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8 reasons why Japanese workers are so slow at making decisions

79 Comments
By Scott R Dixon

For foreign companies, one of the more frustrating aspects of doing business in Japan is the painfully slow process by decisions are made. Thanks to a complicated bureaucracy, a heavily ingrained hierarchical society and an overall tendency to avoid risk at all costs, sometimes it seems like Japanese workers are the most inefficient decision-makers in the world. But what is behind this habit of everyone taking their sweet time to make up their minds? We have compiled a list of eight reasons behind this seemingly common Japanese practice of being incredibly indecisive.

While certain Japanese industries, like electronics, are struggling to hold their own in an increasingly globalized world, many people on the outside are looking at why Japan has been losing business to overseas competitors. Everyone seems to be searching for the magic answer and many think that a lot of the blame lies within the commonly held belief that Japanese businesses are so slow to come to any kind of decision in the workplace.

1. Japan avoids risk, shuns challenges

It is said that Japanese culture has a “strong psychological resistance” to anything new. When making decisions at work, many workers want to avoid anything deemed a risk or a challenge to the company. This often means delaying a decision until you are 100 percent sure you have your superiors approval.

2. “Making changes to the organization is great, but just don’t make me change.”

We are probably all guilty of this double standard, but many workers in Japan are very much in favor of changes to their company….just not when it affects them. And since no individual is willing to try something new, any plan to implement a new business practice quickly reverts back to the old ways when everyone ignores the new plan.

3. Go with what you know__The hardest part of making a decision, regardless of culture, is the ultimate responsibility the decision-maker holds if it fails. But if you are afraid of taking responsibility in the case of a bad idea, it is probably safer to just go with the old ideas that seem to have been working for the past however many years. This is the pattern that many Japanese workers find themselves in, making it very hard for new ideas to take hold.

4. Students are taught to “solve the easily solvable problem first.”

Most children in Japan are taught to take tests by tackling the easiest problems first, then if they have time, follow-up with the more difficult ones. Adults then translate that skill to their workplace. The Western way to look at these problems may be to see which issues are worth the most to the company in the long-term, solve those, then go back and address the easier ones, which are typically worth less “points.”

5. Lack of “high risk, high return” culture

Arguments about the morality of their actions aside, Wall Street bankers would have gotten nowhere had they not been prepared to take on extraordinary risk. Betting on that small startup or speculating on volatile commodity prices is incredibly risky, but that is where the big money is…if you make the right move. Foreign companies often complain that Japanese businesses are unwilling to even consider something that is “high risk, high return.” For example, instead of forging into the relatively unknown area of MP3 players like Apple did with the iPod, Sony seemed quite content to keep on trucking with the MiniDisc format.

Interestingly, although the MiniDisc format was quickly forgotten about in the West, even three or four years ago many Japanese-made home music systems came with MiniDisc players built into them, and the discs themselves can still be bought all over the country today. Clearly something appeals to the Japanese mindset about this altogether more traditional, relatively risk-free, format.

6. No authority at the lower levels

When low-level workers have to constantly check back with their superiors about every little detail, it can take what seems like a lifetime to come to any conclusion. With Japan’s strong hierarchy, employees have to take everything up with their supervisor or boss, which can bring the decision-making processing to a mind-numbing pace. This can affect everything from international business deals to resolving a problem with payment plan at your local cellphone store, where staff often reply that they do not have the power to make certain decisions and that the customer’s complaint must be passed up the chain of command.

7. HQ is number one__

Much like how low-level employees have to answer to their superiors before making any decision, the branch offices of companies have little to no authority to make any judgements on their own. Company headquarters have the final say, no matter what. And when companies have offices all around the world, trying to coordinate with Tokyo’s time zone is just another way they fall behind.

8. Meetings: always large, never personal

We have seen this before, but a lot of foreign companies are confused when they see that Japanese custom of large business meetings where no new ideas are discussed. While overseas, meeting to brainstorm a discuss a new business plan calls for a smaller group of employees to ensure that everyone can input their ideas, Japanese meetings appear to just be an excuse for management to declare the new business plan and that is it. The large number of employees at the meeting discourages anyone from speaking out or throwing out a new idea.

Japanese netizens were not very surprised at this “news.” A lot of them agreed wholeheartedly that Japanese society creates a business environment hostile to new ideas and swift decision-making. But many were cynical that anything could change soon:

"Changing the eduction system to teach a new way will take a lot of time and money, and doing that in our generation is just impossible."

"We’ve been hearing this kind of criticism for a while since globalization started."

"Ouch…hearing something so correct is a bit painful to hear.

Source: Naver Matome

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Why Foreign Businessmen are Receiving Lessons on Doing Business the Japanese Way -- Five things that keep Japanese people chained to their jobs -- Three company presidents adored by their employees

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79 Comments
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It has been frequently observed that decision making takes a lot of time because of 根回し nemawashi, getting everyone's opinion, getting everyone on board, etc., from senior executives to the mail clerks. Once the decision is made, things happen quickly and smoothly. With US companies, executives make decisions, and then there is a chaotic process of implementing as everyone tries to coordinate and protect their turf. Look at Obamacare and US car companies. A total mess. We can hardly say Japan has been a failure (world's third largest economy and all).

5 ( +11 / -6 )

Lots of half-truths in this poorly thought out article. The real issue is not one of 'nationality' but that of 'organizational culture'--work at any western government organization or college/university and time how fast decisions are made. Probably no different from a J-company. The organizational culture and layers of bureaucracy drags decision making to a snail's pace. Hurdles to decision making need to be first separated into 'organizational' and 'individual' categories, and then analyzed.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I worked in Japanese companies for just shy of 12 years, and this article is spot on. Anyone who has worked in Japanese companies for any period of time beyond probation just nodded their head and said 'yeah' to every point as they read this article.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Like this is anything "new"? It's just regurgitation of what "made" Japan what it is today.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think it boils down to postwar Japan being rigged to work in a peculiar, idiosyncratic way. It now finds itself unable to withstand countervailing forces, as there are few flexible underpinnings to the system.

Interestingly, Japan's imperial forces tactics during the war were similar. It was all offense. Defense basically involved suicide, since supply lines and other underpinnings were absent. Zero fighters, for example, didn't have armor because losing (ie, "not winning") was never considered.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

They are so dumb here. Sometimes i want a salad whit no lettuce and they need to go ask the ''Chef'' if it's possible and most of the time is: Oh sorry we can't do it because of it's the rules.

