lifestyle

Customer service in Japan vs Europe

110 Comments
By Steven Simonitch

One of the things almost all foreign tourists to Japan comment on is the quality of customer service. The phrase “the customer is god” is hammered into Japanese customer service and restaurant staff and the politeness and thoroughness with which they tend to you certainly does a great job at making you feel like one.

Yet while there are plenty of stories on the Internet about Japanese customer service from a foreigner’s perspective, what do the Japanese think about the rest of the world’s manners?

Reiko Kawakami over at Excite Japan shares her observations about shopping and customer service in the West vs Japan based on her experience living abroad in England, Italy and Romania.

So how does a lady hailing from a country where the customer is king view these 3 Western countries? Her analysis follows below:

How staff treat customers

Japan: Always put the customer before yourself. You don’t have to go so far as to say everything looks good on them, but you should avoid offending them at all costs.

The West: “The customer is god? Yeah, right!” While there’s still the idea of respecting the customer (they do carry the wallet, after all), they are usually treated as equals. It doesn’t matter if its your job to serve them: if a customer does something you don’t like, you let them know it. I once pointed out to a store clerk in England that they made a mistake at the register and they just shot back at me with: “All I did was put it through the scanner.” I go to the service counter to look for help but no one is there. No one comes to help me when I can’t find something in the store. And it’s even worse in Italy and Romania, where staff and customers will yell at each other in loud voices — a scene that would leave any Japanese person stunned.

Talking in-store

Japan: There is no personal chatting between staff while on duty. You should be ready to attend to a customer’s needs at a moment's notice.

The West: Feel free to chat about whatever you want with whoever you want. Some staff even stand there staring at their cell phones and paying no attention to what’s going on around them. While in Romania, I once asked a store clerk for help finding something while they were in the middle of a conversation and, without pausing to address me, they just pointed their finger as if to say “over there!” When I went to report this to the store manager, I was told that he was away on vacation for a month.

Eating in-store

Japan: You do not eat in front of customers. In fact, unless you work at a restaurant, you shouldn’t even think about eating in the store at all.

The West: At a clothing store in England I witnessed a young lady behind the counter snacking on potato chips and then lick her fingers to clean(?) them after a customer approached. Please … for the love of god … wash your hands. Why are you even eating potato chips during your shift in the first place? Another time, while waiting in line to buy tickets, the elderly woman at the ticketing counter turned to me and said: “Could you wait until after I have a sip of tea?” and proceeded to take a drink from the cup on her desk ... in front of everyone in line. Sure, she seemed tired from helping customer after customer, but it’s not like we have all day either, right? At least, that’s what I thought until I noticed no one else around me seemed to care.

Wrapping

Japan: While Japan is learning to be less wasteful with gift-wrapping, it’s still an important part of keeping a presentable store. Use waterproof wrapping on rainy days, double-bag for heavy items: you should do what you can so as not to inconvenience the customer.

The West: A lack of taste and skill unthinkable in Japan. I’ve found myself offering to gift-wrap for them time and time again. Even in fashionable Italy, make one false move and you’ll be handed a bundle of wrapping paper held sloppily together with cellophane tape. Somebody please teach these people how to wrap!

The customers: taste-testing vs blatant in-store snacking

Japan: Taste-testing is done at designated areas with sample food prepared by staff. All other food is not yours until paid for and should be treated with care.

The West: The moment it hits the cart, that food is yours. In Romania, I saw one customer rip open a pack of fruit and start picking away at it and another place their opened bottle of juice down for scanning at the register. While waiting to pay at the counter with a friend, I wondered out loud what a certain candy tastes like and my friend opened up the package on the spot and handed me a “sample.” “I hear recently some people are being told not to do this,” my friend tells me. No, no, no: you should never have been doing this in the first place. It seems recently young people are better about waiting until they get home but elderly folks have no reservations about holding personal tasting parties whenever and wherever they please.

The customers: trying on clothes

Japan: Major clothing stores these days have combined male-female dressing rooms, but guys are never allowed in underwear or swimsuit dressing rooms.

The West: Many male customers accompany their girlfriends when buying underwear ... all the way to the dressing room. Some excited guys peek in to check on their girlfriends or even ask them to try on something else they found. I’ve even seen guys mistakenly open the curtains to the wrong dressing room while the occupant is in the middle of changing. And then there’s people leaving their trash in the dressing room after they finish. Dear store staff, please manage your customers a bit better, would you?

Source: Excite Bit

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110 Comments
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hmmmmmm... "Japan does THIS" - "But one time when I was overseas THIS happened"

C'mon, really? You can't base a whole countries customer services purely off 1 or 2 incidents. Although I do agree customer service in japan is more important than just about everywhere else. However, a nations customer service is reflective of the nation it self. I'm confident that Romanians wouldn't see there customer service lacking, cause it would be just how they like it. Loud, fun, easy going.

In all honesty I prefer more relaxed and easy going customer service, if im in a clothing store I hate it when a customer service person asks me if I need help of if what I've chosen looks good on me. I don't need someone telling me what they think will look good on me or falsely boosting my ego. Everybody knows if someone says "hey that looks super great on you" they are either A) lying B) doing there job C) both.

All I want is for someone to say "hey man, hows it going".. then they can walk away and leave me to my own devices. That is my dream shopping experience right there... and guess what, surprise im Australian. Keep it relaxed, easy going, never serious. Like I said, a nations customer service is reflective of the nation it self.

-8 ( +6 / -14 )

ps. After thinking about it some more. I just realized that I try and avoid malls and shopping centers purely because I don't like when store employees try talk to me. Online shopping for the win.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

All the Japanese store "experiences" are beautiful generalizations (perhaps from a manual) devoid of any actual examples, and all the western "experiences" are somebody's chosen extreme cases generalized to whole cultures. After living in western countries for 35 years before coming to Japan, I do not recognize a single western shopping experience from this article. Despite having a western name, I find it hard to believe that the writer has ever been to a western country.

Sure, the non-racist store clerks in Japan offer a wide smile and accept your payment (if cash), but one can't expect too much hospitality in Japan. The best hospitality I've received was from a 300 yen ramen joint in Shinjuku.

-4 ( +10 / -14 )

Despite having a western name, I find it hard to believe that the writer has ever been to a western country.

The writer of the article is a westerner but he is relating the experiences of one Reiko Kawakami from Excite Japan (whatever that is)...

I would say though that Reiko's analysis is very one sided.... while there are many good points about Japanese customer service there are also many irritating negatives.... ask a japanese store attendant to do anything outside the prescribed norm and they get extremely flustered and often need to ask a supervisor before acting .... in other stores (even in Tokyo) I have been totally ignored as a foreigner which can be frustrating even if you speak japanese

5 ( +9 / -4 )

japan - where the customer is king unless there is even a slight deviation from the manual. CANNOT BE DONE. and i really really can`t stand the incessant whoops, chirps and bellowing from the staff almost anywhere you go. give me the quiet of the west.

11 ( +18 / -7 )

As an Asian who live in America, i 75% agree with this.

Western society are caring too much about individual rights and personal liberty.

Eastern society are caring too much about appearance and they see being modest is a culture pride even sometime kinda exaggerated.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Somebody please teach these people how to wrap!

Ummm - rather than whining about the customer service staff, how about teaching yourself how to wrap like the rest of us at home?

I think Reiko Kawakami should stay permanently in Japan - it is perfect - unlike these lazy, sloppy, chatty and unhelpful western countries!

5 ( +14 / -9 )

one more to the list:

Japan: Irasshaimaseeeeeeeeeeee, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase, Irasshaimase........ Irasshaimase

West: Goodmorning(afternoon) just once or nothing at all

11 ( +19 / -8 )

Kawakami-san....you're basically comparing Takashimaya/Daimaru-standard stores in Japan with an average low-end clothes shop in 'the West' (whatever that means). Compare that standard with Harrods or somewhere equivalent, without making these meaningless generalisations.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Things will be just peachy until you ask for something that is "out of the box" and then your shopping experience will deteriorate like a lead balloon.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Japan: Always put the customer before yourself.

I call BS on that!

Japan: There is no personal chatting between staff while on duty. You should be ready to attend to a customer’s needs at a moment’s notice.

And that!

Japan: Major clothing stores these days have combined male-female dressing rooms, but guys are never allowed in underwear or swimsuit dressing rooms.

And that. I've been in and/or outside dressing rooms when my wife/girlfriend has tried on underwear or swimsuits.

I’ve even seen guys mistakenly open the curtains to the wrong dressing room while the occupant is in the middle of changing.

Those people are called "idiots" and they are as abundant in Japan as they are anywhere else.

One thing missed on this: Speed.

Japan: everything is slow and even simple things can take a LONG time to get done.

Another is: NOISE!

Japanese shops are too noisy. Stupid music blaring away and people shouting all the time. Just shut the hell up!! I have to block it out with music all the time to stop myself going insane.

Reiko Kawakami over at Excite Japan shares her observations about shopping and customer service in the West vs Japan based on her experience living abroad in England, Italy and Romania.

The typical: I have been to the overseas, and so I know the everything about the overseas Japanese person.

She's so insightful that she labels every country outside Japan as "The West". If she loves Japan so much, why did she even bother to go abroad in the first place?

