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Is it safe to let customers know workers' real names?

31 Comments

Below is a hypothetical exchange between a waitress and customer at a family restaurant somewhere in Japan.

"I see your name is Nakagusuku. I have an uncle with the same name. Is there any chance you're from Ginowan, in Okinawa? We may be distantly related."

"Er, sorry, but it's read Nakajo and I come from Tohoku."

"Ah, naruhodo (I see)…"

Could this seemingly innocent exchange possibly be a problem? J-Cast News (Aug 9) reported on a recent controversy over the practice of having people who work at such service industry as cashiers at convenience stores and supermarkets, store clerks, restaurant waiters and so on, who wear name badges that indicate either their surnames or their full names.

With the ubiquity of social networks, concerns have increased that such persons may be identified on Twitter or Facebook, for example, by "claimers" (people who persistently voice real or imagined dissatisfaction in an antagonistic manner) or even by stalkers.

The controversy first surfaced Aug 2 in the "Hatsugen Komachi" (village voices) department on Yomiuri Online, under the heading, "I'd like to stop wearing a name badge at my sales job."

"Wearing a name badge with either one's surname or full name at such jobs in convenience stores, supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants, karaoke salons, and so on, may be linked to stalking or having personal data exposed on the Internet," the first poster wrote. "Of course, in order for a customer to complain about poor service or a bad attitude, there must be some way to identify that person, so how about making them wear a number, or a made-up name?"

Over the week that followed, some 125 people gave their pro and con responses. The first posters were generally in agreement about preferring their name not be used. One wrote: "I've worked in the service industry. And while the 'customer is god,' he or she can also become a stalker. It can be a really scary, unpleasant feeling. Before [a certain person] could find out where I lived, I quit the part-time job. At the next place I work, I don't want to wear an name badge."

"I've experienced being stalked," posted another. "We're living in times when various information can be found by a name search. If a person knows where you work, he can find out almost anything. I really wish they'd stop requiring us to show our names."

"At service-related jobs, I can understand that it's necessary to identify a worker, but I think a nickname or number is enough," wrote a third. "These are dangerous times and I don't want to display my real name if it can be avoided."

The web site for NEC Nexsolutions Ltd, a consulting firm, posted these remarks from its Personal Data Protection section: "There is no problem with the compiling of a name list of sales staff, based on the individuals accepting or agreeing to its necessity, and making this list available to the staff of a sales outlet or posting it on the bulletin board in the corridor." That said, the message added, without an individual's consent, he or she cannot be obliged to wear a name badge bearing his full name.

In the past, J-Cast noted, the purpose of wearing a name badge was to indicate the business's responsibility toward the customer, by enabling the customer to remember a name that went with the face, and by so doing forging a more personal relationship. These days, however, more jobs take on the style of assembly-line work, and relationships with customers tend to be superficial at best.

Unfortunately, cases of claimers or stalkers have increased, along with concerns over the possibility of having one's name and face posted on the Internet without permission, and these explain the reluctance by many to make their full names known.

The biggest problem is that one's name, in principle, must be regarded as a type of "personal data." Considering the way the Internet is used these days, to display it at random to large numbers of people may carry with it potential dangers. As such, the indicating of employees' names may represent a new and daunting challenge for corporate management.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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A made-up name is fine. At one pizza restaurant chain everyone has an Italian name. But I always wonder if they get to choose their own new names or whether names are assigned. I suppose it is more likely to be the latter.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I hadn't thought of this, but they are right. With a name, it's just too easy to gather information about a person these days. One stalker falls in love with a waitress, and he can learn her address, where she hangs out, as well as the names and addresses of her friends and relatives in most cases.

Seems a first name, or even an alias used for work, should be allowed for those who deal with the general public.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

There must absolutely be a way to identify staff in the case of bad service or whatever...and a number is by far too impersonal (barcode-culture). So yeah, a made up name is actually a smart move. And as this is Japan, family names only would be enough right?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"Seems a first name..."

That was my first thought, but I guess traditionalists would think this is too familiar or casual. Makes sense to me though.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

We all would hope its safe, especially in Japan. Unfortunately it isn't safe 100% of the time.

If things continue down the path we are on, in as little as a couple years it won't matter if people display a name tag or not. Using our smart phones we will be able to learn most everything about anyone by simply taking a picture and letting facial recognition provide all the details.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What about taxi and bus drivers? In their case displaying the name is mandated by law. I am sure there are others. My memory is a little foggy but I think at the T.G.I.Friday's and Outback Steak House branches here the service staff use nicknames, although the purpose might just be to convey a more casual, "American" style atmosphere.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This wouldn't be a problem if Japanese police did their jobs when a stalking complaint was brought to their attention.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

“We’re living in times when various information can be found by a name search. "

no, only for narcissistic people who insist on use FACEBOOK. it's funny how one website alone can give people delusions of being the center of the universe (yes, you have to inform the world what you had for lunch) and make even the smartest people I knew vulgarly show off over literally nothing and beg for "likes" on a daily basis... still they fear for their "privacy" being exposed, what a joke. I quit facebook many years ago and just a couple of weeks ago I made an account for the sole purpose of logging into websites and apps that insist on asking for your facebook account.... I got to say that from the very first day, Facebook played the stalker, sending me countless e-mails asking me my most personal details, wanting permission to peep into my e-mail/phone contacts, begging me to upload a face picture or complete my "profile", are you serious??? I wonder how people don't realize how much they're already being exposed.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

At first I thought, yeah, they (the service industry workers) do have a point. But then I thought: "Can't you tweak your Facebook settings so that only approved friends can see your personal info?" In this day and age, I don't know why you wouldn't restrict access to your Facebook page regardless of whether you work in the service industry or not. YOU chose to sign up for Facebook, YOU are the one allowing access to personal information. Not to mention, there are many other ways for someone to learn your name without name tags. Go to the doctors office; they announce your full name out to EVERYBODY in the waiting room.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I work for the City of Dallas and my name is sewn on my shirt.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It depends on what line of business you are in. I would want to have the name of the uniformed officer asking me questions, the doctor I was consulting, but in espionage or soap land, well maybe not.