0 ( +11 / -11 )

What can you expect from a country whose men were solely raised by their mothers ? Shy herbivore yes-men that play safe and strive to blend in with crowd for the sake of income stability.

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

I would say that a large part of the sluggishness in decision-making comes from the deep-seated phobia of ever taking personal responsibility for anything. Unless The Group has agreed something with its hive mind, nothing can be permitted to change.

Even if change does take place, it's usually hobbled with so many sheaves of unnecessary paperwork and pointless administrative task-creation, to make everyone feel like they are some integral cog in the great machine, that whatever they were trying to overhaul winds up even more inefficient and counterproductive anyway.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This is not a case of "western style" versus "Japanese style," as most people would like to think.

Bottom line is that most humans HATE to make a wrong decision and then get in trouble. The lack of people (in any organization) who will make a decision, and stand behind it, is NOT a "Japanese phenomenon."

It is a human nature phenomenon.

Some "cultures" just have a higher population of folks who can make the tough decisions.

Hiding behind any kind of "we like to get a consensus, or we value the organization," is just nonsense.

Some cultures are just better at business than others.

That's some countries are rich, and some are poor.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Another article looking down on Japanese and thinking western ways are the best, Yeah, the west is doing great at the moment with their economies and societies. No place is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Japan is different and that is part of it's charm, don't want it to become part of the western monoculture.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

Why not simply the entire article and just say, "It's part of the culture". Not necessarily good or bad, but it's the way things are largely done here.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

This is not a case of "western style" versus "Japanese style," as most people would like to think.

You start off by claiming it's not an issue of culture, but then go on to make the following two comments:

Some "cultures" just have a higher population of folks who can make the tough decisions. Some cultures are just better at business than others.

Both of which refer to culture.

The fact is, it IS a Japanese thing. That doesn't mean that it's not also a thing for other cultures, but the points made in this article are very Japanese, as evidenced by fact that there are very few Japanese companies that don't have the issues that this article discusses.

Japan is different and that is part of it's charm, don't want it to become part of the western monoculture.

This would be fine if the Japanese economy hadn't been in the toilet for 20 years, and/or if the Japanese didn't care about the economy being the way it is, but the very fact of the matter is that the economy is a problem, and politicians have been trying to get out of it for 20 years. The issues discussed in this article are directly responsible for the economy being the way it is.

So to trace that - these issues are the source of the problems that plague the economy, the people want a better economy, so the people need to deal with these issues. That doesn't mean they have to 'turn western'. But burying your head in the stand and saying 'Japan is unique culture, no need change' doesn't help anyone, particularly the Japanese. It's only when the issues are exposed and dealt with that the problems can be fixed.

Why not simply the entire article and just say, "It's part of the culture". Not necessarily good or bad, but it's the way things are largely done here.

Primarily for the points I gave above. If it wasn't bad, the economy wouldn't be in the toilet. Contrary to what you are saying , it is in fact bad, if it weren't, there wouldn't be a problem to deal with.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Interesting points, but not all of them are unique to Japan, there are most certainly other risk averse, change resistant cultures (plus resistance to change is not the only reason for failures, outdated R&D, shifts in tastes and culture etc have an impact too).

One of the major issues in my opinion is that through technology and globalisation, our business world has changed extremly fast, product life-spans become shorter and the Japanese way of doing business will struggle more than "agile" cultures. And Japan needs to tackle this issue, and also cut some waste.

But there's plenty of examples in the Western world too, MySpace, Blackberry, Nokia, Opel. etc to name a few. Western companies also have this tendency in being extremly short-term obessed, and not invest in long-term R&D.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I work in an American-owned company that employs American and Japanese staff. It is absolutely hilarious to me when my boss (an American) asks for opinions, answers, etc. from the Japanese staff on the spot. None of them ever say anything! They all look at each other, do the Japanese "Hmmmmmmmm," a few times, and then look back at the boss like that answered his question, which of course doesn't make him very happy. I know it's a cultural difference, but this article touched on something that infuriates me.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Interesting points, but not all of them are unique to Japan, there are most certainly other risk averse, change resistant cultures

I don't think the article was claiming that it was exclusive to Japan, it was simply giving an opinion on why Japanese workers are this way.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Pretty much all of these reasons can be boiled down to one thing... laziness.

Why do anything different, difficult, risky, creative, independent, initiating or novel when it's much easier to do nothing?

You can obfuscate the process in bureaucracy, culture or education all you want, the fact is it's laziness.

-1 ( +4 / -4 )

laziness

I disagree. I think it has more to do with the fact that a suggestion of change is often met with adversity and it just does not seem worth the bother to some people. Why take a bunch of crap when you can go with the flow instead? I think that is the attitude of a lot of people, both in and outside of Japan, actually.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Change is difficult...more so when not confronted buy it previously.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Laziness? I disagree.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I worked in Japanese companies for just shy of 12 years, and this article is spot on. Anyone who has worked in Japanese companies for any period of time beyond probation just nodded their head and said 'yeah' to every point as they read this article.

exactly. Anybody who denies that this is just a "cultural" thing is either just being an apologist or doesnt know about Japan. I remember sitting in meetings and I was the only one who ever offered ideas; everybody else just sat there, but oh did they have ideas and complaints during smoke break. We have all asked for a service and got the curt reply- nani mo dekinai..muri! or wakaranai, when if fact they did know the answer or could find out. It is an annoying problem in Japan. I find it amazing when I show them I can find the answer, they come back in a very defensive way that they know everything. The "dare mo makenai" attitude then surfaces. I personally think the high suicide rate in japan could be attributed to this apathetic, child like dependance on some all knowing leader. People just seem to drift, and let things be as they are, even if they are miserable, in order to maintain the wa.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

This sounds like the environment I left back home.

Long pointless meetings where almost nobody contributes. Check.

Apathetic/lazy workers. Check.

Those who contribute or improve things are regarded as troublemakers and/or everything they suggest is too hard. Check.