Should we call her Comrad?

2 ( +15 / -13 )

Japan customer service is very inflexible and not very good in my opinion, I say that being self employed in the customer service industry.

Japanese customer service is only good if you order what's already existing if you want potato instead of rice on the dish - it most likely can't be done, unless you order it separate and trash the rice.

Arriving in Naha Airport asking a taxi driver to bring me to Ginowan 5km up the road, he responded "it's to far"!!

Going to the supermarket (regardless of branch or brand) asking for BRITA water-filters, people try to sell me printers even at the grocery store.

Asking for some basic items in Japanese language often get's a reply "Solly no Engrish" WHAT?!!

I think Japanese service industry will over long term go down the drain as it's inflexible, and store staff can not think out of the box, but today this is required everyday more, especially when you need a consultation say for example from an insurance company on which policy to choose than I'm not looking for a retailer which just graduated school and has less knowledge than me on the topic - but here nobody understands that.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

It's a shock when I shop in Japan and don't get asked to show my bag when I walk out.

She should have stayed in her own country? Um, judging by the complaints, maybe you should too? Not too late, off season tickets are cheap right?

I love shopping in Japan (for a guy that is). Whatever I want, I can find it. And I know I find knowledgable staff if I go to a specialist store, as opposed to the showoffs I encounter overseas. Customer service? I had staff do things take my stuff home and mend it in their own time because I was a regular customer. I have never seen anything like that overseas, ever.

And cheap and fashionable clothes too. I do buy some good things in Australia though - boots and RM WIlliams trousers, because they last a long time and fit better.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

Going to the supermarket (regardless of branch or brand) asking for BRITA water-filters, people try to sell me printers even at the grocery store.

And whose fault is that? Sounds like you need to work on your katakana pronunciation a little.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

while service in japan is generally very polite, they do have a problem with substitutions/flexibility. ask for anything not on the menu or in the manual and answer is invariably a polite sucking of the teeth and "sorry we can't do that". a lot of times they don't even ask the manager if its possible.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

where staff and customers will yell at each other in loud voices — a scene that would leave any Japanese person stunned.

Then there are lot of stunned persons in every mall and shopping center. Ever visited Akiba Yodobashi? I didn't think so either. All the yelling and mindless screaming inside Japanese malls and shops is just so mind-boggling to a westerner accustomed to lower noise pollution levels.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Going to the supermarket (regardless of branch or brand) asking for BRITA water-filters, people try to sell me printers even at the grocery store.

And whose fault is that? Sounds like you need to work on your katakana pronunciation a little.

I could show them the actual jug including the manual and they would not know...than again small village in Okinawa, I don't worry to much and I'm not saying the in my home country everything is better.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I’ve even seen guys mistakenly open the curtains to the wrong dressing room while the occupant is in the middle of changing.

Oh yeah - mistakenly. You're under arrest you funny, clumsy fellow.

Why are we judging the customer service of Romania compared to Japan? Its like comparing the Spanish and English football teams. One is a world-champ, the other is third world.

If I go to Romania, I will be happily surprised if they even have shops, let alone polite shop staff.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

She should have stayed in her own country? Um, judging by the complaints, maybe you should too? Not too late, off season tickets are cheap right?

No. Because you don't see me claiming everything from my home country is far superior to everything in "The East", when it's not. A woman gushing about how AMAZING Japanese CS is because she's had a few bad experiences in "The West" (TM) is pathetic.

Why doesn't she speak of any of her good experiences in places other than Japan? Or her bad experiences in Japan? The best CS I have ever had was not in my home country, but in Malaysia. It was far better than anything in my home country, and in Japan. But, I'm not going to say that Malaysian CS is amazing, because I had bad experiences too.

The woman who wrote this, just basically spouted her biased opinion.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

Well said Probie. End of discussion.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

while service in japan is generally very polite, they do have a problem with substitutions/flexibility. ask for anything not on the menu or in the manual and answer is invariably a polite sucking of the teeth and "sorry we can't do that".

fds, I agree with you, 100%! I guess flexibility doesn't mix well will manuals.

But you really can't blame the Japanese, since normally they don't get too much requests "off the menu". The Japanese customer tends to be by the book themselves. You don't see Japanese customers at mcd saying "Ok, I want the burger with extra lettuce, tomato and mayo...".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I first came to Japan (did not speak any Japanese back then), the Irrasshaimaseeeee shouted countless times by all sales persons in every shop I visited was indeed a scary experience. Noise (music, too much information, etc.) is something which is unavoidable in many stores here (I bet they think it is part of the service) and I am sure that western customers would rather do without it.

