There’s an old adage in Japan that states “the customer is god” as a way to instill good customer service among staff. But the thing about gods is that they’re really spiteful, and if you offend them in the slightest way, they tend to bring about eras of prolonged darkness and misery.
Such was the case when a man in his 60s visited a pickle store in Suminoe Ward, Osaka City, in the autumn of 2019. The pickled food shop owner and customer got into a dispute over a point card issued by the shopping arcade that the store was inside.
The details of the point card problem weren’t reported but it was clearly enough to leave the customer feeling very unsatisfied. To express his displeasure, he would return to the store several times a month, utter curses such as “die” and then spit on the walkway in front. This reportedly occurred from January to October of 2020.
▼ News report on the incident showing the location where the spitting occurred
Spitting in public is frowned upon in Japan, and doing so in places where people gather is a violation of the Minor Crimes Act, but the pickle store decided to let it slide for the better part of a year, probably assuming he would tire himself out after long enough.
However, as the months passed by, the COVID-19 problem grew increasingly serious in Japan. So, last September the shop owner confronted the man, but ended up being charged with assault. He explained the situation to the police and told them “it was unhygienic with the growing COVID-19 problem, and the stress of repeatedly telling the man to stop was too much to bear.”
This resulted in an investigation of the serial spitter. On October 29, Osaka Prefectural Police conducted a stakeout in front of the pickle shop and witnessed the same man stop there and spit twice on the ground. They swooped in and confronted the man on the spot, but he denied the charges, saying “I spit, but only because it came out when I coughed.”
This resulted in further investigation and ultimately a criminal charge on May 31, after it was deemed that the spitter’s actions were “highly malicious.” Meanwhile, readers of the news were filled with a conflicting mix of awe and pity for this man.
“He must have been running out of spit by that point anyway.”
“That is some amazing dedication. Seems like he would be able to put that towards some good use.”
“Such focus. What a waste.”
“How about we all go and spit in front of his house? That would be fair.”
“The guy must have too much free time, to spend it all consumed with a stupid grudge.”
“His excuse is even worse than just normal spitting.”
“Is this the life we have to look forward to when we retire?”
“These days, coughing up phlegm in public is like planting an IED.”
Punishments for violating the Minor Crimes Act include up to 30 days in jail or a fine between 1,000 and 10,000 yen. Hopefully that will be enough to make this man snap out of whatever disgruntled customer grudge spiral he appears to be stuck in, and who knows? Maybe one day he’ll look back on all this and laugh.
Sources: Kansai Television, Mainichi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
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