Honestly, do you think companies back home are brimming with super enthusiastic staff who come up with one good idea after another? Google perhaps. Your average company? No way.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"Those who contribute or improve things are regarded as troublemakers and/or everything they suggest is too hard. Check"

depends on the enviroment. Gov agencies, agreed. you best go with the flow, but thats political, they get paid whether they perform or dont. The game is different.

U.S. private sector business, as well as other Western style businesses, do not operate as Japanese do. Its a dated model, as Jefflee posted.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Asking for slightly modified services or 'special' requests at shops etc always leads to trouble, just don't bother. It absolutely infuriated me so many times. I'd ask for a burger at KFC (or anywhere, for that matter) with tomato in it - they had other burgers with tomato in them so it shouldn't be a problem - but of course I was met with "...chotto....muri..." - I offered to pay extra - and was met with silence, blank stares etc - I explained my position, explained how ridiculously simple the request was to a paying customer, and it turned into a 5-minute conversation whereby they had to call in the manager, who agreed to give me some tomato in the burger but sternly told me that they wouldn't do this again.

Another time I quite literally almost made a poor girl at McDonalds cry because she didn't know how to handle a request for "slightly more sauce on the Sundae". I felt terrible that she seemed so unable to deal with something outside of her robotic training. I told them not to bother after it reached the point where they were about to call the area manager (this was at 2AM) to confirm if such a thing was possible.

Good grief.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I used to ask for BBQ sauce with my fries at McDonalds. They would charge me 10 yen. One day, they just stopped, said you could only get BBQ sauce if you ordered the nuggets.

As a western consumer, this attitude is baffling. But good luck getting anything done about it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

U.S. private sector business, as well as other Western style businesses, do not operate as Japanese do.

Japan's way of doing things may be outdated, but even private management back home is hardly anything to crow about. Like I say, not every company is like Google. More often than not, a wannabe Walmart.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Haha, I asked for mustard on my Big Mac instead of Mac sauce and the girl working looked at me like I slapped her mamma. Of course, I, too got the "we can't do that" answer. It just amazes me how, on a daily basis, I can ask grown adults "what do you think" and they "mmmmm" at me like that's an appropriate answer.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

John, I've I've worked with factory workers and university professors/CEOs here, and never had the experience of anyone say "Hmm" to me as a full reply, only like an "Um" to signify they are thinking their real answer through. As in "Hmm..., I think we should do so and so".

I did had an abusive supervisor back home who invariably mimicked me if I uttered "Um" before replying. (She got demoted, how sad). Are you sure it's not a matter of impatience in waiting to hear their reply or their not following your unspoken rules of how they should talk? People do have speech habits. I always yokosho when sitting down. It's just something I picked up. Got me a few odd stares back home. Old habits die hard.

As for the Macs thing, try asking them to replace the patty with real meat sometime. That should be priceless :-)

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Most change in modern or post-modern society is driven by capitalism's creative destructive force that tries to overcome all temporal, spacial and socio-cultural barriers for faster circulation and more returns. As an advanced capitalist country, Japan has for the most part embraced this force and in so doing, has greatly destroyed its environment and communal relations. At the heart of this change has been Japanese businesses, in conjunction with the state. To argue that common business practice here limits change is historically incorrect. It may opt more for the long game than the US model, and there may be more regulatory barriers, but creative destruction is just as much at play here as anywhere, which means company owners, managers and workers must actively looking for competitive advantages and find new ways to make themselves obsolete.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

To argue that common business practice here limits change is historically incorrect. It may opt more for the long game than the US model, and there may be more regulatory barriers, but creative destruction is just as much at play here as anywhere

Sorry, but this is incorrect. It would be nice if they were simply playing the long game, but in each of the companies I worked for, this was not the case. Two of my companies had mid-term (5 year) goals, but western companies have these long term goals as well. It's not the long-term planning that limits change, it's the inability to make decisions.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Asking for slightly modified services or 'special' requests at shops etc always leads to trouble

It depends on what kind of shop you're in, how 'special' your request is and how nicely you ask.

I quite literally almost made a poor girl at McDonalds cry because she didn't know how to handle a request for "slightly more sauce on the Sundae". I felt terrible that she seemed so unable to deal with something outside of her robotic training.

She presses the button on the till that says 'Sundae' (or whatever), and that rings up the price. There isn't a button for 'Sundae with slightly more sauce' or 'extra sauce on the Sundae', so you were insisting that she mess with the system. Or were you expecting the extra sauce to be a freebie on the QT? Why should she have to deal with that on her minimum wage? If you want a flexible menu, you go to a proper restaurant, not a McD's or a Kentucky.

Gotta laff at all these folk complaining about people being incapable of thinking, when they're the one eating junk.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

I asked for mustard on my Big Mac instead of Mac sauce and the girl working looked at me like I slapped her mamma.

I have had the exact opposite experience. In fact, it is fast food overseas that gets on my nerves. The order is almost always gotten wrong. The service people look like you are putting them out by being there and that they are doing you the biggest of favors in serving you. I have gotten everything I have ask for at fast food restaurants (and other service establishments as well) and gotten it with politeness and a smile.

As someone else pointed out above, just because you do not get an answer the split second you ask the question, does not mean the Japanese people you are talking to are not going to answer. Give them a chance before you write them off as not having an opinion or not being able to make a decision.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have had the exact opposite experience. In fact, it is fast food overseas that gets on my nerves. The order is almost always gotten wrong. The service people look like you are putting them out by being there and that they are doing you the biggest of favors in serving you.

What does that have to do with Japan? I've never had a wrong order at McDonalds here, and the service is always extremely polite. Just not flexible.

just because you do not get an answer the split second you ask the question, does not mean the Japanese people you are talking to are not going to answer. Give them a chance before you write them off as not having an opinion or not being able to make a decision.

How do you know how fast the guy was talking? The experience being described was not abnormal at all - if you make a request outside of what they know how to answer, you may as well be asking them how to balance the deficit, or what the meaning of life is. Japanese people do NOT deal well with being asked questions they don't know the answer to. 99% of the time it leads to the deer in the headlights response.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

She presses the button on the till that says 'Sundae' (or whatever), and that rings up the price. There isn't a button for 'Sundae with slightly more sauce' or 'extra sauce on the Sundae', so you were insisting that she mess with the system

You've been here too long! She could just put on the extra sauce without pressing the button. No need to mess with the system. The cost of a little extra sauce balanced out by all the requests for no mayo.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What does that have to do with Japan? I've never had a wrong order at McDonalds here, and the service is always extremely polite.