Japanese service is good once you get used to it. When I experienced it for the first time, I thought that adult people did not need so much care – because they are adult after all. I got similar feedback from many of my friends who came to visit me in Japan: “Do we really need so much service?”

3 ( +3 / -0 )

where staff and customers will yell at each other in loud voices.

Welcome to Eastern Europe, I'm in a country not to far from Romania and that is SOP here. Except for the new and upcoming supermarkets customer service is catch-as-catch-can and no such thing as a set price, my native wife can always score 10-20% lower than I can when I'm alone. Shopping in Japan sounds live heaven compared to here.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I like the customer service here in Japan overall. Yes, as many have said, it can be inflexible but service is generally very attentive. My main observation is that quite often it just seems rather fake and unnatural.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Here's a newsflash : most people are used to the service they receive in their home countries and that becomes the standard. This is also true in Reiko's case. No need to get offended by her biased remarks. My friends from the US make many similar comments when they visit Japan. I just find it funny that what they complain about is often what Japanese people like about service in this country, and vice versa.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

The moment it hits the cart, that food is yours.

She probably didn't watch the fiasco of a couple in Hawaii who ate a sandwich before buying it and were arrested, thrown in jail, and had their baby taken away from them. Oh, wait. We're looking for generalizations based on one incident, not a general survey.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@Spanki

My main observation is that quite often it just seems rather fake and unnatural.

Depends where you shop. I agree some of it's over the top but that's just the culture. I'm sure those shop assistants go home in a daze after shouting Irrashimase all day. Then again, I see a lot of insincere "So, how was your day?" from burned out checkout girls right before they check my bag overseas. I've given pointing out that it's got more than one pocket that they didn't search.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@borscht

She probably didn't watch the fiasco of a couple in Hawaii who ate a sandwich before buying it and were arrested, thrown in jail, and had their baby taken away from them.

Seriously? That's crazy.

We're looking for generalizations based on one incident, not a general survey.

Yeah, which is why I was having fun with some other posters before. (Am I becoming a troll? Hope not.) I guess we shouldn't generalise about good experiences either but that's better than dwelling on negative stuff. My biased opinion :-)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@bicultural

Here's a newsflash : most people are used to the service they receive in their home countries and that becomes the standard. This is also true in Reiko's case. No need to get offended by her biased remarks. My friends from the US make many similar comments when they visit Japan. I just find it funny that what they complain about is often what Japanese people like about service in this country, and vice versa.

Wow, you really are bicultural! So true, well put.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

hmm, I do get a little anxious before going to any clothing store. I just wish the people in the shop didn't bother me so much. I try and have my iPod in as much as possible. If im shopping I want to relax and not have tell every employee at every store how my day was.

Is this just me or are other people similar? :/

She should have stayed in her own country? Um, judging by the complaints, maybe you should too? Not too late, off season tickets are cheap right?

I hope you understand that my first comment was implying people will always prefer whatever is the norm in their own country. I wasn't saying she should of stayed in Japan. She grew up in japan, of course she will prefer japanese CS. If it were a Romanian comparing their CS to japans, they would probably argue their are too many rules in japan, its fake and no fun. Simple enough.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@jessebaybay

I thought your comment a fair enough observation. People generalise. Shopping can be a pain. This lady does go off a fair bit but we can't generalise about her being a "typical" Japanese either (whatever "typical Japanese is supposed to be).

I was actually having a dig at Des, and a friendly one at that. I "think" I get on with him more or less but maybe that's a false assumption :-)

But, if we go overseas, we should expect things to be different, right. The iPod is a good idea by the way, but pretty shop asistants can compliment me all day and I'll somehow bear it... all in the name of fostering international ties.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is a short summary of my overall experiences comparing CS in Japan and as a Westerner

Always put the customer before yourself. You don’t have to go so far as to say everything looks good on them, but you should avoid offending them at all costs.

For me the customer service is good, but as many people say, once you go out of the realm of what's on the menu or deviate in anyway, NO GO, NO WAY. Sometimes, when even asking for something outside of what the store sells, seems like the staff look a bit annoyed. So while CS in Japan is generally good, it's NOT the best IMO. But Reiko is funny. She is shocked by staff in Italy yelling at each other? I am shocked that when I go to McDonald's or MOS or ANY fast food place, why must I wait 10 min. for my food? This the whole FAST out of fast food. In that regard, Japan gets a failing grade. But the staff casually walk, setting my burger properly on the tray or putting it nice, very nicely in the bag. Now I waited so long, I lost my appetite practically.

Japan: There is no personal chatting between staff while on duty. You should be ready to attend to a customer’s needs at a moment’s notice.

While this is usually true, I have seen people talk when customers are not around or looking, so this again is misleading, does it bother me, not in the slightest, but don't make it seem Japanese are immune from ever talking to one another. Japanese are people too and people will talk.

