying customer I don't give a damn whether the staff thinks it's rude or not - they are there to serve me, and I am paying them for that, both in the cost of the dishes, and in tips (when in America).

  • 9

    M3M3M3

    Others:

    1). The security guard who stands beside the parking lot ticket machine, takes your ticket and manually puts it into the machine himself.... thus defeating the efficiency of having a machine and requiring the extra effort of thanking him for his selfless service.

    2). The car salesman/gas station attendant who runs out into the street to stop approaching traffic for you as you pull out onto the road. Most times focusing only on the traffic they have stopped while ignoring road conditions ahead, gesturing for you to pull out when actually its not at all safe.

    3). The train conductor who turns off the automatic announcements in order to give you his own 'personal' message about what the next station is going to be, but you can't actually hear anything he is mumbling.

    4). Shop clerks who yell 'IRASHAI, IRASHAIMASE!' directly into my ear. Recently, I've been wanting to ask my local supermarket if I can conduct a controlled experiment to find out if yelling louder, more often and directly at customers actually boosts sales...

  • 1

    Frungy

    The answer to 90% of these is simply to be more assertive. The employee "insists" on carrying your product? Just say "No thank you" and take it. They want to read you every menu item? Just start to order what you want. The hostess comes to describe the food? Thank them and ask them to leave.

    I'm not saying be impolite, it is perfectly possible to be polite but assertive.

    Oh, and my pet peeve with customer service? Endless keigo (super-formal Japanese). It simply isn't necessary, and it sets my sarcasm detector off, like someone saying, "Would Sir be so kind as to peruse our selection of goods today? Would Sir like the lolipop in bag?". And a good 50% of keigo is just plain meaningless noise anyway.

  • 1

    Novenachama

    Most people think that customer service is about giving customers what they want or feel it's about satisfying customers. Some times they will say that it is about making customers happy. However the truth is that customer service is not about practicalities. It's about principles. The practicalities may change but the principles stay the same. Staff are not meant to smile all the time, to give customers everything they want, or satisfy all their needs. Staff are meant to promote the organization and its values. So good customer service should be able to represent the company's value. If you want to increase the impact of your customer service the staff should be taught to represent your organization and its unique traits.

  • 8

    375sensei

    A lot of these observations are in some way linked to the somewhat robotic "manual" style approach to customer service here in Japan. Rote learnt spiels are delivered to customers whether it be when you sit down at a restaurant and the staff recite the ordering procedure to simply walking into a convenience store and being greeted with a chorus of “irasshaimase”. Often service is not personalized and so this "one style fits all" approach begins to wear thin, lack sincerity and doesn't promote thinking outside the box.

  • 10

    Suzu1

    The great customer services often ends when you try to return an item.

  • 5

    FightingViking

    Personally, I was very grateful to the Supermarket cashier who, noticing I have a limp, carried my purchases (having put them directly in the bag I had brought with me) and put the bag back on the cart for me so that I just needed to push it to the parking lot..

  • 3

    zteano

    Some service in Japan are certainly overdone and can turn out to be rude/annoying at times. I am the type that appreciates services that I won't notice, being able to focus only on what I'm there for and getting assistance whenever without having to look for one.

  • -2

    bass4funk

    I hate it when I'm visiting the US and a server takes forever to come along when I need something - say a new spoon because mine had food stuck to it (as happened recently). You are at the mercy of the waiter, and if they are busy, or just don't think to come to your table, you can often wait a long time for whatever it is you need. I'll take the Japanese style any day, where you call them and they will either come right away, or indicate that they will come as soon as they've finished helping whatever customer it is they work with.

    I don't know where or which American restaurant you were at, but generally speaking, usually in the States when you sit at a restaurant, the server will come to you, you USUALLY don't have to wait for too long. In Japan, you don't have a tip system and NO matter what, the server will get paid. I cannot tell you how many times in a month in Japan (and I eat out a lot) where I have to track down the server for more water or for anything else. I have been all over Japan and I love the service, but it is extremely limited in Japan. In the States, I USUALLY don't have to do this. I used to work in a club/restaurant and every server was responsible for their station and in their station, they had anywhere from 3-4 tables they would have to attend to, the better the service, the better the tip. Japanese servers are very nice, pleasant, but after you get your food, THAT'S IT and their job is done. If you prefer that, that is your right, I personally don't like it and would take the American pampering at any restaurant. I have seen good and bad in both countries, but when you have a tip system, you have an incentive, you don't, you are NOT always going to go out of your way to give the best service and thats a fact.