Sorry, the above should have said:

I have had the exact opposite experience. In fact, it is fast food overseas that gets on my nerves. The order is almost always gotten wrong. The service people look like you are putting them out by being there and that they are doing you the biggest of favors in serving you. I have gotten everything I have ask for at fast food restaurants in Japan (and other service establishments as well) and gotten it with politeness and a smile.

Just not flexible.

I disagree. I have never had any trouble getting what I wanted. Not only do I get it, but it is given to me promptly, politely and with a smile. As cleo asked above, what are you expecting in the way of flexibility? Are you expecting people to break rules or do something that may get them in trouble? Again, I cannot remember a time when I have not had a request of mine granted in a fast food restaurant in Japan.

How do you know how fast the guy was talking?

I don't understand your question. I am referring to people complaining that Japanese people say hmmm when asked a question. Doesn't hmmmm indicate someone is thinking about something to you? It does to me.

Japanese people do NOT deal well with being asked questions they don't know the answer to.

You are expecting people to answer a question that they don't know the answer to? Sorry, I think 100% of the world's people deal about the same with regard to answering questions that they do not know the answers to. Are you hoping for some special mind reading technique? How do you deal with questions you do not know the answer to? Do you just make up something on the spot?

Perhaps you need to be clearer in your communications. I certainly do not understand what you are expecting above.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sorry, the above should have said:

That makes more sense.

I disagree. I have never had any trouble getting what I wanted. Not only do I get it, but it is given to me promptly, politely and with a smile. As cleo asked above, what are you expecting in the way of flexibility? Are you expecting people to break rules or do something that may get them in trouble? Again, I cannot remember a time when I have not had a request of mine granted in a fast food restaurant in Japan.

Well for example, I'd like them to sell me some BBQ sauce, that they have in the store, available. And it's not like they cannot give it to me - when they first stopped selling, I started ordering chicken McNuggets, minus the nuggest, with BBQ sauce. They got annoyed, then gave me the BBQ sauce - for free. I was willing to pay for it like I had previously.

Now, getting to 'expecting them to break rules that may get them into trouble' - this is exactly what I'm speaking of. There is no flexibility. The company makes a rule, and the employee must follow it to the line. Customer be damned. The problem with this mentality is that over however many decades of this behavior, it has evolved from 'the employee must follow the line' to 'the employee has no clue how to deal with anything that is outside of the line'. If you ask for something that isn't against the rules, but isn't in the rules, staff here have no idea what to do, or how to effectively deal with it.

You are expecting people to answer a question that they don't know the answer to?

Um, no. Are you reading someone else's post? I didn't say that. I said they do not deal WELL with questions they don't know the answer to. There are plenty of cultures in the world where they say 'I'm not sure, but let me find out for you'. There are plenty of cultures in the world where they will say 'I'm sorry, but I don't know'. There are plenty of cultures in the world where they will just make a decision one way or the other when they don't know an answer.

I don't understand your question. I am referring to people complaining that Japanese people say hmmm when asked a question. Doesn't hmmmm indicate someone is thinking about something to you? It does to me.

Have you never asked a question to a Japanese person and received the deer in the headlights ummmmmmm response, with no answer one way or the other but just a cocking of the head and 'unnnnnnnn?' It's pretty common.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

**She presses the button on the till that says 'Sundae' (or whatever), and that rings up the price. There isn't a button for 'Sundae with slightly more sauce' or 'extra sauce on the Sundae', so you were insisting that she mess with the system. Or were you expecting the extra sauce to be a freebie on the QT? Why should she have to deal with that on her minimum wage? If you want a flexible menu, you go to a proper restaurant, not a McD's or a Kentucky.

Gotta laff at all these folk complaining about people being incapable of thinking, when they're the one eating junk.**

Oh Cleo, come off it. The girl just needs to add a little extra sauce. The sauce isn't measured, there are no extra buttons. You get the same reaction if you ask for no ice, no pickles or no ketchup - all saving these companies money. The problem is that people here haven't be taught problem solving skills nor are they given the power to do so. Instead, they are taught to go running to the manager or boss for everything little thing which then takes up HIS/HER time which means less work gets done. A little common sense would go a long way here.

As for eating crap, should someone expect less customer service just because they aren't food snobs?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Well for example, I'd like them to sell me some BBQ sauce, that they have in the store, available.

I don't understand. Sorry, it is probably just me. Are you suggesting they should sell you BBQ sauce? They are not a supermarket. Why would you buy chicken just to get the sauce? Just go to a store and buy it yourself. It sounds like asking a McDonalds to sell you their straws, cups and the like. They are not in the supply business. It is a restaurant. I know I used to order the Mega Macs without the sauce and I'd ask for a BBQ sauce pack instead and I got it every time at every restaurant I've ever been to. Again, I got it promptly, politely and with a smile each and every time.

There is no flexibility.

All I can say is that we've had very different experiences.

The company makes a rule, and the employee must follow it to the line.

That is the general rule for companies. If an employee does not follow the rules, they can get canned. This is true anywhere. Companies are businesses and they are in the business to make money, first and foremost. However, as I wrote above, I have always gotten everything I have requested, even if it was a bit of a special request.

If you ask for something that isn't against the rules, but isn't in the rules, staff here have no idea what to do, or how to effectively deal with it.

Again, we have had different experiences. Having not been there when yours happened I cannot comment further. I just know I get what I want and I get it promptly, politely and with a smile.

Have you never asked a question to a Japanese person and received the deer in the headlights ummmmmmm response, with no answer one way or the other but just a cocking of the head and 'unnnnnnnn?' It's pretty common.

I have received this response from people all over the planet at one time or another. I do not think it is a uniquely Japanese reaction. However, I admit that I have not experienced this all that much at any rate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@kibousha

Shy herbivore

Herbivore? I've never met a Japanese male vegetarian. Or are you suggesting that all vegetarians are wimps? !!