Japan: You do not eat in front of customers. In fact, unless you work at a restaurant, you shouldn’t even think about eating in the store at all.

Again, this woman has no idea what she is talking about. I have caught staff eating many, many times, they had that "gotcha" look on their faces, priceless. They may not have been eating in from of the customer, but I walked in on them gorging many times, hey, people need to eat. I get it. I just don't like in Japan that when I am in a hurry, I don't often have time to sit down and have a nice lunch with a cup of tea. I am often on a tight schedule and I am running and eating, that works the best for me. I get stares often, but if I worry about what people say all day...

Japan: While Japan is learning to be less wasteful with gift-wrapping, it’s still an important part of keeping a presentable store. Use waterproof wrapping on rainy days, double-bag for heavy items: you should do what you can so as not to inconvenience the customer.

Can't argue here. Japan gets the GOLD in wrapping! Japanese have wrapping down to a science, they have a phD in wrapping, can't compete, they do it Über-nice, that is I feel guilty just opening it. But her coming down on the west, that is our culture, the wrapping for us is NOT the everything, it's the goody that's inside that counts, I mean, how long do you want to hold on to the wrapper?

Japan: Taste-testing is done at designated areas with sample food prepared by staff. All other food is not yours until paid for and should be treated with care.

This one just p***** me off! Ever Been to a Costco in Japan on a Sunday where they give FREE samples? People push and shove and I have seen people take and eat two or 3 samples. The staff can't seem to hold these people back, but Japanese can get pushy and especially the kids and everyone that wants to taste some of that Bulgolgi beef. I usually stay away from these long lines because I feel like I want to strangle some of these people, it reminds me of getting on the train during rush hour. In this area whenever you often have free food, Japanese can get quite aggressive in wanting to have a little taste. I think Costco or other places that give away samples need to make better guidelines as to how and proper manners and etiquette of taste testing, because Japanese are definitely not good at it. As for opening up small items while you are on route to the register, I personally don't think it is that bad of a thing, since you are going to buy it in the first place. But if you open a product and leave it, that is a totally different story.

Japan: Major clothing stores these days have combined male-female dressing rooms, but guys are never allowed in underwear or swimsuit dressing rooms.

What do I know? I'm a typical guy, I hate shopping.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Japan VS Europe ? Why not Asia VS Sweden ?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

was at a family restaurant in Osaka and I ordered some tea with my food. It didn't come until I was asking for the bill. When I asked why the tea was being given now, the waitress just stared at her shoes. My Japanese friend has received a drink just fine during the meal.

All bets are off if you're "gaijin" and completely irrelevant to any comparison

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Arriving in Naha Airport asking a taxi driver to bring me to Ginowan 5km up the road, he responded "it's to far"!!

And did you happen to notice the different taxi stands before getting into the one you wanted for Ginowan? There are two, one for inter-city (Naha) customers and one's for outside the city too! And btw it's farther than 5 km to go from Naha Airport to Ginowan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japan VS Europe ? Why not Asia VS Sweden ?

Nice one. Europe is not a country. This is highlighting the equivalent fail of the title and complete article irrelevance. No respect for any of the multitude of countries that represent Europe and all their different styles and such.

Thus the authors could have written anything they wanted and it doesn't matter

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Even different cities in the same country have different service. Even in Japan. Does no one think that would be true in the rest of the world? This is squirrel nutty

3 ( +5 / -2 )

You know, I have a hard time understanding how people here are talking about (generalizing) about the "west" just like the author's interview with Reiko generalizing about her own country, Japan, and comparing it to THREE different EUROPEAN countries that she lived in.

The writer screwed up too by generalizing that Romania, Italy, and England qualify as all of the "west" too.

Over generalizing sucks doesnt it?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japan: Taste-testing is done at designated areas with sample food prepared by staff. All other food is not yours until paid for and should be treated with care.

This one just p***** me off! Ever Been to a Costco in Japan on a Sunday where they give FREE samples? People push and shove and I have seen people take and eat two or 3 samples. The staff can't seem to hold these people back, but Japanese can get pushy and especially the kids and everyone that wants to taste some of that Bulgolgi beef.

This is funny, in Toronto where I am it's difficult to get even two people in line for samples even on a crowded day. These are cultural expectations and differences and not service differences. Are not the Costco employee and the Loblaws/T&T mart employee doing the same service? Good point, yet another article fail.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nice, polite, and very fake. They aren't trained in actually how to find out what the customer wants, and give it to them, they are trained to look pretty and act polite and help the customer select from A, B, or C on the shelf.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Japanese clothing store staff tend to follow you around the shop at a not-in-actual-fact-discreet-distance - That'd never happen in Europe! Being leapt on with suggestions for "matching" items the moment you check out the price tag on any clothing - That'd never happen in Europe! Being yelled at with the same "greeting" over, and over, and over again. That'd never happen in Europe! Every last detail of what the problem is with a faulty item being checked when you return it to the store - In most European countries, your word is good enough, especially if it's a visible defect, but strangely not in Japan; the "procedure" is mindlessly observed.

