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Last-minute cancellation by Chinese tour groups driving businesses crazy

52 Comments

The Japanese slang word for a last-minute cancellation, "dotakyan," is a portmanteau made up of "dotamba" and "kyanseru." When the death penalty involved decapitation by sword -- until replaced by hanging in the 1870s -- the condemned was executed by being made to kneel at a "dotamba," a sloped platform of packed dirt in front of a shallow pit into which the head dropped. Since a last-minute reprieve from execution was called "dotamba de nigeru" (to escape the "dotamba"), the term came to take on the meaning of an eleventh hour reprieve. "Dota-kyan" is its modern incarnation.

Shukan Gendai (Sept 10) has uncovered a new type of "dota-kyan," and it's been causing outrage in the inbound travel business. It seems that agencies bringing in visiting groups from mainland China -- those same groups whose "explosive buying" last year had Japanese retailers rushing to fill their inventories with loads of goods for free-spending Chinese shoppers -- are also in the practice of calling off reservations at hotels, restaurants, sightseeing buses, airlines and other tour components, often without even bothering to give any notification at all.

"We provide pick-up service to and from the hotel where groups are staying," relates an employee of Hato Bus, a major sightseeing operator. "Even though a Chinese group had requested this service, they weren't anywhere to be seen, and no one contacted us."

Japanese find this sort of behavior to be incomprehensible, and it is said to be seriously hurting the small and medium-size bus companies that specialize in visitors from overseas.

A bus company executive blames the middlemen who act on behalf of Chinese travel agencies.

"Dealing with them is nothing but trouble," he complains. "They'll tell us, 'We want to book a bus for our customers from China,' so we give them a price and they'll reserve a bus. But then at the last minute, they'll tell us, 'That's not what we said; your price is too high' or some other excuse, and cancel the reservation. The bus stays in the garage, which causes a serious loss.

"Maximum and minimum bus fees are subject to government approval, but they ask for prices way below the minimum. For example, they'll make the reservation for a sightseeing course that costs 100,000 yen, and then at the last minute try to haggle it down to 60,000 yen. If we don't agree, they'll cancel outright," he added.

There have even been cases where cancellations occurred while customers were in transport.

"While aboard a bus from Ikebukuro en route to Tokyo Disneyland, the Chinese tourists demanded to their tour escort and the bus driver to deviate," recalls the president of a medium-size bus firm. "A passenger said, 'We want to go shopping in Ginza, so please change the route.' Pandemonium broke out and when the tour escort refused his request, the passenger tried to bribe the bus driver with an offer of cash."

In the case of hotel cancellations made via the internet, establishments are seldom successful at collecting cancellation fees.

"All we can do is register their credit card number at the time they reserve," a hotel employee relates. "But in the case of foreigners, by the time of billing they'll have returned home and the only thing we can do is try to trace them and send a bill for the cancellation. If that could be done without hassles, we wouldn't mind so much, but most of the time we're left holding the bag."

Meanwhile in Kansai, another type of cancellation problem has surfaced.

"Many restaurants and geisha houses in Kyoto have only limited capacity, and as the meals they serve tend to be fixed courses, most of the ingredients are obtained and prepared beforehand," a Kyoto city employee tells the magazine. "So a cancellation means wasting the food, which causes considerable loss right there. The city office has received numerous complaints from restaurant operators about this problem."

A staff member of a major airlines tells the magazine that travel agency representatives frequently phone the carrier just before a flight's departure to say, "Sorry, we couldn't sign up enough people this time, so let us change to another date" or some other lame excuse.

"But as our airline requires remittance of full payment beforehand and changes for re-bookings or cancellations, we haven't been seriously hurt."

"There's been a flood of reports about how the 'explosive buying' by Chinese visitors has been something of a godsend to the Japan's economy, but that has been on the wane. With so many other headaches becoming commonplace, we can expect more Japanese companies and shops to just inform them outright, 'Don't come any more!'" the article concludes.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

52 Comments
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Learn from the lesson, get your money upfront, in your hand. Then there's no problem!

Better yet, make it an industry wide policy to have payment up front. Other industries do it, the tourism industry can as well.