    The American style is that it is 'rude' to bother the servers, since they will come to you (when they are ready), but as a paying customer I don't give a damn whether the staff thinks it's rude or not - they are there to serve me, and I am paying them for that, both in the cost of the dishes, and in tips (when in America).

    Sorry to hear that, you must have been to some very pathetic dives perhaps in the countryside.

  • 3

    vallum

    "When you walk up to the register at a fast food joint, be prepared for the cashier to rattle off all the new menu items before you even get a chance to speak. If you order only a hamburger, they may then prompt you to make your meal into a set with fries and a drink. We can see why some people may find this kind of blatant menu promotion to be annoying, since there are already big signs advertising the latest additions to the menu everywhere around the interior of the store."

    What? I live in Japan for almost 10 years and have never even once experienced something like that...

  • 3

    M3M3M3

    @FightingViking

    Ah yes, that's a good one. Most supermarkets don't bag your groceries for you... but, have you noticed that they do take the time to re-arrange everything very neatly back into another basket after they scan it...as if you're going to carry that basket home with you? (I always try to wrap my eco-bag around their second basket before they start scanning but I can see it really annoys them since I'm gaming the system).

  • 1

    DaDude

    I know that the customer service is great here all the way to when you are leaving the place. A few months ago, I bought lottery tickets and the old man said nothing to me after I bought them. It completely threw me off guard though it was the norm when I lived in the U.S.

  • 1

    Mocheake

    I've been ignored hundreds more times here than in all my travels around the world.

  • 12

    Simon Phillips

    Customer Service or The Customer is King is what is driving me up the wall with my own business.

    I’m kind and friendly when it comes to dealing with customers, but when they go on mad ones because I won’t give them what they want is just nuts!!!

    I’ve been called a foreign pig, dirty, and had my Japanese ability shredded because one customer refused to talk to me because I was not Japanese.

    My most recent issue was with one customer who demanded I say open well after operating hours so he could pay his fee. When I said that we are closed from so and so and no one qil be here he said that if I was Japanese I would stay open. I’ve had customers screaming for hours at me and my wife over nonsense that isn’t even relevant to their complaint.....

    I think the reason a lot of customer service is out of the ordinary is because if they do any different the customer will complain and so on.

  • -4

    justbcuzisay

    1 The walking you to the door with the bag makes me uncomfortable also. I think this too is for shoplifting prevention, as you have a bag to 'slip things into' (although the annoying tape on the bag I assume is also to prevent this)

    5 recommending new menu items but having no actual recommendation beyond that. What cracks me up is that for example we went to Baskin Robbins, and my friend choose the seasonal special as part of the four scoop sampler they offer. Well, after that they offer a 'taster' spoon to try another flavor so my friend asks for a recommendation. The staff member says' well, it is this month's special flavor' followed by uncomfortable silence.

  • 1

    LBW2010

    On one trip to a grocery store at a neighboring train station, I walked my bike down the ramp to the underground bicycle parking lot and was positively horrified as no less than FIVE elderly, uniformed workers descended upon me, directed me to a COMPLETELY INCONVENIENT bike spot, half-heartedly helped me get my bike in the rack, and then walked me to the ticket office where I had to fill out forms in triplicate to complete my parking transaction.

    Just set up the bike racks and put a coin-operated gate at the entrance.

  • 4

    kaynide

    I can understand the frustrations here, but I've read similar articles where Japanese were angry at NOT getting the above service (notably while traveling abroad).

    Anyway, I feel a lot of this could be mitigated if the customer just spoke up or engaged with the staff. Staff are not magicians and they can not read your mind. They're only doing what they've been told to do and if you don't ask or inform them otherwise, how could they possibly do any different for you?

    I don't mean being rude, just a "Thank you so much, but I can carry my bag, really. Thank you!" or a "Thank you, I'd like to look around a little more" should be more than enough...

  • 2

    serendipitous

    Maybe companies should make the employee king, then the customer would also become king (or queen).

    I enjoy the choral shouts at izakaya thanking you for your order and thanking you when (or for?!) leaving. Although some staff are of course better at making it sound more natural and authentic than others.