Kawakami, my parochial chum, in Europe, the above things that the Japanese do, Europeans don't do for the simple reason that culturally, they are considered quite rude. Yes, Japan has some good things, but by god it has some right shady stuff too. Best come down off of that high horse now Japan, before you fall off.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

On the other hand, I was in a fast food joint in the west, and they didn't have any hot sauce in the hot sauce bucket. I asked a nearby staff member, and she said, "I'm on my break."

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Textbook service - that service was available in the past in Japan. When i went to the car dealer to have my car fixed, the lady at the reception got up and disappeared leaving me standing there. The other staff pretended to be busy with some desk work. I had to go and interupt them after 10 minutes. Try and order something that is not on the menu, even additional toppings like oregano on a pizza - no way to get anything. In Europe, I got an ice cream for free after shopping at a supermarket, just because it was a hot day and with a smile. On another occasion, they invited me to have a coffee for me to relax after shopping. In the restaurants, I get complimentary fruits for desert and very often my glass of wine is service too. On the vegetable markets, I get some extra vegetables for free. I cannot try swimwear on in Japan and you cannot return it - what kind of BS service is that?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

LOL... That ticket kiosk pictured above has a glory hole...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I can see where this woman is coming from, being used to gold medal winning customer service where she shops... but some shops I've been to clearly haven't seen the same manual.

I go to Japan every year for a long holiday, and have done for the last 6 years. I have seen excellent customer service in shops... and some awful. Take the last Lawson I was in: the lad behind the counter was a zombie, half asleep and had to be shooed aside by the girl working with him. Then there is the Akihabara Yodabashi Camera... loud tannoy system blaring with greetings and advice in many languages. Constantly. Then there are the Duty Free shops... why do they always assume Westerners are American? I have a Union Flag on my bag and I'm wearing a Scotland rugby shirt... clearly not American.

While customer service may not be as 'perfect' as in Japan, here in Glasgow at least the staff in shops are friendly, chatty and polite.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

i mostly have good experiences with Japanese service, and some funny ones (before the whole eco craze, i bought a scientific american at junkudo, and i told the guy at the counter that i didn't need a bag, i had my rucksack, the guy totally panicked an a manager had to come to say it was ok :p)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

i always get the "uri kire" comment when I know they couldnt be bothered to look in the back room or ring up the supplier for the item. really frustrating.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

As far as good customer service goes Japan doesn't quite cut it as far as west is concern. Why is this so you might ask? Because knowledge of the product and general stuff in human relations outside of the work manual script is vital to a customer. Superb politeness is only half important and is not really needed compared to the knowledge and information about the product you are about to buy or the meal you are about to order. The knowledge game is more important and J has a ways to go in this area.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I love going into an Apple store because I can rap with the young sales people and they actually know what I'm talking about. I ask what computer they have and they always have one.

When I go into another electronic store, the sales people don't really know so much and when I ask about their computer I'm surprised how many times they tell me they don't have one. Like buying a car off a guy who don't drive.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Author of the article didn't mention "IRASSHAIMASEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" in a high pitched voice, extremely loud, terrorizing my ears every time I enter a Japanese shopping mall. Why they couldn't just stay quiet, just say "irasshaimase" one time??? Is it necessary to be so loud? This very strange behavior really scares customers.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why they couldn't just stay quiet, just say "irasshaimase" one time??? Is it necessary to be so loud? This very strange behavior really scares customers.

Scares customers? There are probably a hundred things I could write here to debunk what you have written here, but will only say this;

When in Rome do as the Roman's! Don't EXPECT people here to do things YOUR way just because you can't or choose not to adapt.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The West: Feel free to chat about whatever you want with whoever you want.

This is true in the East, too. Department store girls in Thailand are famous for doing their nails, doing each others' hair, gossiping or all of the above.

About that finger-licking incident, cooks in Japan smoke while cooking. That also gives me the heebie-jeebies. I also see the author made no mention of inept Japanese waiters who don't even make a pretense of trying to rememer who ordered what.

Some of the other observations are spot on, though.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Some good customer service reps in the West would go out of their way to help you out a bit even if it means not "going by the book."

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

About that finger-licking incident, cooks in Japan smoke while cooking. That also gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Or how about the ba-chan that picks her nose, then swipes her fingers across her apron and proceeds to jam same finger into the soba bowl that she delivers to your table.