@cleo

You absolutely reinforced lationz's point. Doing stuff off-the-cuff is not really the Japanese way. Adding a little extra sauce is something that I think any MaccyD worker around the world would gladly do, except in Japan (ironically, famed for its customer service.) Anyway, I'm not "incapable of thinking" and I often eat at MacDonald's. Outside Japan, they serve excellent veggieburgers (with extra sauce if you want it.)

@falsflagsteve

There are plenty of articles on JT pointing out the 'cool' stuff in Japanese culture, so there's no need to get huffy if it gently points out a negative aspect.

@Vicovesdrama

but not all of them are unique to Japan

Of course not, but in Japan it's the norm rather than the exception.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

She could just put on the extra sauce without pressing the button....The cost of a little extra sauce balanced out by all the requests for no mayo.

In other words, you want a freebie? It's not the place of a minimum wage baito worker to make corporate policy regarding profit margins on the hoof.

And where are all these people requesting no mayo? Most Japanese people seem to love mayo and splatter it on everything.

You get the same reaction if you ask for no ice, no pickles or no ketchup - all saving these companies money

In my time I've asked for all of those, with no problems at all. Ask for no pickles and they make you up a nice fresh pickleless burger and bring it over to your table with a smile.

The problem is that people here haven't be taught problem solving skills nor are they given the power to do so.

In fast food joints, where the whole point is that the system compartmentalises everything? Funny how I can go to an ordinary restaurant and get the menu tweaked all kinds of ways - the people working there are also 'people here'.

Doing stuff off-the-cuff is not really the Japanese way.

See above. Ordinary restaurants, ordinary shops, are plenty flexible, do plenty of off-the-cuff stuff. As a vegetarian I couldn't eat out if they didn't.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I don't understand. Sorry, it is probably just me. Are you suggesting they should sell you BBQ sauce? They are not a supermarket. Why would you buy chicken just to get the sauce? Just go to a store and buy it yourself. It sounds like asking a McDonalds to sell you their straws, cups and the like. They are not in the supply business.

I think it is just you, it's not a hard concept to understand. But I'll try again.

I am a customer. My 'dining experience' is improved when I am able to each BBQ sauce with my french fries. I rarely make a trip to the supermarket to buy BBQ sauce before going to McDonalds. They do happen to have BBQ sauce in McDonalds, which they give to customers with the chicken nuggets. But no matter how nicely you ask, they will not give it to you or sell it to you. I was able to discover that you can annoy them into giving it to you, if you order chicken McNuggets, without the chicken. This goes to show that they can give it to you, with the right leverage.

However, I as a customer don't want to have to order chicken McNuggets without the chicken McNuggets, just so I can get an order of BBQ sauce, so I don't do it anymore.

Now in other countries, this would be a non-issue. They would either give you the BBQ sauce, or they would sell it to you. I have no problem with paying for it. But in Japan - no flexibility, they will not give it to you, and they will not sell it to you. They have a rule, and rather than working to ensure customers have a good experience, they would rather... well to be honest I don't think it's an example of something they would rather do, I think they just have no clue how to deal with it one way or another.

I know I used to order the Mega Macs without the sauce and I'd ask for a BBQ sauce pack instead and I got it every time at every restaurant I've ever been to. Again, I got it promptly, politely and with a smile each and every time.

Sorry, but I just don't believe you on this. If you had said any other condiment other than BBQ sauce, I'd give you the benefit of the doubt. But I've tried getting BBQ sauce at McDs all over the country, and I still ask every time, even knowing they will say know. Occasionally I get someone who will slip me one discretely.

That is the general rule for companies. If an employee does not follow the rules, they can get canned.

You missed the point of that. I wasn't saying that employees should break the rules. Actually, what I was referring to was #6 in the article, that low-level employees cannot make decisions here.

I have received this response from people all over the planet at one time or another. I do not think it is a uniquely Japanese reaction. However, I admit that I have not experienced this all that much at any rate.

Do you actually live in Japan? I'm starting to feel as if I'm discussing actual life in Japan with a sometimes tourist.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As for eating crap, should someone expect less customer service just because they aren't food snobs?

Yes. It's a frigging fast food joint. You queue up, you order, they grab a few pre-cooked items and machine-dispensed drinks and throw them on a tray for you. You pay. You go and picnic at your table. If you're a well-behaved customer, you throw away your garbage afterwards. Clearly this is a reduced-service option.

The "problem" is not only about staff who won't be flexible for customers, but also about customers who are used to having their own way in one country and then bring that baggage to another. There are many countries where you can't simply start issuing instructions in a restaurant about wanting more of this and less of that. A lot of North Americans don't seem to realize this, and some make a point of getting annoyed about it.
-2 ( +2 / -4 )

But no matter how nicely you ask, they will not give it to you or sell it to you.

Did you actually read my post? They have given it to me every time I have asked for it. Every time. In every restaurant I have ever visited.

This goes to show that they can give it to you, with the right leverage.

I didn't need 'leverage'. I just asked and I got it.

Sorry, but I just don't believe you on this.

That is up to you. However, I can only relate my own experiences, whether you believe them or not is totally up to you. I certainly enjoyed the combination, though and I had not trouble getting the BBQ sauce with which to enjoy it.

You missed the point of that. I wasn't saying that employees should break the rules.

Read what you wrote and explain the point I missed again, please:

The company makes a rule, and the employee must follow it to the line.

See, this is the part where I wrote: That is the general rule for companies. If an employee does not follow the rules, they can get canned. This is true anywhere.

Do you actually live in Japan?

Ahhh, the question of the budding expert on Japan. Listen, I get what I want, when I want it promptly, politely and with a smile. You might want to question if it isn't something in the method that you are using that is preventing you from getting what you want.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Reformedbasher

The "Hmmmmmm" is given as a full answer. As I said, they look at each other, do their harmonics 2-5 times at varying pitches, nod or incline their heads, and then look back at the boss. There is a rather long period of silence, followed by the boss asking, "Well? What do you think?" or something of that nature, and then they either repeat their concerto, or just stare at him. He has never, that I've seen, been abusive, but he (not to mention all of us) need an answer and when people just... don't... have an answer when they're supposed to, that's kind of incompetent. But, I've had this happen to me with doctors, researchers, business professionals, and may other types. It's just constant at work, so that's the experience I mentioned.

And as for my Mac Attacks, leave McDonald's alone! :D

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interesting.

