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Obnoxious customers driving store staff crazy with impossible demands

24 Comments

After dining on beef and rice at a Yoshinoya chain restaurant in Tokyo, a woman confronted the cashier: “Where’s my coupon?” Fifty-yen discount coupons had been advertised. Other customers were receiving theirs. “Where’s mine?”

The cashier apologized for the oversight and hastened to make it good. The woman was not mollified. On the contrary, seeing she had the upper hand, her anger grew belligerent. “I didn’t get a coupon because you discriminate against women!” “No, no,” protested the cashier, “it was a mistake, a simple mistake!” The other customers gaping at the scene gave the woman an audience to play to. “I’m not paying – you hurt my feelings!”

The woman got her free meal. Anything to get rid of her.

Shukan Gendai (May 25) tells the story as part of its coverage of “incredible customers.”

“Claimers” is an Anglo-Japanese neologism often used to describe them – chronic complainers who make impossible claims upon store personnel. Their numbers and their obnoxiousness are rising, the magazine says.

Claimers tend to fall into one of two categories – those in it for the money, and those on a power trip. With the woman it seems to have been a little – or a lot – of both.

Here’s another story: A middle-aged man approached a sales clerk at a Fukuoka department store. “I bought these socks a month ago and look at this, they’re already torn.” He was furious. He thrust the socks and the receipt at the clerk. “Five times I’ve worn them! Only five times!” To the clerk they appeared to have been worn rather more than that – but never mind, the store would replace the socks. No, said the man, that wasn’t good enough. “I want two pairs!” Two pairs? Why? “One pair for the torn socks and another for the wear and tear on my shoes from walking here to return them!” The clerk shrugged and yielded, marveling that one could get so worked up over an item worth all of 500 yen.

These little episodes in the daily life of a civilized and advanced nation are amusing to read about but cause serious misery to the employees involved. A confrontation in 2013 at a fashion shop in Sapporo ended with two female clerks being bullied into kneeling on the floor and bowing low in submission and apology. To rub salt in their wounds, the triumphant claimer – we’re not told what the dispute was about – photographed the clerks’ humiliation and posted it on social media.

A woman had her hair styled at a beauty salon in Hyogo Prefecture. She looked at herself in the mirror. She frowned. “Too short.” She grew livid. “Too short! A centimeter too short!” The hairdresser apologized. She offered a refund. It was oil on the flames. “I don’t want a refund!” the customer screamed. “I want my hair back!”

She insisted the owner be summoned. The owner was at work at another branch and wouldn’t be back for hours. “I’ll wait,” said the customer – and was as good as her word. The owner’s apology seemed to satisfy her. She strode out of the shop in triumph.

“They say the customer is god,” Shukan Gendai quotes a harassed shop clerk as musing. “God? Or the devil?”

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
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Sometimes firing your customer is the right choice.

23 ( +23 / -0 )

I saw an interesting segment about such people on a TV show recently. A psychologist called them the "unloved" (aisaretenai); because they have no love in their lives from family or friends they become abusive to those seen as "weaker" than themselves to vent their frustration. A friend works in a Tokyo ward office dealing with the public and she has to put up with these people every day. Many are just unhappy and can be mollified, she said.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I got countless of those when working in the food business. I hate these people. They're a nuisance to the staff and to other customers.

If someone has a legitimate complaint, or the shop is in the wrong, no problem. But in case of this kind of person, I wish the staff could just tell them to f*** off.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

try throwing one of those tantrums as a foreigner and see where that gets you.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

try throwing one of those tantrums as a foreigner and see where that gets you.

Try throwing one of those tantrums towards me, and see where it gets them.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Try throwing one of those tantrums towards me, and see where it gets them.

Just out of curiousity, how would you deal with it? Me, I would politely explain to them once and then just ignore them or tell them to leave

7 ( +7 / -0 )

There are times when the business should appease a genuinely put out customer but until staff here are trained to have bigger balls and given permission to tell irrational complainers to GTFO, they will continue to have the piss taken.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Those types of customers are why I left retail at an early age. That and wages were not keeping up with inflation.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Having witnessed a "customer meltdown" at my local supermarket register last year, I was at a loss at what to do - if anything.

The register woman was mortified, everyone else had heads down and finally senior staff came to the rescue.

If I heard correctly it was about her being too slow. He was the classic bully oyaji type in his 50's.

I also was a mouse. I felt like giving him a belting with words, but thought no - I can just imagine the police will come and there goes my afternoon.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

There are customers your business can do without, if there is a genuine problem then fine, but if they are just a PITA show them the door and tell them never to come back.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Just out of curiousity, how would you deal with it? 

In my experience Aly, the key is in browny1's post above.

In it, everyone who was around and the staff acted as 'a mouse.' Everyone was paralyzed by fear, either of causing a scene, of acting outside the wa, or whatever.

In my experience in Japan, when you get people like this, the best way to deal with it is to go a little 'American' and get right back in their face. You don't have to yell, you don't have to throw a tantrum, but a firm, clear, slightly above conversational level voice, with firm body language that says 'I am not moving, nor putting up with this' will back them down 99 out of 100 times.