If

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I used to go by the fake name Bob. Good luck to finding someone with that name!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

First name - real or made up , should suffice for anyone who wants to either complain or commend a staff member. Standard practice at my old company back home, if anyone asked for my staff,s surname to make a complaint I,d let them know that is protected by privacy law and provision of first name is enough.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I asked the name of the waitress that usually serves me at a restaurant I frequent. Now I address her by name and we chat a bit when she is not busy. We have pleasant conversations when she has time, but still, I can understand why people might want to use a fake name.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't think they should have to show their real names if they don't want to. Although I find if pleasant that so many do, it is a risk. All you would need to do is cross-check the name with the locality and you'd find information easily if they are registered in Facebook or other means, and through that who knows what you could find.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

True. Better just have employee numbers.

"Excuse, me. THX 1143...."

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Many places here use first name and last initial. This works as long as there aren't two employees at the business with the same first name and last initial, while making it much more difficult for stalkers to find them on social media. Of course, if the employee lists the company they work for on their social media page, that defeats the purpose of hiding the family name.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is why "my number" was invented.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@domtoidi underrated comment! lol

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Nowadays cash register receipts are longer and longer with QRCodes to access questionnaires or campaign sites to win prizes, info about upcoming sales or events and whatnot. I generally don't bother to read all the extraneous bits and just glance at the total or maybe amount remaining on my electronic money. But recently I had reason to look over a small pile of receipts and was somewhat surprised to see some of them had the ckerk's full name printed on them.

The idea that if the clerks would all just quit using Facebook the problem would be solved is simplistic at best. Stalkers existed and found ways to get info long before Facebook existed. And using just first names or last names could still be giving out too much info depending on how unusual the characters of those names are, how small the town is, etc. I remember one store that had just the surnames written in hiragana only on name badges.

I know one large hospital that "protects" patients by using an automated system with numbers for calling people for all the reception, blood and other testing areas and covers up the names of inpatients on the places outside the door to their hospital room. But anyone can easily flip up the lids on the plaques to see the inpatient names and when visiting outpatient clinics they loudly call the patients by name to direct them to whichever station the available Doctor is waiting at. It's better than it used to be when everything was done by name but still far from perfect.

But this is not such a large city and its pretty impossible for anyone to live anonymously. As a customer I like to see the clerks' names but if I were working as a clerk I'd probably want to use a nickname that I used only at work and nowhere else. (Though being an obvious foreigner based on my appearance it wouldn't all that effective...)

This is one of those complicated issues that has no fits all, appropriate for all cases solution.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Educator60 Good points. Banks make the same stupid mistake iof calling customers by name, even though the customers have taken a service number. Forget stalking. It makes it really easy to call someone who has just withdrawn a load of cash by name and take them by surprise.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Good points. Banks make the same stupid mistake iof calling customers by name, even though the customers have taken a service number

In my experience, they used to call you by the name attached to the account. It may be your name. It may not be. Some years ago I handled very large sums in Japan for a UK university. When I was called, they used the passbook name. Not only was it a Japanese name but it was a woman's name. Didn't seem to bother them that I was a European guy with a beard.

And, my bank, the largest in Japan, calls people exclusively by number now.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I have noticed recently that some post office employees turn their name card back to front so that the name is not visible. I guess if somebody wants to complain about their performance or whatever they will show them the card. That could be a solution, I guess.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

On the other hand, if an employee is acting terribly, I want to know their name so I can explain exactly who messed up.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Dan Lewis,

Ah yes, I do almost everything at the ATM nowadays and seldom need to go into the bank proper, but you're right, they call you by the name on the account at all the banks (inc post office) here. Another thing is the bank branches I go to are so small that there is not much space between counter and waiting area. So it's easy to see who just withdrew a large quantity of cash. Not particularly safe. And, the tellers have name badges but I can't remember if they are full or just surname.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Certain eikaiwa have security procedures to protect the privacy of clients, yet distributes complete lists of all their instructors full names to every student. Apparently, benesse cares about customers but not employees.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm not on FB but I remember reading long ago we Had to use our real names. Hm. The CIA had just invested $60 million. It's all guided towards security and easy access by the authorities. Don't argue the merit there..if legit. Too many sick minds out there with ulterior motives. Never an easy answer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As mentioned earlier, name tags with first names or acceptable nick names should be sufficient.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't believe these employees should provide their real names. They should chose a work name not associated with their real name. I am in the USA and know that when I call for technical assistance for my gadgets that I usually end up speaking to someone in India who identify themselves with very American/English names that do not sound authentic at all. I am OK with it. As long as they help me and I can call back and have my file retrieved with the pertinent notes, I don't care what the CSR calls him/herself.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Alix Hooper: I know where you're coming from. The adjunct is "Don't ask any personal questions." Makes for some darn fine conversations, don't it! As for employees being identified by their true name, I'm afraid it will become a thing of the past. Pretty soon all the people leaving comments here will have to use aliases!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

what about a nickname? That's what they do in Thailand, and it's work fine

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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