I have been on the other end of this is the UK working in a chain liquor store. Our cash resister was programmed from HQ hundreds of miles away so we could never vary anything. E.g. when a customer did not want their free gifts of potato chips etc I would have to ask if I could have them - the customer would say no - just ring up the beer and I could not do that because the register would not let me + at the end of the week everything would be stock checked.

Oh, and yes - a minimum wage does not get you staff that care much.

So, maybe not just Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Readers, please stop bickering. Focus your comments on the story and not at each other.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Did you actually read my post? They have given it to me every time I have asked for it. Every time. In every restaurant I have ever visited.

I ask for BBQ sauce every time I go to McDs. I've been told on more than one occasion that it's company policy. Yet you are saying got it every time without question or comment. But as we've been discussing, low-level employees do not have the authority to make decisions like this. So something isn't matching up right with what you are saying.

See, this is the part where I wrote: That is the general rule for companies. If an employee does not follow the rules, they can get canned.

Yes. And in Japan, they have thick rulebooks, with rules for everything they can think of. And this limits flexibility, which is what I've been saying all along.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I guess it's either they don't want to use their brain to think or they're a kiss-a**, just bowing and say HAI to anything the boss say

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In other words, you want a freebie? It's not the place of a minimum wage baito worker to make corporate policy regarding profit margins on the hoof. And where are all these people requesting no mayo? Most Japanese people seem to love mayo and splatter it on everything.

My (Japanese) girlfriend hates mayo and always requests stuff without it, often faced with the same confused response. We're food snobs too so not at McDonalds either. The effects of customising your order like that are zero on profit as just as many people request no something as extra something.. in any case, "freebie" is ridiculous, we're talking about the same cost as grabbing a few extra napkins and much less than, say, flushing the toilet in a restaurant.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The group-think idea of Japanese is nonsense- its just them pretending. Get them one on one and they will do manipulating, pushing their ideas and complaining. Some are hopeless followers.

Characteristics of Japanese permanent employees- bad at doing their jobs right- my wife is doing a boring fairly simple job. The permanent are inconsistant- first giving her great autonomy as leader then pulling all that off the next day. Then they can't fully explain a new task and put few people on a task they suddenly decide is urgent.

This Japanese culture is not what made Japan great. It was a few radicals who brought the best ideas and systems- people never thought of normal Japanese by Japanese. The Japanese thinking has been pulling the country backwards.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Getting back to the article which has very little to do with McDonalds.....I reckon it is quite an accurate summary of why the decision-making process is so slow and hesitant at many companies in Japan.

Although it seems like a bad system, it may not affect the economy as much as one might think. Eamonn Fingleton writes that the Japanese government gives misleadingly large numbers for its ratio of national debt to GDP on purpose. Hence the conclusion that Japan is the Greece of East Asia. Actually Japan's finances are so strong that it more or less acts as lender of last resort to the world financial system. In particular as the world's largest creditor nation (still!), it has propped up such debtor nations as the US, UK, France, and Italy. In 2009 it even reached into its pocket to advance $100 billion to keep the IMF afloat. Not long ago the MOF was borrowing at less than 1 percent over 10 years. That is the second lowest rate in the world after Switzerland. Some think the high yen is a symptom of a dysfunctional economy but Japan's currency is high because its economy is one of the world's strongest.

So Japan's system may actually be working but they just don't want to brag about it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, I am one of those people that asks for special orders and I am happy to say that I get them, be it BBQ sauce for my hamburger or my salad dressing on the side at a sit down restaurant. Often people I am with ask for something with the onions removed and it is done as requested. I am generally very impressed with Japanese service and I am surprised every time I go to a western country where I am expected to pay a 'tip' for service that is not nearly as good ad the service I receive in Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

At a restaurant called Coco's, which some of you probably know, to go with fries they have on the menu a pot containing either ketchup and mayonnaise or bbq sauce and mayonnaise, but as mayonnaise and fries is rather crap I asked for bbq sauce and ketchup. The first time was no problem, I got a pot of ketchup and bbq sauce. The second time I was refused and I didn't say anything cos I was with my family and didn't want to cause a scene, the third time I was again told it was impossible but I asked the waitress to go and check because I'd been given it before. She went and checked and sure enough she said it was, amazingly, ok. Now I see nothing in this at all to warrant not changing that. There's nothing extra being requested, nothing you don't get given anyway, it's just the third variation of the combination that they obviously have the ingredients for and for some unfathomable reason don't have written on the menu. But this third time the gimps didn't give me a pot of ketchup and bbq sauce, they gave me one pot of bbq and mayo, and one of ketchup and mayo, which I didn't even bluddy want! It was as if they were cutting off their nose to spite their face by resolutely refusing to deviate from the stated menu items but by doing so giving me more than what I'd paid for..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the third time I was again told it was impossible but I asked the waitress to go and check because I'd been given it before. She went and checked and sure enough she said it was, amazingly, ok.

Yeah, the Japanese will often default to 'no' when they don't know. They would rather just say it cannot be done, preventing any kind of issues that may arise, rather than actually determining if it can be done or not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Its quite simple, if you don't like the inflexibility of the establishment that you're dealing with, inform them so, ask them if they can adapt to your needs, and if not, take your business elsewhere. Give a small start-up a chance, and at the same time be part of a revolution in Japan to change things.. if there's no where else to go, then, that maybe an opportunity - maybe you're not alone... maybe an unemployed friend would welcome a suggestion like that ? Perhaps some support too ? Is there a kick-starter model within Japan ???

0 ( +0 / -0 )

if you don't like the inflexibility of the establishment that you're dealing with, inform them so, ask them if they can adapt to your needs, and if not, take your business elsewhere

You'd never be able to eat at restaurants in Japan if you did this! Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but very few restaurants have much flexibility. You'd be limiting yourself to a very, very narrow selection of restaurants.

No equivalent to Kickstart here.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If it wasn't bad, the economy wouldn't be in the toilet.

Japan's economy being in the toilet has very little to do with the points made in this article.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

What are you talking about? The economy being in the toilet is a direct result of the points made in this article.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@cleo

As a vegetarian I couldn't eat out if they didn't.