  • -3

    SenseNotSoCommon

    The theatrics - from the keigo to over packaging, are mere sleight of hand for woefully poor value.

    All style, little substance.

  • 1

    Sensato

    My local supermarket in Japan is an utter madhouse, with narrow isles and numerous store workers constantly scrambling from point A to point B in the process of stocking shelves and other duties.

    I've noticed that most often the workers' loud hollering of "irrashaimase" is used as a way of getting shoppers to clear the way as they pass by. They frequently come right up behind shoppers and do this. Nearly every time it happens to me I almost jump out of my skin.

    The constant high-decibel bellowing (and sometimes loud, obnoxious music) really stresses me out, and has caused me to cut my shopping trip and spending short at many stores.

  • -3

    cleo

    I think many foreigners would agree about feeling uncomfortable when calling "sumimasen!" ..... I'm sure there are many non-Japanese who wouldn't bat an eye to grab the server's attention in this way, but as an American

    Not sure what the subtle difference is between foreigners and non-Japanese. Not all foreigners are American, and the American way of doing things is not the Japanese way. When in Rome, and all that. Not having the serving staff hovering round you the whole time in the hopes of getting a bigger tip is one of the good things about Japanese restaurants. They sit you down, then give you time to get yourself settled and sorted, look at the menu and decide what you want before they come over again. Or they wait for you to call them. That's the way I like it.

    Regardless of whether you put one in your basket, the cashier will still ask you, 'Would you like a bag?' Wouldn't it make more sense to have an 'I'd like a bag' card?

    Round my way most of the supermarkets have a 'No bag please' card, and when the cashier takes it out of the basket s/he says something by way of 'thank you for your cooperation'. Occasionally in a shop I'm not familiar with I drop the card into the basket without looking at it only to find that it's an 'I'd like a bag' card. That's confusing.

    I feel a lot of this could be mitigated if the customer just spoke up or engaged with the staff

    Exactly. Instead of going away and complaining about the zombie-like, manual-dictated service you think you're getting, tell the staff what it is you want. Very, very rarely does that cause any problems. In Japan the customer is king, and if the king keeps his mouth shut no one knows what he wants.

  • 3

    sighclops

    I'd say top of my list would be the eardrum-destroying IRASSHAIMASE!. It's a tad insensitive to those patrons that are already in the store, who don't need to hear it every few minutes. Or the security guards that will greet each and every employee at the entrance with a "ohayogozaimasu". I'm talking every few seconds for the first 2 hours of every working day. It's ridiculous and just plain annoying.

    HOWEVER, one only has to look at the rail networks for an unending list of excessive "service". The incessant announcements. Oh god they're unbearable.

    I don't know about some of the commenters on here, but I always get the feeling that some jobs in Japan were created just for the sake of having a job. Door attendants is an example of this.

    I've thought about this a lot, and I think that the biggest problem with customer service in Japan is, there is quite literally zero responsibility given to the customer service rep. All of these people in customer service positions, yet if you try to deviate from "the book", you're met with looks of confusion and uneasiness. The decision-making responsibilities are only given to those who shuffle papers in the back office. It's extremely frustrating and in no way "good service". I'm not saying this is the case in every establishment, but it occurs more than I'd like to remember.

    Case in point: Ask any dry cleaner if you could have your dry cleaning a day earlier. You'll see what I mean.

  • 1

    Strangerland

    I don't know where or which American restaurant you were at, but generally speaking, usually in the States when you sit at a restaurant, the server will come to you, you USUALLY don't have to wait for too long.

    I wish that were true, but in my experience it's not. I just got back from three weeks in the US, and countless times I was sitting there waiting for servers, and waiting, and waiting...

    when you have a tip system, you have an incentive

    Not really, as there is no way of knowing whether or not the diner will tip.

    you don't, you are NOT always going to go out of your way to give the best service and thats a fact.

    And yet I get better service in restaurants 95% of the time in Japan, with no tips. I'll take that 'not always' over the 'waiting for ages' that happens in the US.

    Sorry to hear that, you must have been to some very pathetic dives perhaps in the countryside.

    No, I didn't visit the countryside this time.

  • 1

    Ali Khan

    Do not wary, this stuff is just happening between a customer and an employee not between the two human beings.

  • 0

    bass4funk

    @strangerland

    I wish that were true, but in my experience it's not. I just got back from three weeks in the US, and countless times I was sitting there waiting for servers, and waiting, and waiting...

    And I'm not saying it doesn't happen and I'm not saying that one country needs to follow the other, but after living in Japan for so many years, it's just something that I've learned to live with with. I feel the exact same about Japan when it comes to customer service and it doesn't stop at the restaurant, but also when I bought my car customer service was excellent, but a year later, when I brought the car in for a minor adjustment, that same curtesy that was so wonderful at the moment of purchase was completely gone and the main guy that sold me my car was an outright jerk. Kept me and my waiting for an exceeding lengthy amount of time, very cold and totally unreceptive to virtually anything we were saying, again, this I realize is not always the norm, but I have seen this behavior so often in Japan, customer service is great in Japan often until they get your money and after that, screw you.

    Not really, as there is no way of knowing whether or not the diner will tip.

    Of course there is. From the age of 16 until I was 23, I worked in the service industry. True, we never know if a person will tip or not, but the attitude and the desire to be and give the best customer service was always the biggest motivator to be the best that you could be. When I was 19, I was making more money on tips than most people when they start off in the workforce at 27.

    And yet I get better service in restaurants 95% of the time in Japan, with no tips. I'll take that 'not always' over the 'waiting for ages' that happens in the US.

    I feel the EXACT opposite about Japan.

  • 2

    Phi Nguyen

    I'm from the USA. Every year, my family visits Japan for 6 weeks to spend time with my in-laws. This is probably my 15th trips. The "tipping systems" in the US does not = good service or incentive for good service, unless you are talking about high-class places. Everything we do in Japan, the services are the best and that's why we come back every year. Continue with the Japanese' practices!

  • 3

    Educator60

    I don't do a lot of shopping at places where they carry the bag to the door for the customer so when it happens I'm caught surprised and feeling awkward. And I do sometimes miss a section or don't notice something interesting until I'm on my way out so might want to browse some more. But I can see from the shop's perspective of being proactive about shoplifting as well as being helpful to the customer they might wonder why I didn't do my looking around before I got to the cash register.

    As for over-packaging, I was decades ahead of the current carry your own bag trend and glad the supermarkets have caught up and are now actively encouraging the use if "eco bags". But for takeout food of delicate items I do appreciate them being done up carefully. Comparing Starbucks in Japan (various locations when traveling) to one I am familiar with that serves one of the most expensive residential areas in the USA, in Japan baring tripping over my own feet of dropping the bag upside down, something I have bought to eat/drink on the long distance train is always in perfect condition even an hour later. To the point that I can reuse the bag for something else. And I've found the staff to be quick, efficient, and friendly enough. In contrast, in the US Starbucks, the packaging is generally just a complete waste as it doesn't do the job. Like the time I bought something to drink out of the refrigerator and several lightweight packages of dried fruit snacks. After the five minute walk back to my hotel I was disconcerted to find half the snacks were missing having fallen out a hole in the flimsy paper bag caused by the wetness of the drink bottle. Not to mention I'd waited quite a while in line as the staff was very busy being excessively friendly and chatty with their friends/regular customers. And the restroom is always dirty.

  • 8

    Tessa

    I think the reason a lot of customer service is out of the ordinary is because if they do any different the customer will complain and so on.

    My hair stylist worked in a salon in an up-market department store. One day, when a customer entered, he was so busy and distracted that he forgot to yell "Irrashaimasse!" - never mind that every other staff member did (there were about six in total). After her haircut, the old bag went to the floor manager and complained, who promptly came in and raked everyone over the coals. He also ordered them to stay after work that day and practice their "Irrashimasse" repeatedly for an hour.

    My hairstylist quit that job shortly afterwards, and opened his own place. He never yells ridiculous greetings at incoming customers, he just smiles and says "konnichiwa!" Consider me one satisfied customer!

  • 9

    SimondB

    Perhaps I'm the odd man out but I like the wonderful service you get in Japan.

  • -1

    Tessa

    Perhaps I'm the odd man out but I like the wonderful service you get in Japan.

    Basically I like it, too. I could tell you so many stories of exceptional service, and of service providers really going the extra mile to accomodate me (which does happen in other countries, by the way, not only in Japan). But so much of this "service" is frivolous and unnecessary. For example, yesterday I bought a pair of socks in a specialty store. Did I really need the socks to be wrapped in two different bags, and then for the sales assistant to walk me to the door, holding that tiny package for me because I was obviously too weak to carry it myself? And did she really have to bow deeply until I walked out of sight? I can't stand that kind of thing! A simple "thank you for your custom, hope to see you again" would suit me just fine. I don't think I'll be going back to that particular store again. Too fiddly for me.