That's great Japanese service?!?!????

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Yubaru.

A friend is a health-inspector overseas and he reckons your average greasy spoon is cleaner and more hygienic than a 3 or 5 star restaurant. Stuff you mentioned is common overseas, incl cigarette ash falling into the food.

I like the service here, never had anyone follow me here in a clothing store except for the shop where I get my suits made and that was appreciated and expected.

Really, wonder where some posters shop.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Stuff you mentioned is common overseas, incl cigarette ash falling into the food.

Heck it's just extra seasoning! And since alcohol tends to kill many germs I feel alright!

I've been followed in a department store and grocery store for that matter, it was the rent-a-cop oyaji who never saw a gaijin live and up close before.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@anahorn

Why they couldn't just stay quiet, just say "irasshaimase" one time???

They do. But if there are ten staff-members, that means you're going to hear it ten times.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

the west is too broad of a brush. there is a HUGE difference between europe and usa. i went to usa grew up in europe. americans from my point of view were overly friendly to an extent it made me feel as if they were fake. that is also the impression i get in japan. on the other hand. in europe they think they are something and that too pisses me off. all dutch service staff needs to go to usa or japan just to get a hard smack on their face.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I have only stuff to comment. There is no warranty like Germany here in Japan.

In Germany there is at least 2 year warranty for what you are buying, which means if your products some how gets broken during this time period it will be replaced from the producer or shop what ever the case is.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The truth hurts. This article is spot on.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Funny, many times my waitress will leave while I'm still eating and disappear, that never happens in the West unless they tell you beforehand...

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Agreed... from a Japanese person's point of view the article is accurate. The article points out what is good about service in Japan.... and I think this is why the Japanese have this fascination with Robots.... it is because, service in Japan could be done by a Robot. Now if you want the Human touch you might try shopping elsewhere.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

If you want rude customer service, try the French. I was at Charles de Gaule Airport last year and my flight to Japan was delayed because of the French cabin crew strike. I tried to find out when or even if I could get my onward flight to Tokyo and I was met with shrugs, clicking tongues and plain rudeness. In the end I used my nation's patented bloody-mindedness and forced a desk clerk to get me on the plane. On the plane itself the evening meal was a Pot Noodle because they refused to heat the meals up for us.

I have never seen service as bad as that either in the UK or Holland. (I'm too scared to go to America so I don't know what it's like over there.)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I've been followed in a department store and grocery store for that matter, it was the rent-a-cop oyaji who never saw a gaijin live and up close before.

Usually konbini for me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I believe the writer is not comparing stores accurately. In the West, if you go to a Walmart you will get the terrible service described. If you go to a more professional shop like H&M, a finer clothing shop, you will get a more personal and professional experience.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I fondly remember the first trip I made to Himeji Castle..................steeping off the train station and hailed a taxi. The cab driver almost had a cardiac infraction once he understood I want to go to the castle. " Best " ride I had, made me feel at home , almost like NYC. Hahahhaha. Talking about customer service, i am sure he called me every possible " names " in Nihongo.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

selling politeness, some people are great actors, they just love you inside the shop but out of the shop they just hate you

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I'd have to choose service in Japan. However, these are some of the things I find so annoying:

The noise/music in supermarkets and electrical goods stores - I don't bloody need it. I just want to shop in peace.

Some of the oyajis working in JR ticket offices, especially the smaller stations are anything but polite.

At the end of the day, some service I've had in other countries have been really bad. But there can also be an element of coldness and lack of interaction in Japanese service.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Thunder

I have never seen service as bad as that either in the UK or Holland. (I'm too scared to go to America so I don't know what it's like over there.)

100 times better than what you went through, guaranteed!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

they just love you inside the shop but out of the shop they just hate you

Not in Japan. I've many years experience working in a service industry here, and I can assure you that, behind the scenes, the talk is always "Did I say that clearly enough?" or "Maybe I was a bit rude...." or "Should I have been more patient?". That's the only kind of talk I ever here. Nobody hates the customers.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

100 times better than what you went through, guaranteed!