Now that's a good point... although for me that has simply meant having stuff removed. The exception was when I stayed in a JSDF hospital for a week. The secretary was adamant they couldn't accommodate a vegetarian diet and told me to bring in a week's worth of food. So I brought in 14 Indian meals and put them in the cupboard. On hearing of my predicament, the hospital chef came to visit me. I explained what I liked, and every day he cooked me a pre-Meiji Japanese vegetarian meal, and beamed with delight when he said that "most Japanese have forgotten how to cook this!"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I ask for BBQ sauce every time I go to McDs. I've been told on more than one occasion that it's company policy. Yet you are saying got it every time without question or comment.

I checked and I found out why. I guess it depends on the store and the amount of popularity of the item and the amount of stock available for that item. If, as in this case, an item is supposed to be paired with a specific product such as the McNuggets, that store will not give the sauce out separately so as not to run out when it is requested with the McNuggets. I know this is McDonald's Japan policy, but I don't know if it is outside Japan. I guess the ones I frequent either have more stock or the sauces I like are less popular.

As to decision making and the giving of opinions, I think it really has a lot to do with the age and attitude of the bosses. In every working environment I have had the pleasure of being in, when given the chance, the people around me not only gave their opinions very freely, but they also made decisions in the same manner. If they are not able to do so, it is the people in charge who are at fault.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Strangerland They would rather just say it cannot be done, preventing any kind of issues that may arise, rather than actually determining if it can be done or not.

This to me is the exact definition of laziness but earlier you seemed to disagree.

In a situation where someone chooses to do the easier but ultimately unhelpful (no)thing rather than the difficult but correct thing, that is being lazy.

I'm not saying this is an exclusively Japanese trait as laziness is inherently human. However since this site is about Japan, my observation is that here if someone is faced with a decision whereby they would have to think critically they tend to be myopic and/or will defer the responsibility of thinking to someone who isn't as lazy (or who has the experience of dealing with a similar situation.)

Even if a particular habit isn't necessarily the optimal way of doing things, humans are creatures of habit and will stick to what they know because it requires no additional expense of energy. Ideally, when an action becomes a habit, the brain has freed up resources to accomplish other (better, newer) things. When someone doesn't use those freed up resources for any purpose but chooses to only do things based on the minimal expenditure of energy (habit) then they are lazy.

@Strangerland The economy being in the toilet is a direct result of the points made in this article.

Again, psychologically this can be attributed to laziness more than anything else. When humans are comfortable, such as in the first world conditions of Japan, they are generally unwilling to expend energy since there is little to tangibly gain and it brings discomfort. People in China don't have a harder working mentality because of culture, it's because their lives can get objectively better if they work hard. In Japan, working hard doesn't change much.

Having a larger focus on intrinsic motivation would eliminate most of the problems listed here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

they gave me one pot of bbq and mayo, and one of ketchup and mayo, which I didn't even bluddy want! It was as if they were cutting off their nose to spite their face by resolutely refusing to deviate from the stated menu items

In a place like Cocos they probably have the little pots all filled and lined up in the kitchen, waiting to go out. Giving you one of each would be easier than filling one pot different from all the rest.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Cleo - thanks for that. Really helpful information there. Would, save your perspicacious analysis, have escaped my notice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Back to macdonalds. I really don't care for those dehydrated onions, their peper seasoning or the fake cheese. Have only been refused "no seasoning" one time in my ten years here. That was in Kyoto during peak lunch. No problems other than that. But ask for extra onions. No way.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I am baffled by the fact people here seem to think that eating at a fast food place means you should accept less than good service. Your society is only as good as your lowest denominators, ie, fast food restaurants and fast food restaurant workers when it comes to the food industry. I've been to third world countries where people who have served me don't speak the same language, probably earn less than a dollar an hour, but will bend over backwards to ensure you get what you need/want as a consumer. I've also been to countries like America, well known for its excellent service, where I have been astounded by how helpful and accommodating people are, especially in fast food restaurants.

It's quite sad that some people here seem to accept the poor service in Japan as being the norm.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I find it funny that everyone is discussing McD an USA company when the article is about Japanese businesses.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@it's me

Up until 2003, McD was owned by Den Fujita, who sold the contract back to McD USA to retire. Plus all the individually owned franchises. "McD Japan" was founded by a Japanese.

And just for shits-n-giggles, here's a classic line from 1971 of Fujita's McD Japan strategy:

"The reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years... If we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white, and our hair blonde."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Eamonn Fingleton writes that the Japanese government...."

LOL. I suggest you read about the outlook he held for the Japanese economy around 10 to 15 years ago. Makes for entertaining reading. He's not an economist. He's an "e-wronga-mist"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I love this article and I can tell you from my own experience from being around the Japanese is that, 1 they don't take reckless risks that may cost their companies to crash!

Their government isn't like our government by robbing the tax payers in a billion or 2 in bailouts when firms like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac take a reckless gamble- FAIL then cry for a billion(s) handout from the Government. And who's regulating those bozos? Nobody. The Japanese carefully calculate their risk market and as slow as it may seem for the rushed reckless American investors -the slower process in Japan works for Japan.

Japan is one of the most wealthiest and most advanced nations in the world. The Japanese are smart and they save their money. Americans, our Government, & Wall Street spend themselves into an endless debt creating a debt driven culture in America, and they need to take some Social Economic Classes from the Japanese and a class on Fiscal Responsibility as well.
-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Cleo

In a place like Cocos they probably have the little pots all filled and lined up in the kitchen, waiting to go out. Giving you one of each would be easier than filling one pot different from all the rest.

I very much doubt that. I've never seen that happen in any restaurant I've worked at. And even if they did it is absolutely nothing extra on their part to get another pot and put the 3rd combo in.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Saketown

Your comments are amazing!

"when firms like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac take a reckless gamble"

85% of the subprime lending was done by unregulated private institutions seeking short-term profit, not Fannie or Freddie, and then securitized by the investment banks and other private institutions.

"The Japanese are smart and they save their money. Americans, our Government, & Wall Street spend themselves into an endless debt."

I guess you're not aware that Japan's fiscal debt is way, way higher than America's, per capita? The savings rate is also nosediving.

"they don't take reckless risks that may cost their companies to crash!"

It seems you're also unaware of the 1990 burst of the economic bubble, which shrank the Nikkei to a quarter of its previous value and from which Japan has never fully recovered from. Ever heard of Yamaichi Securities?

