Getting your restaurant introduced on a "gurume" (gourmet) TV show can be great for publicity. But it also has its pitfalls. Like attracting the wrong kind of clientele.
"A first-time customer demanded, 'I want the same dish you served on that TV show,'" a restaurant operator relates to Shukan Gendai (Dec 12). "When I told him, 'Sorry, but we prepared that specially for the program,' he became infuriated.
"I went to the trouble to come here, so you'd better come through!" he screeched.
To avert a blowout in front of the other patrons, the operator agreed, but this failed to console the customer. "That was not the dish I'd expected, so I won't pay for it," he huffed.
"I let him leave without paying, just to get rid of him," the operator sighs.
Japan, it seems, is fast becoming an "ichamon" society, where people don't merely raise complaints, but make false charges and pick fights at the slightest pretext.
Last July, Shinichi Sekine, author of "The Claimer Next Door," (Chuokoron Shinsha, 2007) published a "White Paper on Complaints." Of over 5,000 respondents to Sekine's questionnaire, nearly 40% noted that complaints at their workplace have been increasing of late.
The highest response was among teachers and educators, of whom 53.7% of whom said they had been directly in the line of fire.
"Until 2008, I'd been an administrator at a university for three years," a source from academia tells the magazine. "During that time, I constantly had to field claims by students' parents. Their methods were hardly different from yakuza. They would latch on to the smallest problem and demand that I acknowledge it, and apologize to them. Whenever I conceded a point they would ratchet up their claims."
The day after cream stew was served at the cafeteria of a Tokyo primary school, a parent called to confront a teacher, saying, "My kid hates stew, so yesterday he only ate bread. I want a refund for that day's lunch."
To help municipal workers deal with the growing number of aggressive claimers, the city of Toyama has produced a manual, and since found itself swamped with requests for copies by public organizations all over Japan.
"Patients are bellowing, 'Hurry up and examine me!' or 'The doctor has a bad attitude!'" sighs a worker at a university hospital in Tokyo. "The staff can't get their jobs done. So more university hospitals have been employing retired cops to deal with these 'monster patients.'"
"With so many scandals, awareness has been growing that even major corporations and famous companies can't be trusted," explains management consultant Katsuhiko Egawa. "As a result, people are more determined not to let themselves get hoodwinked or suffer a loss."
But White Paper author Sekine believes the recent barrage of bellicose objections also reflects a change in the temperament of Japanese people.
"They are not just complaining; their methods are becoming increasingly spiteful, such as demanding money or an apology in writing," he points out.
"I think a key factor may be the declining sense of contentment."© Japan Today