  • -1

    Himajin

    because I was obviously too weak to carry it myself?

    Is that how you take it?

  • 1

    Tessa

    @Himajin: if I had been old, infirm, or in charge of a baby or two (I am none of these things, which I hope it obvious to the average service provider) then I would've greatly appreciated the assistance. My point is, it's frivolous and unnecessary, and I doubt very much that the sales assistant did it in the true spirit of service; most likely she did it because it was in the manual and nothing more.

  • 0

    NeoJamal

    the keigo spoken by call center staff these days are ridiculously polite. It wasn't like this 20 years ago.

  • 3

    Laguna

    I work in the service industry - not retail or food-and-beverage, but in an area where a customer drops a big wad of cash - and I define service as such (also applicable to the former areas):

    1. "Want" as an intransitive verb means "to lack" - when a customer realizes that they want something, you as a provider are already a step behind. Learn to anticipate so that that unpleasant emotion never arises.

    2. Grasp what resources your facility is able to offer and create clear lines of delegation so that needs can be fulfilled immediately without you having to take the eye off of the ball.

    3. Understand that your role as a provider is incidental to your customers' experience. Do be pleasant and helpful, but balance that by being as invisible as possible - particularly by knowing when to shut up, and by never, ever putting your own needs over theirs.

    4. Remember that there are no "customers" - there is "this customer"; in other words, cookie-cutter patterns must be avoided in favor of customized service whenever possible.

    5. Pay your workers enough (and in a way) so that they will care about results. I learned more by working for tips at a resort restaurant in LA in college than I ever could have in school.

    These tips are valid for every culture. Both America and Japan are rather hit-and-miss, I have experienced.

  • 0

    missbatten

    My favorite was the funeral parlor manager who said enthusiastically "See you again soon"" as he saw us off after our family funeral....he did seem to notice that he'd said something problematic though!

  • -2

    GW

    Keigo lingo...............seems mostly BRUTALLY cold to me utterly devoid of feeling, don't like it.

    And while service overall in 2decades has been VERY VERY positive overall, I still cringe at the cookie cutter stuff where the employee HAS to give the company spiel & in rapid fire before you bolt the register!

    Most I can stomach but JUST IMAGINE if J-service was done with the employee THINKING on their own appropriate to the situation at hand................. some can & that's the best, but too many places staff at are told what to spew & that can grate

  • -1

    NAN DESU KA

    What gets me is: in a Restaurant, there is no appetizer ordering they want your whole order at once and then it comes out in different one at a time. That irritates me, So I order some type of appetizers and send them on there way, also Ill push that bell and have them come bus my table as I finish, it seems to piss them off but oh well.

  • 0

    Charles Noguhi

    If you want to have fun, walk in to a store, listen for the irrashimase, go out for two seconds and listen for the arigato gozaimashita, step in again, savor the second irrashimase, go out for two seconds and listen for the arigato gozaimashita. Rinse and repeat.

    One employee is usually assigned to listen for the door and notice which way the customer is going, not to look at the face in most cases. Other employees follow without looking. Try it and it will make some of the Japanese customers laugh too at the senseless of the custom. Still better than the 'waddaya want' I get on trips to the U.S.

  • 0

    bass4funk

    @nan desu ka

    I totally agree.

    @phi

    I'm from the USA. Every year, my family visits Japan for 6 weeks to spend time with my in-laws. This is probably my 15th trips. The "tipping systems" in the US does not = good service or incentive for good service, unless you are talking about high-class places. Everything we do in Japan, the services are the best and that's why we come back every year. Continue with the Japanese' practices!

    Again, it depends on where you go, it's not everywhere and same goes for Japan as well, but I do feel the reverse.

  • 5

    Jason Lovelace

    Since coming back to the States four years ago, I genuinely miss the customer service as it is practiced in Japan. And the list above is basically a non-issue, or was so when I lived in Japan. It;s kinda' nice to be greeted at a business or store or grocery instead of the total indifference we get here in the States (except at our bank, who's employees do greet people when they come in or use the drive-thru). As far as cashiers and sales reps asking if I want this or that instead of what I came in to order? Meh: no big deal. Normally, I'd simply say "No, not right now" if I wasn't interested, and it ended there. And bass4funk, with all due respect to you and your frustrations at restaurants in Japan, I can honestly say, in my twelve years in Japan, I never once had a problem with waiters or waitresses never filling ym water glass in a timely manner. I CAN say that here in the US, my wife and I, on more than one occasions, have sat for thirty minutes or more waiting on service (once even at Cracker Barrel [we didn't stay on that occasion, and my wife lodged a firm yet polite verbal complaint]). I'm sorry your service was so poor.

    For what it's worth, I genuinely miss Japanese style customer service....

    Just my two yens' worth....

  • 0

    Educator60

    NeoJamal "the keigo spoken by call center staff these days are ridiculously polite. It wasn't like this 20 years ago."

    This as well as missbatten's funeral parlor reminded me of my experience with two credit card call centers in the USA. When I called to cancel the cards of my beloved parent who had died a few days before, the operator at one ended the conversation with "we are sorry for your loss", which sounded rote, out of the manual, been told by the boss to say this. But keeping in mind that these people have to deal over the phone with large numbers of strangers every day, I guess it was appropriate. At the other center, at the end I could hardly believe my ears at the effusively friendly, warm, cheery, "you have a wonderful day".
    It will interesting to contrast how a similar situation is handled by a Japanese call center, if and when the day comes.

  • 0

    bass4funk

    No, don't be and I am sorry, that you equally had to deal with bad service in the states. Mine is the exact opposite, my wife who is Japanese also felt that the service was better in the states than in Japan, of course the Japanese are extremely nice and courteous and always smiling, but it comes to to how the order is served and how the servers deal with problems, I don't know how many times a week, I have to look for servers to take my orders and during lunch time it just often gets worse. Look, the US is not Japan and Japan is NOT the US, you really can't and shouldn't compare, they are two different systems. I guess we just have to go with what we like and go by our own experiences, my wife prefers the US system as do I. I don't see anything wrong with it and you prefer the Japanese and if that suits you, it's perfectly fine, really, but NOT for me. I am always happy when I get back home and I miss the small chit chats and the pampering.

  • 1

    timtak

    Here is my list of 60 services I don't want, including many of the above http://www.burogu.com/2013/01/useless-japanese-services.html My most common problem is with till receipts used as paperweights when I have luggage in my other hand. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonbunka/5091584880/

  • -1

    bass4funk

    @timtak

    I agree 100% with 1,4 and 11 specifically!

  • 1

    ibr_remote

    Huh, after experiencing so-called customer service in China and Singapore, I think Japan's customer service is excellent. Thank you.

  • 0

    bass4funk

    Well, that goes without saying.

  • 0

    Strangerland

    So does the fact that customer service is way better in Japan than in the US. You are probably one of three people in the world who think the opposite.

  • -5

    bass4funk

    So does the fact that customer service is way better in Japan than in the US. You are probably one of three people in the world who think the opposite.

    Sorry, I am NOT one of 3 people, it is how the person perceives and also about what their experience overall was like and whether you believe me or not want to accept the fact or not, that is your opinion, I know many, many people that think the same way, so what? If you think Japan is superior in the service department that's on you and good for you, I don't think so and I have the right to feel like that and other people as well. I could throw it right back at you and I don't. You have your likes and experiences and I have mine and I DO agree with virtually most if the Useless Japanese Service that Timtak provided because for me, it is exactly that, useless!

  • 0

    cleo

    I DO agree with virtually most if the Useless Japanese Service that Timtak provided

    I read through the list and found it for the most part to be, if I'm being charitable, petty and if I'm not, precious.

    If you don't want to pay for a hostess to sit next to you, don't frequent hostess bars.

    If you don't want to take a Purikura of yourself with enlarged eyes - don't.

    If you don't want plastic surgery, don't have it.

    You don't want your till receipt?? or your bank receipt??

    The only service provider who ever attempted to speak to me in English is our local ancient general practitioner. Shop assistants, bank clerks, everyone else, uses Japanese exclusively.

    Without the card, how does the hospital know who you are and where to find your records? You want every trip to the doctor to be a first-time experience?

    Offers (of disposable chopsticks, toothpicks, etc etc) can all be refused. No biggie.

