Take our user survey and make your voice heard.

Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Every week seems to breed a new kind of harassment

6 Comments

Tensions, tensions. A customer in his mid-60s in a shop purveying mobile phones feels he’s not getting his due of courtesy and respect. Finally he explodes: “Why am I being kept waiting like this! Call the manager!”  There are others in the store, frowning, shrugging or tittering. Scarlet with embarrassment, the clerk bows, scrapes, cringes.

A typical scene, says Shukan Post (Dec 22) – so familiar lately that it’s earned a name, predictably ending in hara – harassment. This is kasu-hara – customer harassment. Who, however, is harassing whom? It’s not always clear.

Mobile phone outlets are potential minefields. Senior citizens bewildered by the new and perpetually changing technology confront store personnel in their 20s who were born into this brave new world and speak its language like the natives they are. The digital knowledge gap seems unbridgeable.

A retired company executive, aged 72, brings his phone into the shop. “It’s not working properly.” The clerk gives it a glance. “Nothing wrong with it. Just click here. Upload this.”

“Click where? Upload what? What does ‘upload’ mean?” The clerk rolls his eyes. The customer boils over. “This is no way to treat a client!”

Or here’s a low-tech kasu-hara episode. A retired salesman,  68, walks into a convenience store for a bento lunch. The young clerk ringing up the purchase asks, “Do you have a point card?”

“No.”

Back on the street, the customer suddenly remembers he’d meant to buy cigarettes. He goes back inside. Same clerk: “Do you have a point card?”

“No.”

“An hour later the customer is back, this time for coffee. Same clerk: “Do you have a point card?” “I’ve told you three times already – no! No! No!”

There’s only so much a person can take, after all! And yet the clerk was only doing his job, following the manual.

Kasu-hara can escalate dangerously. Last month a Sapporo taxi driver was assaulted by a man in his 30s: “You’re going the long way around!” He kicked the driver’s seat from behind and battered the barrier protecting the driver. A “driving recorder” captured it all. It ended with the offender being fined 300,000 yen.

The labor union UA Zensen, whose membership consists largely of store cashiers and sales personnel, surveyed  some 50,000 members on their experiences with kasu-hara; 73.9% said they’d experienced it, 49.9% said it seems to be getting worse. The age gap is key, Shukan Post finds: “To older customers, the customer is god.” It was that way in their day; less so now. “Every time I ask a question,” grumbles an elderly shopper, “I get treated like a nuisance!”

A man of 73 had to be hospitalized. It was his first time. Naturally, he was uneasy. He plied the nurse with questions. “I have no appetite – is that a problem?” “Does this medicine have side effects?” And so on. The nurse, friendly at first, got snappish. She had her point of view too. The hospital was short-staffed and she was being run off her feet. To her, the patient was the harasser. To the patient, she was. Kasu-hara may be a misnomer. Maybe it should be mu-hara – mutual harassment, defined as people under pressure being forced together and getting on each other’s nerves until both parties are driven to the point of forgetting how little, after all, is at stake.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
Login to comment

It's annoying being asked if I have a point card at the same shop all the time.

A simple sign would be sufficient.

Mobile phone shops are just there to sell the phones and not provide any type of service as they make no money from it,

Being a customer in Japan means less and less these days.....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Or here’s a low-tech kasu-hara episode. A retired salesman,  68, walks into a convenience store for a bento lunch. The young clerk ringing up the purchase asks, “Do you have a point card?”

“No.”

Back on the street, the customer suddenly remembers he’d meant to buy cigarettes. He goes back inside. Same clerk: “Do you have a point card?”

“No.”

“An hour later the customer is back, this time for coffee. Same clerk: “Do you have a point card?” “I’ve told you three times already – no! No! No!”