I dealt with this as both a customer (sticking up for a staffer), a worker (dealing with such customers) and as a plain old gaijin when dealing with people trying to pull the 'you're not Japanese so you don't understand' card.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

A couple of years ago a saw a young foreign guy trying to change his small money into larger denominations at a Family Mart. The cashier wouldn't do it as it's not something they can generally do without permission from someone senior. I explained it to the customer who was getting really frustrated because he couldn't make the young cashier understand what he wanted which wouldn't have happened anyway. The customer started getting annoyed and complaining that in his country they would do it, so I just told him we aren't in his country and he shouldn't expect things to be the same. It was his friend who ended up having to drag him away. Don't get me wrong about mentioning a foreigner... it's not a foreign thing or a Japanese thing for a customer to go off their rocker... just this guy was so self entitled and it seems to be quite a common trait in these instances for customers to be like that. Japanese cashiers do need to be a lot more assertive though.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Unfortunately the average Taro or Hanako working in their chain store baito has no realistic course of action in this situation. Culturally speaking, they can't act out or talk back to a customer, any customer, and corporate policy leaves them no choice either. Nothing to do but gaman until the customer gets tired and leaves. The pathetic thing is that the customer knows this the whole time and is just taking advantage of the balance of power.

At least if you own your own place, you could tell the jerk to get lost, but that's going to definitely be the exception rather than the rule.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“They say the customer is god,” Shukan Gendai quotes a harassed shop clerk as musing. “God? Or the devil?”

I'd definitely lean more towards the devil. That whole expression, the customer is God, is a big part of why I could never work in retail in Japan. It's hard enough doing that in the UK, where "the customer is always right" (except when they're not, which is usually the more common case). Standing firm against beligerent customers takes the wind out of their sails a little, but what really helps is when a manager defends your point, which I fear is virtually unheard of in Japan. It seems like businesses work too hard to please the customer in Japan, and it's the lower ranked colleagues who suffer as a result. You can't please everyone, and it's unfair to expect anyone to put themselves out to try and please everyone regardless of how unreasonable those people are being.

Support your colleagues, teach them and allow them to stand firm against unreasonable customers, and for the love of Mike: get rid of that expression. The customer is not God, the customer is just another Human.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I find Japanese service will be more polite in the face of customer complaints, but that customer service in the west deals with customer complaints in a better manner than is often dealt with in Japanese customer service. Comparison:

Japan - We're so sorry that you are unhappy and that the fact that we cannot accommodate you is causing troubles, but we can't do anything about it.

The west - what? You're grumbling too much, but here is how we'll fix it...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In my experience in Japan, when you get people like this, the best way to deal with it is to go a little 'American' and get right back in their face. You don't have to yell, you don't have to throw a tantrum, but a firm, clear, slightly above conversational level voice, with firm body language that says 'I am not moving, nor putting up with this' will back them down 99 out of 100 times.

Agreed 100%, done it a few times too...just tell them clearly and in a loud voice that they are causing ' meiwaku' to everyone else being held up in the line because of him and if he wants to complain to a manager to stop screamjng, step out of the line and wait until manager comes and not inconvenience everyone else. These oyaji wank..rs usually only get all aggressive with the polite obachan type cashiers who dont talk back.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Where I used to work, I've seen countless people bring back broken or damaged items with the most absurd claim that "it just turned like this after a few days use" : a pillow brought back with holes in it just turned up like that (customer had a dog and the holes looked obviously chewed!),a pair of metal earrings all bent out of shape which had obviously been stepped on...etc. But shop staff will almost never question their customers. I'd rather loose a dishonest customer than backdown when faced with BS ! The good thing is that they don't usually try it with me because I'm not Japanese but when it does happen, talking back a little louder and in a more assertive way works 99% of the time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wow, what a shame ???. People should think if such same claims happen to them, What can happen ???.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The internet has complicated this entire issue. Many posters have suggested being firm (or even aggressive) right back to the misbehaving customer. While that might get the person out the shop, it doesn't prevent them from going onto tabelog, Twitter, etc. and writing a scathing report. Those strong negative reviews can be particularly harmful for a business, because they're one-sided and provide no context; the reader can be easily misled into thinking that the restaurant was at fault for serious problems. In the pre-internet age, it was a lot easier to say "no" to customers and allow them to leave angrily.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan also needs to add one thing to this nonsense...when the customer begins to HARASS, you can put a __なら title on it, and there you go...Clerks will no longer accept being harassed.

This is actually probably the way to go about it in Japan. To label their behavior as bad. In a week the whole nation will change.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ive got a new term.

The customer is an idiot

As another customer I like stomping ( metaphorical) on jerks like this when I witness this poor behaviour.

I even got some selfish person to apologise to the 711 clerk once because he was afraid of what the crazy Gaijin ( me) would do if he didn't.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have seen customers in shops shout and insult staff in the most appalling manner - usually they are complaining the staff are too slow, or the prices are too high or some other nonsense that could be resolved by the complainer taking their custom elsewhere. Even if the service was bad, no one has the right to behave towards another person in this way. I have occasionally told the customer to stop shouting or being rude - they often start having a go at me, but I don't care.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is the customer version of monster parents. Just threaten & say you'll call the police. They'll get lots of (unwanted?) attention.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Alfie Noakes

A psychologist called them the "unloved" (aisaretenai); because they have no love in their lives from family or friends they become abusive to those seen as "weaker" than themselves to vent their frustration. A friend works in a Tokyo ward office dealing with the public and she has to put up with these people every day. Many are just unhappy and can be mollified, she said.

Agreed .One only gives what one has. I don't expect to be given say a pen by one who has no pen.

Japanese have no love but have abundant barbs. That's what they are capable of giving, and they do.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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