    If you don't want the new years cards, chuck 'em. If you don't want the New year fukubukuro, don't buy 'em.

    You don't appreciate the taxi doors opening automatically when your hands are full of shopping and loose change? It isn't the taxi driver's fault you can't remember the door is automatic.

    Your post box might be a box under the porch, but the paper boy is carrying it through the rain to get to you.

    If you know of cheaper places to shop (we all do), why bother going to the department stores with their inflated prices and fancy wrapping?

    No one is forcing you to go to Huis Ten Bosch or any other theme park or former tourist spot.

  • -1

    Strangerland

    Sorry, I am NOT one of 3 people

    Ok, I'll concede - there may be 4.

    If you think Japan is superior in the service department that's on you and good for you

    It's not just me, I've literally never heard anyone else other than you say that they think that customer service is better in the US than in Japan. And I'm using the word 'literally' correctly.

    I read through the list and found it for the most part to be, if I'm being charitable, petty and if I'm not, precious.

    I have to agree, and you've outlined may of the same sorts of things I thought while reading through the list myself (though I only got about half-way before I thought 'what a load of trifle' and closed the window).

  • -3

    bass4funk

    Ok, I'll concede - there may be 4.

    Well, it's not 4, but thanks for trying.

    It's not just me, I've literally never heard anyone else other than you say that they think that customer service is better in the US than in Japan. And I'm using the word 'literally' correctly.

    But that's you and I have heard, the opposite and heard MANY people complain, sorry to burst your bubble about Japan being this perfect utopia, Yes, there are actually some people that are not happy with often how the service is being conducted. That is NOT my only opinion, there are people that are not happy with the system. Hey, it's life and it does happen, even in glorious, so called perfect Japan. You have your experience and I have mine and because I am on the go ALL the time because of my job, I eat out 6 days a week, lunch and dinner throughout Japan.

    I have to agree, and you've outlined may of the same sorts of things I thought while reading through the list myself (though I only got about half-way before I thought 'what a load of trifle' and closed the window).

    Then you do admit that you have a personal bias towards anyone saying anything against Japan. You couldn't even finish the list. Again, Japan is NOT perfect, far, far from it.

    • Moderator

      Readers, no more bickering please. Focus your comments on the story and not at each other.

  • -7

    bass4funk

    Anyway, as I was saying each to his own, but as I outlined earlier, that is one thing that nerves me to ends of the earth in Japan when I go out to eat.

    Another thing that gets me is the constant wrapping, when I guy cookies, this can be very tedious when you eat a bunch and you have to unwrap every single one and before you know it, your table is cluttered with a ton of cookie wrapper and I thought the Japanese hated waste. The whole wrapping in general of small products really. Too much of it. Very troublesome and quite unnecessary.

    Horrible looping background music in shops such Yamada Denki and Mr Max Actually at pretty much ANY store, the constant looping is enough to drive anyone insane. It would be nice if they could put some other kind of music, Jazz, elevator, something in the background, soft and NOT so in your face, the constant monotonous drive of it all.

    Or when I order something for example at Baskin Robbin's and when they give me my Ice cream, they need to go into this rant of what flavors I ordered and exactly how long the dry ice is good for and thanking me for shopping and bowing then give me the bag. Good lord, I think my "Rum Raisin" just melted!

  • 0

    Strangerland

    I dislike the over-wrapping of cookies and stuff as well, but not because of the service, but rather how bad it is for the environment.

  • -1

    Chris Ore-Sama Mair

    The only things that bother me is the robotic looping of store staff that don't care at all about how much customer service they provide, but rather that it's what their told to do by tradition and the overuse of guards to do things that lights could easily do for far cheaper, like block traffic at a crosswalk near a mall.

  • 0

    Fouxdefa

    ↑agree on the over-wrapping. For presents it's nice but for myself, it's a bother to unwrap and it's a waste of paper/plastic. I suppose we could speak up and ask them not to wrap it...and just fulfill the stereotype of the weird foreigner^^

    Also have been startled by an "irasshaimaseeee!!" suddenly in a quiet corner of a store. In women's clothing stores especially, the regular bleats of irasshaimase and dozo goran kudasaaaai make me feel like I have to hurry up! I want to just be left alone to think and decide and shop at my own pace.