What? Is the clerk required to have a photographic memory? The question can also be interpreted in more than one way and it's possible the guy might not have had his point card with him on the previous visit. I mean, he forgot to buy his cancer sticks so maybe he could have forgotten his point card too. The days of the customer being 'god' are long gone. We all deserve proper service and I've thrown my share of tantrums but those are people on the other side too.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

To her, the patient was the harasser. To the patient, she was. Kasu-hara may be a misnomer. Maybe it should be mu-hara – mutual harassment, defined as people under pressure being forced together and getting on each other’s nerves until both parties are driven to the point of forgetting how little, after all, is at stake.

No, it's not 'mu-hara', because it's not harassment. The word has a meaning, and that meaning is not "any old time people don't get along".

The problem is a complex web of both customers and staff lacking empathy, coupled with a business environment where service workers are treated less like human beings and more like a resource to be scheduled and optimized. Managers who don't ensure that their staff have the resources to do their jobs properly deserve the customers' ire, but unfortunately most of those managers hide in an office and don't face the consequences of their resource-allocation decisions.

Harassment is inherently malicious. Calling a minor social disagreement "hara" just because it's uncomfortable turns real problems that real people can solve if they just stop and think and exercise a little empathy into a blame game.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I worked as a part-timer at K**o dept. store for almost a year before as a cashier, and I wouldn't really call these stuffs as "harassing the customer". In fact, I've seen the workers (and me included) getting harassed more often than seeing customer being treated badly.

I know that being asked for the point card repeatedly even though it's the same customer is kind of annoying, but actually it's on the staff manual. You never know whether that customer actually has the card, but forgot to show it to the cashier, or if he bought the cigarette after going back home to take the card, or if he just found out that he actually had the card with him. It happened once before at my workplace, a customer came back to the cashier only to complain why we forgot to ask her to show us the card, and then she asked us to give her the points on her card using the receipt (which is a real pain in the butt if they complained during the busy time).

There was also a time, when I worked as a cashier at the bento section during summer. Around the August, we would always asked the customer if they want to put the ice pack together in case the bento might goes bad from the heat and stuff. Although summer in Japan can be really hot, I don't think a bento would go bad just within a few hours (not unless it's a raw food like sushi or sashimi), but we'd always ask anyway.

I asked this question to a customer once (probably a 30 yo female). Instead of giving an answer, she replied with "hmm.. It's probably gonna take 2-3 hours till I go home, though..", so I have to ask that same question again because her answer was too ambiguous. And then she said "Well.. but it's only gonna take 2-3 hours. Is it better if I put it?". So I said, "Uhh, I dont think it's gonna get bad in just a few hours, but if you're afraid it might goes bad, should I put the ice pack then?". And this time she starts yelling at me and said "THAT'S WHY I'VE BEEN ASKING YOU, IS IT BETTER IF I PUT THE ICE PACK?", to which really surprised me because I was the one who has been getting ambiguous answers, and how the hell am I supposed to know what she wants if she keeps on answering my question with that freaking same question. And what kind of bento anyway that would go bad just in 2 or 3 hours, and you don't even need to be really smart to know that.

I don't know if it's because I'm still in my 20s, but that made me felt like I was being looked down only because I'm younger than those customers. Still though, there are alot of elder customers who are really nice and patient to me even though I'm just a foreigner, but there are also alot of scary obaa-sans who'd complain at every little thing, who are the very reason why I quitted working there.

Alot of those kind of customers, think that because they're the customers, they're always right and have to be served just like the saying "Customer is King". The first time I came to Japan (and even now), I'm really impressed with how good Japanese's customer services is. But then the downside is, that makes the customers getting used to getting a good treatment, so if a worker was to made an even tiny mistake or did something that doesn't please the customer, they'd feel like they had been wronged (actually also experiencing this, and this time as a customer when I went back to my country lol).

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Self-entitled, victim complex brats.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

My rule is that as the customer, if I am annoying you, I will take my business elsewhere. Far too many companies these days seem to think we, the customer, owe them a living.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites