Companies learn to weed out false customer claims


On Sept 26, the Itami police station in Hyogo Prefecture announced it had arrested Tomoko Onotani, a 45-year-old unemployed woman, on multiple charges of fraud. Police allege that from earlier this year Onotani began telephoning bakeries and confectioners, claiming she had "found human hair" in cake and bread products she'd purchased.

In one case she received a cash refund of 1,085 yen from the shop. In another, she was compensated with a new cake.

Onotani has been having a busy year. Yukan Fuji (Oct 3) reports that upon investigation of her telephone records, police determined that between February and July she had made approximately 7,000 telephone calls to some 1,200 businesses in 30 prefectures around the nation. She was able to obtain the telephone numbers of the shops by dialing 104 and requesting information assistance, which she called a total of 4,650 times.

"Quite a few shops are willing to pay out small amounts of compensation to avoid having false rumors spread about them on the internet," says Shinichi Sekine, who advises businesses on how to handle "claimers." "It's essential for them to obtain knowhow on effective countermeasures."

Right from the get-go, Sekine advises, it's necessary to determine whether the person is making the call in earnest.

"If, in the course of the conversation, you sense inconsistencies in what they say, the first thing you should do is focus in on those inconsistencies. For example, you might repeat the same question several times, and if the claimer's answers don't seem to be consistent, you try to confirm by asking, 'What you just told me is different from what you said previously. Why is that?'

"Then don't just ask for their explanation, but be sure to request their name, address and telephone number. And it's important to ask them when, and in what shop, they made the purchase, and whether they still have the receipt from the store," Sekine continues. "In case they say they don't have the receipt, ask them what time of day they made the purchase. In the case of spurious claimers, when you say 'Even the approximate time is okay, so can you please try to remember when it was?' and they hang up on you, a majority of the time they won't bother you again."

While the aforementioned Onotani was content to receive small sums of compensation, Sekine says that many fraudulent claimers demand 20,000 yen, knowing they can get away with that figure. Why?

"Usually if a claim exceeds more than 30,000 yen, the staff worker who handles customer claims will have to get the go-ahead from his boss; but up to 20,000 yen or so they have the authority to proceed on their own. Actually, if monetary compensation is involved, staff should always discuss it with their supervisor. It's important that they deal with problems as an organization and don't just leave it to one individual employee."

As claims of finding foreign objects in food items are common, Sekine also suggests claimers be requested to mail in "half of the hair" as evidence. Such requests may discourage devious claimers from substituting a different hair.

It is supposed that some of the shops that Onotani called did have measures in place for staving off false claims -- which are best handled through a combination of polite language and dogged persistence.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I hope they get real good at weeding out the scammers from the real thing! The scammers hopefully will be added to a Nationwide database, one which retailers can share.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Tough to stop. Seems like professionals are making a killing at this. But all that time on the phone must be tiring too.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is a clear case of the asymmetry of the law and its application. While I agree this person was rightly arrested there were no arrests, no charges and, in fact, there is no law or penalty regarding the food labelling scandals which are endemic. Fraud is a flexible concept here depending on power.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Seems like professionals are making a killing at this

I doubt they are making a killing. Eking out an existence maybe.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I sympathize with the people who have to deal with false claims on the front line. If a clark asks a lot of questions, the false claimer would probably act really upset throwing in all sorts of histrionics and wastes a lot of time for the shop. And time is what these false claimers have plenty of.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My wife works in a mall and the stories she relates to theft, product returns & what foreign tourists do in mall stores & washrooms are incredible!

Lots of locals doing anything to return goods after using them(clothing in particular), a mom who came in screaming after figuring out her kid had been stealing from his parents & buying video games for months.

Foreign tourists commandeering toilets to eat sushi after just buying from the super LOL!!

Makes for non-stop entertaining conversation in our home!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Foreign tourists commandeering toilets to eat sushi after just buying from the super LOL!!

This is sick.........

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Yeah, you just cant make this stuff up! The mrs gets a bit riled up about this stuff, I tell her to just enjoy the stories while they last!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I thought we learned how to deal with this kind of thing from the movie Minbo No Onna. Maybe it's time for a re-make, this time set in a cake shop and not a hotel.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Companies learn to weed out false customer claims

Consumers learn to weed out false company claims sounds better to me.

I accompanied someone to a local branch of the nation’s favourite (by revenue) wig vendor (the one with wall-to-wall ads targeting the impressionable elderly on daytime TV), who were repeatedly, despite requests to desist, preying on her demented mother to buy hairpieces at 350k a pop (winter and summer versions: machine washable, ensuring they lasted only a couple of seasons at owners fault). The mother would regularly get her "hair" groomed, (at a cost) and come home looking like an urenai mamasan.

The staff at the fitting centre could only be described as hosts: expensively coiffed, pretty young men whose sole purpose seemed to wholesale relieve families of their inheritance. As far as we could gather, we had to deal with the situation by ourselves, and we did, peaceably but emphatically. But the charlatans are still free to rip off grannies and their grandchildren, 年中無休!

As Moonraker notes, when the shoe's on the other foot, the silence is deafening.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

SenseNotSoCommon wtf are you talking about? Did you read the article? It's about companies trying to distinguish between legitimate and false claims of faulty or damaged products. I don't understand how a legitimate business making themselves tantalizing to "impressionable customers" is the same as fraudulent claims to scam a store. Making your services or goods more attractive and/or enjoyable is not fraudulence. Are you confused about what the article is about, or confused about what words mean? What was false about what the wig vendors claimed? Did they falsely advertise price? Did they falsely claim that their staff was ugly? If it's price gouging, that's an entirely different matter. That's not a falsehood.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This woman must love spending time on the phone...if she got a job at a call centre she could probably make the equivalent or more in monthly wages. Legally. Just a thought.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One helluva phone bill?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't understand how a legitimate business making themselves tantalizing to "impressionable customers" is the same as fraudulent claims to scam a store. Making your services or goods more attractive and/or enjoyable is not fraudulence.

Until they start milking people with dementia who can no longer make decisions.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Man, that sounds like an awful lot of work for very little pay. Just imagine what she could achieve if she took all the time and effort she puts into crime and used it for something useful.

That said, man, I never get 20,000 yen payouts when businesses screw me over. I wish I knew how that worked. The best I ever got was an insincere deep bow apology and not having to pay for the food the restaurant never brought me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

yes my sister had a friend who would "return" small items around the holidays from certain shops and stores with liberal policies in order to save on gifts. One of the few Christians we knew and that type of attitude has never led me to have a positive notion regarding christians

-2 ( +0 / -2 )


I didn't thumb you down, but what you're talking about is actually legitimate, regardless of how you feel. This article is talking about someone scamming stores by demanding money or goods when they haven't even shopped there to begin with.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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