30 ( +32 / -2 )

Yep, no pay or a decent deposit, no booking! They need to earn the right to pay when they arrive. These Chinese tourists are a riot to observe sometimes, the shenanigans they get up to!!

11 ( +13 / -2 )

No contracts will do that... make them sign something that holds them to the fee, or pay 100% upfront

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I booked my trip to Tokyo in January flight + mansion. Though the mansion had a cancellation policy I was charged in Full by both airline and mansion. I seriously gambled in January that nothing would go wrong in May.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Visiting Kyoto is a bit of a gong show these days, overcrowded with selfie sticks everywhere. There's no quiet time for contemplating anything at the temples, those days are long gone.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

No contracts will do that... make them sign something that holds them to the fee, or pay 100% upfront

Contracts with whom? Contracts with a foreign company are not always easy to collect on when defaulted on. Fees have to be collected up front, that's the only way to prevent crap like this from happening.

I have a good friend who has worked for a tourist agency for over 20 years, he told me that cases like this are increasing quite a bit and that many tour companies ARE in fact instituting a pay first policy when booking/reserving tours.

Too many places have been burned and sadly it's the Chinese and Taiwanese companies/customers that are mostly to blame.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Yeah... once upon a time I complained to my boss about how a particular business partner always did XYZ to which I was unprepared to deal with. His reply "If they always do it, why aren't you prepared?"

Nobody to blame but the Japanese side of things if they don't collect a fee up front for cancellation. Why isn't there a credit card number involved? How about a no-show fee?

Again, if there are trends in business, and the business doesn't adapt, then it's on them.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Two words: "Non-refundable deposit".

12 ( +12 / -0 )

It's all about power; power to pass off costs on to suppliers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why isn't there a credit card number involved?

Did you read the article?

All we can do is register their credit card number at the time they reserve,” a hotel employee relates. “But in the case of foreigners, by the time of billing they’ll have returned home and the only thing we can do is try to trace them and send a bill for the cancellation. If that could be done without hassles, we wouldn’t mind so much, but most of the time we’re left holding the bag.”

It is common practice to not charge a credit card until after the person checks in, to prevent this from occurring in the future they need to actually put a don refundable charge on the card at the time of reserving the room, or whatever, and the deposit used towards payment.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

No doubt.... these bus lines have to draw the line that they get at least half the money up front.... and by wire transfer at that. If a credit card is used they might be able to do a "charge back".... which many times it favors the buyer.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is not to justify their behavior, but many Chinese travel organizers operate on razor-thin margins and if faced with a choice of loss of reputation or loss of money, they'll instinctively opt for the former. I also suspect that they barely broke even on hotels and sightseeing and made most of their profits on kickbacks (okay call them commissions) from the stores where they took their customers shopping. As the "bakugai" (explosive shopping) has fallen drastically from this year, eking out a profit has become even more difficult and they've turned to more drastic measures. The Shukan Gendai writer hinted at this obliquely but readers would have been better served if he had included some specific details.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

We trust too much.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

we just say Psych in English... China can't be taken seriously. Next time get a deposit!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

do Japanese have any idea how rigid and inflexible they are? the freaking customer is always right!! unless he/she is gaijin.

-29 ( +5 / -34 )

Another Shimaguni consequence of not adopting the norms and procedures of other regions.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

The might be a sign that the Chinese economy is about to crash.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Yet when I make a reservation on certain travel agency websites, I get stuck with a cancellation fee depending on how late I cancelled. Why not go that route?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

portmanteau

What?

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

I don't think they are Chinese but I've heard of non-Japanese, mainly skiers, making three or four restaurant reservations for the following day and then only going to the one restaurant they fancy when the time comes around.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I see the main drift here is that the Japanese companies should take extra precautionary measures.

I'm very fine with that, but I can't help but remember when a certain Japanese restaurant owner took precautionary measures citing similar unreliability in foreign customers, JapanToday's denizens took great umbrage.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Is there any evidence that this is a form of harassment of Japanese tour companies?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

chinese are dominating japanese with street thuggery savvy. japanese better learn real quick that others find japanese standards of honesty easy to abuse.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

@MsDelicious

portmanteau

What?

