Japan is known for having amazing customer service.
And it’s true. The customer service you get in this country is great — sometimes to insane levels.
Today I had an adventure in customer service at the most insane level.
I went to catch a movie and do some shopping. I’ve been meaning to see ‘Daijyoubu, 3kumi’ for the longest. It’s a movie about a disabled teacher who teaches a 5th grade class and through that year of being their teacher, the kids manage to grow from wild brats to respectable children who look past the differences in us and appreciate the good. It was a tear-jerker for me as I highly related with a lot of the themes in the story.
But this is not a review so lets get back to the original topic.
The movie was delayed. It was supposed to start at 5:40 but ended up being delayed 20 minutes due to a mishap in the projection room. The shift manager was a frantic mess. There was only me and two old ladies but this manager went to each of us personally and apologized for the delay. Then she ran away to get us free movie tickets and again, while bowing, apologized for the inconvenience. Then she went to the center of the theater, at the screen, apologized and said the movie will begin shortly and bowed for a really long time before running off to see if the problem was resolved.
I felt awkward.
I mean, it was a simple mishap. Not a big deal but she just kept apologizing and like throwing herself under the bus and I was like, feeling bad… she really didn’t need to keep bowing and apologizing.
After the movie finished, she was there waiting and again apologizing while bowing.
I know it’s a cultural thing to pretty much throw yourself under the bus for fuck ups but I just felt bad that she had to reduce herself over such a simple mistake that probably was beyond their control.
So, I got a free movie out of the delay and a really apologetic, bordering on tears, shift manager bowing to me for the mishap every moment she could.
At the mall, ABC Mart (the Japanese version of Foot Locker), I found some converses on sale. I love converses. Back at home, I have over 7 pairs in different colors. Japan is insane with the amount of styles the chucks come in. The original oxfords were on sale for 3990 and before I could grab the box for my self, an employee rushes to my side, asks me if I need any help. I was a little thrown off by how prompt he was and told him I wanted the maroon in my huge ass foot size. So he grabs the box, then gets the shoe ready for me so I can try it on. Lacing it up and everything.
I just wanted to buy it but w/e I just went along.
So I try it on. It fits (as usual) and he starts up conversation after I apologize for having huge boat feet in Japan. He’s like, ah don’t worry my older sister has the same shoe size as you. There’s a lot of women with your foot size and I’m like its still like embarrassing but he was all like kinishinai deee and stuff. Anyway, I had my point card and he saw that I shopped at the Shinjuku store.
He was so excited that we had a convo about the Shinjuku store. He also recommended that I visit the East Shinjuku store next time I’m in Tokyo.
As a foreigner in the inaka, customer service can be hit or miss. Sometimes it’s crap because the employee can’t get over the shock there’s a foreigner in front of them and Japanese came from their lips. On the other hand, it can be really top notch and well beyond the call of duty cause you’re foreign.
And once you become a regular they will never forget what you like and how you like it. For instance, every other Friday, I go to McDonalds to take advantage of the 390 value meal for a quick lunch and the window girl always has my two packets of ketchup ready for me. It’s insane how she remembers.
Now, the bad thing about customer service is that they follow the rule book to the T. In America, you can argue your way through anything and usually get what you want but in Japan, the rules are the rules. Sometimes the customer is not always right.
Customer service in Japan is insane; it doesn’t matter where you shop at, the level of humility can down right be scary. Though, sometimes it feels nice to be treated like a queen.