History shows that the Japanese are the masters of loose and reckless economic behavior.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I went to a korean restaurant in Japan, I asked for meat to be excluded in my meal and ask egg instead in exchange, logically i deserve it because the price of the meal includes the meat so technically it should be cheeper but an egg request would be good enough in replace to prevent a fuss but NO~...

It infuriates me how unfair the businesses are, if u take off something from the menu its ok, still pay full price, fine, exchange instead, egg is much cheeper than meat, duh

I understand that the management calculates the stock precisely how much slices a 50g tomato should be cut to make xyz burgers, but they should also know to value the customers, think what the customers want, that was the fundamental of business right pff

Its not the japanese workers, its the superiors who are bad decision makers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

**In other words, you want a freebie? It's not the place of a minimum wage baito worker to make corporate policy regarding profit margins on the hoof.

And where are all these people requesting no mayo? Most Japanese people seem to love mayo and splatter it on everything.

In my time I've asked for all of those, with no problems at all. Ask for no pickles and they make you up a nice fresh pickleless burger and bring it over to your table with a smile. **

For every person who asks for a "freebie" someone asks for something to be left off. I am sure someone who stuffs their bags with napkins and straws costs the company more money.

You clearly aren't seeing the issue here. Perhaps when YOU ask for pickles to be left off their isn't an issue but for others, the same request HAS been an issue. Hence people's frustrations as the lack of common sense. Again, as I often have to remind you, your experiences are not the same as others'. Numerous times I have asked for meat to be left off salads or whatever it is I have ordered when meat can easily be left off and have been told it is not possible or the waitress has to go and get the manager who will say they can do it. It is a lack of training and a lack of power given to these staff. If they can't handle someone asking for something extra or to be left off, they shouldn't be doing the job. Even in those stuck up, fancy smancy places I have had waitresses/waiters run to the manager or state no over a very reasonable "Can I have the garden salad without bacon please". The only places I know I am going to get meatless food is at a place I go to often and know the owner - not all fancy and expensive BTW

are plenty flexible, do plenty of off-the-cuff stuff. This has got to be a joke. Japanese customer service is the most inflexible I have come across in all my years of traveling. The only time you get flexibility is when you are a regular customer and the staff/owner knows you. Japan is well known for this and to suggest anything else is laughable - hence the whole article.

I'll give you another example of rigidity and inflexibility. I use the local library. I ordered a book from another library another town over. The book was well over 1000 pages and I didn't have the time to read it all in the two weeks I was given. I was the only person who had ever checked it out. I went in, asked if I could have it for another two weeks. The answer was... no. Someone might want it. Fine. Can you call the other library and ask if someone has requested it? No. I was supposed to give it back, reorder it and wait for it to be sent from my library back to the owning library and then have it sent back to mine if no one wanted it. It would take about a week IF no one wanted it. I told the women that was crazy and would cost tax payers money when all she had to do was pick up the phone - I even had the number for her to call. She kept repeating it was the rules. I got fed up, asked to speak to the manager and explained the situation to him. He called the other library, gave me the book and off I went - telling the women "Murai janai" as I went out the door. I wasn't asking for a "freebie", I wasn't asking for anything above and beyond common sense. However, even a simple task such as the above is often impossible.

I would never suggest anyone do business with a Japanese company because of the rigidity, the lack of common sense, the poor training and the fact that many can't make decisions on their own. It's a fine example of how the education system has dumbed society down for the benefit of the powerful - mangers, presidents, the government... What they've done is created a society that is mostly useless, follows the rules blindly and doesn't questions authority, the government or those in positions of power. Great for those in power, bad for the country and the economy. Clearly.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

For every person who asks for a "freebie" someone asks for something to be left off.

But it's still not up to the kid on the counter to make the decision. If you want proper restaurant service, go to a proper restaurant where they don't expect you to carry our own food to your plastic table, eat out of cardboard and clear up after yourself.

I am sure someone who stuffs their bags with napkins and straws costs the company more money.

Someone who stuffs their bag with napkins and straws (that they aren't using for the meal they are consuming) is a thief.

You clearly aren't seeing the issue here. Perhaps when YOU ask for pickles to be left off their isn't an issue but for others, the same request HAS been an issue. Hence people's frustrations as the lack of common sense. Again, as I often have to remind you, your experiences are not the same as others'.

It works both ways. I'm not saying it's never a problem; I'm simply refuting the claim that it's always a problem and thus something wrong with 'the people here'. It isn't. As you say, not everyone's experiences are the same. (If different people are having different experiences in the same situation, maybe it isn't the situation that's the issue?)

Even in those stuck up, fancy smancy places

Actually I find it's the posh places that are the most rigid; they have some kind of weird pride that prevents them changing their 'standards' even for the sake of giving the customer what she wants; they can't bring themselves to 'adulterate' their dishes by leaving out or altering even one ingredient. If you want flexibility, the small- to medium-sized family-run restaurants are way better on the whole than posh places, fast-food places or the big-chain so-called family restaurants where the food arrives ready-prepared on the back of a truck.

The only time you get flexibility is when you are a regular customer and the staff/owner knows you.

In some cases, yes, you can expect a more personal service if you're personally known; but the only way to get flexibility?? No. If I have no problem getting good service at the other end of the country to where I live, which I have found to be the case, obviously being a regular customer is not a deciding factor.

off I went - telling the women "Murai janai" as I went out the door.

Erm, couldn't be your language skills causing some of the problems you seem to be having on a regular basis? :-)

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Erm, couldn't be your language skills causing some of the problems you seem to be having on a regular basis? :-)

Combined that with personality (bad attitude) then his/her story becomes believable.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I agree with Nigelboy, heh he.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

He, the bad attitude of common sense.

Cleo, sorry, autocorrection. I'm sure you knew exactly what I meant but rather than address the issue, you'll take a cheap shot.

And no one is saying they don't get substitutes and changes but it is rare. And you're right, the kid at the counter can't make the decision. That's the issue. Neither can most workers. Did you read the article?

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

@tmarie

Thanks for making Japan a better place for the rest of us through your constant hard work at educating the Japanese into being better people.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

You're welcome Steve. However, I can't take all the credit. There are also Japanese people making it a better place as well.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

OK this is all about Japan. See where US is nowadays.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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