Really?? http://tinyurl.com/h54f95k

3 ( +3 / -0 )

portmanteau What?

Sharknado! (example)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So the question with "dotakyan" is whose heads are going to roll?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What a ghastly word history!

It makes otherwise taboo words like "mekura" (blind) and "tsumbo" (deaf) seem mild.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

japanese standards of honesty easy to abuse

Is it Japanese standard of honesty or world standard of common sense?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This so easy to mitigate. At time of reservation the booking agent pays 50% of the cost in a non refundable deposit. If they refuse they can pizz off. In business, a customer only has a value if they provide a profit for the business. If they are too much trouble or cost too much to service then there is no point doing business with them. This is how customers are treated in the West. The customer is not god, they are not even kings if their business is not worth having.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm very fine with that, but I can't help but remember when a certain Japanese restaurant owner took precautionary measures citing similar unreliability in foreign customers, JapanToday's denizens took great umbrage.

comparing the US Prez with the hordes of Chinese tourists are we..............lame Kazuaki san, LAME

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I remember in the 1980s when the Japanese were looking like they were taking over the world. Golf courses, movie studios, famous landmarks. OH NO! What are we going to do? Well, not much came of it. But they had their time striding about the world as giants.

If I had to live under a society dominated by a system or ethos that was not my own, Japan's would not be too bad. Compared to the.... obvious alternatives. The truth is that "it takes all kinds to make up a world" and we all know that Japanese people can get arrogant and out of control, which then morphs into racism at the drop of a hat. Probably what keeps it all in check is shame. When other countries can keep a rivalry going and keep each other from slacking off or getting too arrogant, we are all better off. We all keep a standard and try to raise it when possible. It is not good to have just one culture dominating the world.

I deal pretty well with Japanese people because I know the rules and expectations. Some of them seem weird to people, but I like it. Generally fair, polite, recognizing effort and diligence and a work ethic. An appreciation of fair play, in principle. Certainly there are people like that in China, but I don't see many successful Chinese people like that. There is a groundswell of rumbling rumors in US academia about blatant disregard of all kinds of rules of standards by Chinese students there. It is something that the elite are doing with impunity. These stories of bad behavior on even pretty minor transactions are pretty sad. China has not got the noblesse oblige thing down at all.

The Cultural Revolution wrecked China. I am pretty sure that they cannot rule, just as Japan couldn't, because they just can't restrain themselves from destructive excess. They will squander their mandate and slip. But it is worse than that, because I KNOW that Japanese people are perfectly comfortable not being number one. In many ways, Japan has improved since the bubble burst. I don't think Chinese people can handle that. I don't know how they are going to keep things together in the next decade or so when they start to run into their reversals. They stake too much on people giving them what they want. They are in for a shock: a world that is more happy to see them go than to see them come.

Japan has managed the ups and the downs in a civilized and graceful manner, all things considered. I don't think China has managed the ups very well at all. The article describes China at its peak. It is all downhill from here.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

About the credit card thing. Hotels and other establishments should be able to charge for no shows. That is the point of having the credit card number as guarantee. I used to work in a hotel, and if you were no show we would charge the amount for the first night or more, that was the policy. But yes, should not be charged before the costumer arrives, but in the event of no show its different. Why this is not done by japanese hotels is beyond my understanding, unless its just some bureaucratic rule that they are not allowed to. Of course if the costumer has gotten a new credit card in the mean time, then its a bit difficult :P

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Getting a credit card number doesn't mean much if that CC number is a 1-time number and has been canceled. I use 1-time numbers to protect myself from less-than-honest sellers of services only. Experience stuff, not things where a warranty is desired.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"There's no quiet time for contemplating anything at the temples, those days are long gone."

Those days never existed. When I first visited Kyoto in 1986, the tranquility of the rock garden at Ryoanji was broken by the appearance of tour guide equipped with an electric megaphone and shouting incessantly at his flock. They were all Japanese.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Those days never existed. When I first visited Kyoto in 1986, the tranquility of the rock garden at Ryoanji was broken by the appearance of tour guide equipped with an electric megaphone and shouting incessantly at his flock. They were all Japanese.

Even before then. I had a similar experience in the 1970s. Fortunately, there is not shortage of interesting and attractive places in Kyoto. Just stay away from the ones that are on the tourist must see list or go off season preferably on a rainy day. A light rain adds to the ambience and deters some of the tourists.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It is rather interesting that Chinese businesses like tour operators are exhibiting the same attitude as the American government (and, from reports, Trump and his sort of American business operators). Seems to settle the question of which superpower is the dominant one fairly decisively in favor of China, at least in their opinion (and, one wonders, how long the habit of letting America misbehave will last as more people see that China has replaced them as the nation with enough clout to be able to do what it wants)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Yubaru: Appologies, I should have been more clear; What I meant about the credit card was not literally whether one was involved or not.

My meaning was more in line with what you said- they have everything they need to get some remuneration, I'm just curious why they don't charge something.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well my tour company IN JAPAN always charges me in full in advance when I go to Hokkaido. Not sure what is the problem here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that represents two or more morphemes.

Wow, everyone knew the meaning of this except for me. tingbudong

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow, everyone knew the meaning of this except for me. tingbudong

Not necessarily, but it's extremely easy to look it up...like I just did with tingbudong :-)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Here is another definition, a "douchebag" is a guy who looks up esoteric words and tries to look smart.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have made many bookings in Japan without deposit. However if I use a tour company such as HIS they charge me in advance and have a cancellation policy. I think the Chinese have a bad reputation everywhere and not charging in advance is a mistake.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Charge them in advance. Collect in advance. If they cancel or change, charge them, simple.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Visiting Kyoto is a bit of a gong show these days, overcrowded with selfie sticks everywhere. There's no quiet time for contemplating anything at the temples, those days are long gone.

You just have to know where/when to go :) I've been living in Kyoto for 4 years now, and am realizing tourists are channeled to certain places leaving others very tranquil.

chinese are dominating japanese with street thuggery savvy. japanese better learn real quick that others find japanese standards of honesty easy to abuse.

Yes, Chinese have to make things as advantageous to themselves as possible--or else 負け。 It's just their culture's "common sense". I'm sure Japanese businesses will catch on quick and start charging more up front.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As the easy Chinese money slowly disappears as the Chinese economy slows down Japan will start feeling the effects - watching the Chinese on their shopping trips in Tokyo / Osaka last year was amusing but Japanese businesses will start feeling the effects.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is pretty much non-excusable to not notify the other party for cancellation. No respect to the others and speaks quite a lot about how the people are being brought up and his/her own quality as an individual.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

When I first visited Kyoto in 1976, the tranquility of the rock garden at Ryoanji was broken by an endless tape telling people to be quiet so that people could meditate.

I notice that a bus company executive blames the middlemen who act on behalf of Chinese travel agencies. Nowhere does it say the middlemen are Chinese. Could they be Japanese?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Insist on a substantial deposit at time of booking?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I find it odd that many Japanese people apparently don’t understand the typical Chinese psyche better. The two collective minds are more closely aligned than Asian Chinese and Caucasian Americans, yet what the Chinese are doing in this case seems perfectly normal to me. They can change direction at the drop of a hat, therefore they like holding options open. It would be very difficult to get them to put a deposit on anything.

My last employer was a Chinese company. The CEO would schedule a speech to some delegation, say, in San Francisco, and a day prior phone me and ask me to fly out there from New York to give it for him, because something came up, such as doing something with his family.

Incidentally, my moniker here, Hicoway, is misspelled – it should sound like Haicoway – my Chinese name that company gave me. It means open like the ocean.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Interesting similarities with dating Japanese girls. :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Hicoway What about Asian-Americans or black Americans? You're not claiming this is a race-thing, right? I guess you mean it's a social/cultural thing? I can't understand what "caucasian" has to do with it. Perhaps I'm just confused by your wording. Anyway, Um...I think you're a bit simplistic here: "perfectly normal"? So is bankruptcy for businesses that don't run well. Someone will have to change their "perfectly normal" way of doing things to stay afloat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I avoid doing business with Chinese from China like the plague. Why, because their word and handshake mean nothing. Charge their credit cards 100% and if they cancel they get nothing back. If they dont like it, they can buy trip cancellation insurance on their end.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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