    I do like how customer service isn't rude. I have rarely been made to feel small or stupid by asking a question or explaining a problem, as has often happened to me in the U.S. Only one time at a super-sento the uketsuke lady tried to explain their policies and locations of various baths using a mixture of very bad broken English and gestures. For some reason when spoken to like that, I lost the ability to speak both Japanese and my native English, and we ended up communicating in incoherent sentences and charades. The most ridiculous bizarre exchange. I still laugh to remember it. I they'd just stick to Japanese.

  • -1

    Chris Ore-Sama Mair

    @Timtak

    I eat the food that it being handed out at markets all the time and just walk away without even saying thank you. I think this is what most people do as well. As for the Otoshi (food you have to pay for to be able to order drinks) is just a cover charge, except you get something for it. I've been to bars in Shinjuku's Golden Gai district and they charge Y500-1000 just to walk it and you don't get any food whereas standard izakaya at least give you something to munch on for your Y200-500 cover charge. Most of the other stuff makes a little sense, but many of things the site complains about are things that don't pertain to anything they have to do, like purikura, which have many booths that don't increase eye size.

  • 0

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Ever successfully ordered "off menu" in Japan (curry houses, etc. excepted)?

  • 1

    cleo

    Ever successfully ordered "off menu" in Japan (curry houses, etc. excepted)?

    As a vegetarian, yes, all the time. It's the only way to get anything to eat. The big Western-style chains (famires etc) tend to get a deer in the headlights look when they're asked to tweak the menu, but the the smaller family-run places on the whole tend to enjoy the challenge and come up with some very good veggie dishes, sometimes totally off the cuff. Onsen yado-type places that pride themselves on their set cuisine tend not to like being asked to change the menu and many of them will point-blank refuse, but the ones who do go with it tend, I've found, to excel in menu creativity and ingenuity. Our local Indian place already has a veggie menu, so I've never had occasion (yet) to ask them to change the menu.

  • 0

    tinawatanabe

    You can almost always write your request at "Okyaku sama no koe". I often write "Your place is too noisy".

  • 1

    timtak

    Thanks for reading my list Cleo I agree with all you say. I prefer Japanese service to that I have experienced in any other country. My petty, prescious list merely contains services that I do not need. I do not have a problem avoiding almost all of them.

    @ Chris Ore-Sama Mair According to research carried out by one of my students, about 60% of Japanese mention a sense of obligation after having tasted the free food given out at supermarkets. I think that it is because you are not Japanese that you are able to eat it "and just walk away without even saying thank you," and why there is less free food in our countries since that is what people would do. I agree that the otoshi (? ) or tsukedashi is comes with a cover charge. I merely point out, I would rather do without both. All the purikura near me have the optional service of increasing eye size. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonbunka/10951734566

  • -1

    Strangerland

    I agree that the otoshi (? ) or tsukedashi is comes with a cover charge. I merely point out, I would rather do without both.

    I'm not sure what tsukedashi is (maybe a term from a dialect somewhere?), but the otoshi can be refused, and they cannot charge you since you didn't receive it. But if/when you do so, you will be adding to the feeling about foreigners not following the rules.

  • 0

    MyJT2014

    Excessive customer service, never. Japanese hospitality and customer service are hard to beat. An unbeatable benchmark! I love it!

  • 1

    Serrano

    I bet the majority of people in Africa would be glad to have to "put up" with some of the stuff people are complaining about here, lol.

  • 0

    Spanki

    Something that annoys me is when the combini or supa cashier scans each item then puts it down on the counter, then when they have finished scanning each item they methodically and slowly place each item in the bag. Just place it straight in the bag after scanning please and cut the customer till time almost in half!!

  • 0

    Educator60

    Spanki, At some convenience stores I have noticed they count the number of items they have scanned and put on the counter and compare that to the tally as counted by the register. Only when they have confirmed the numbers match up do they start to bag up the stuff. In my experience, most are quite quick about this but some are slow enough to cause annoyance, especially if I have items like ice cream.

  • 0

    ipone

    I want everyone not to think that All shops in Japanese have this tendency. This kind of excessive service can be seen especially in city like Tolyo.

    I grow up at countryside in TOUHOKU.

    I haven't experienced irritating service there.

    There are so many people in Tokyo. People don't know each other. Japanese people are very kind, so they are too careful about being disliked.

    The anonimity and excessive kindness from the feelingleads them to such unnecessary service.

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