Unless you happen to be black in a South Carolina boutique, eh bass?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Customer service is unfailingly polite in Japan, but compared to the US, I'm not sure it is superior... Many, though certainly not all, clerks here are polite and helpful, but the real difference comes when you wish to return something or want to make a special order. Many restaurants in the US won't think twice about altering the menu by removing or adding ingredients, adjusting spice levels, or substituting one menu item for another. In Japan, such requests are often met with a polite, and confused, "I'm sorry, but that isn't on the menu." Order something only to find out it comes with mayonnaise, onions, or some other ingredient that you don't like? Many (though not all) US restaurants will take it back and make you a new one without the offending item, free of charge - even if it was your mistake and not the server's. Having worked in retail once-upon-a-time, I can also say that many US chains have generous return policies. The place where I worked would take back any item without a receipt for store credit, just as long as we sold the item. Same for items past the usual 30 day return period. Furthermore, we were authorized to give discounts of up to 10% to customers who complained for whatever reason, no matter how frivolous, on our discretion. Again, not all shops and restaurants work like this, but many of the larger chains do. "The customer is God" may be the motto in Japan, but from my experience the service only goes so far - perhaps if I had been shopping at swankier places and dropping more yen, my experience would have been different. In the US, the motto is "The customer is always right" and, in many places, this goes more than skin deep - in my experience, most managers would rather grovel to make a sale rather than argue with a customer (unless that customer is being a total ass, in which case to hell with them). I can't speak to customer service in Europe or elsewhere.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Sydney 'Taylor' Miller

If you go to a more professional shop like H&M, a finer clothing shop

You're making the right point...but H&M is definitely not a finer clothing shop!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Japan has the best service in the world. The customer is indeed king.

And yelling "irashaimaseeeee!" to customers is a lot better than just ignoring them when they enter the store.

But I agree that if you ask for anything besides the standard like "extra tomato", they get confused.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I recently had a ghastly customer experience with Softbank. The customer is obviously not god in their eyes. Never again!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm from Australia but live in Japan and feel Japanese customer service is the best without a doubt.

Sometimes in Australia when asking for tomato sauce or something I feel like I'm asking for a kidney, in Japan not at all.

And most Japanese stores are so overstaffed, with most staff just standing and waiting that I feel like I am speeding up their day when I ask for even the tinniest thing. Be busy and the day goes faster haha.

But now I've accepted that both are good customer services, just different. In Japan a customer is treated like God, in Australia is treated like a friend.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Many softbank shops are outsourced so the staff are not Softbank employees but of course we the customers don't know. You'll usually have decent service at the large shops (Roppongi, Shibuya, etc) but mediocre in a tiny place in a shotengai. I agree with many posters here, generally service here in Japan is good but but the yelling greetings when you aren't even looking at me gets old and annoying. My favorite story of poor service is always from going into shoe shops here. I wear 28 cm shoes and often they stock up to 27.5cm. So I'll ask them what do do and there's lots of sucking wind between the teeth. I then suggest how about to get it from another store or ordering it (there I go thinking outside the box) and once it a while they'll check that out but it seems that they just want me to leave. A couple of times they'll suggest the store in Gotanda for sumo wrestlers (thanks, I'm not that big) and recently more stores and brands have my size but it is still rare. (I speak Japanese and these are foreign brands I'm trying to buy). Anyway, cheaper to buy shoes in the US or even Hong Kong.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Sounds like the writer has been brainwashed by someone.

I've been to plenty of shops and seen Japanese staff eating right in front of the customer, using their mobile phones in the corner pretending not to see customers. The list goes on and on. It's only at the big, famous stores where the good service exists. Everywhere else it'll be dependant on the individual staff's attitude to their work.

And I'd have to agree with ultradork about Softbank. I used to use them in Hamadayama, and their staff were grubby, distinctly unfriendly and not very efficient.

And I think the Japan Times recently carried an article about the "international" airport in Ibaraki (hopefully I have the place correct) that accepts a lot of traffic from China. Apparently they have a lot of problems as since the Chinese just land their and then shoot straight off to Tokyo, they don't spend much money in the local area. This has led to many, many complaints about the level of service at the airport, "The Chinese don't spend much money here, so we're not going to do much for them", so things have become pretty bad. Maybe the writer should visit there?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've been to plenty of shops and seen Japanese staff eating right in front of the customer, using their mobile phones in the corner pretending not to see customers

Well, I guess it depends where you live. After twenty-two years in Kyushu, using combinis or supermarkets two or three times a day, every day, I've never seen anything like what you describe. Maybe I'm not very observant....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan vs. "The West" One country vs. a whole hemisphere???

Of all generalizations......

I've witnessed great service and horrible service in both Japan and Canada.

When I visited Leipzig in Germany also, everyone was polite and helpful, and not the least bit uncivilized with their customer service.

I think customer service rules are pretty universal, but it depends on management. Poor management equals poor service.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The excessive customer service in Japan is a burden on the employers. Enough said. The question is who pays the price? You've got to feel a little sorry for the staff, actually.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"In Japan the customer is God" in other countries the "The customer is always right!" Don't compare apples and oranges. Japan has got it right in bars and restaurants for the most. Pretty much anywhere in the world, it's all a show that depends on branding, training, management, and in-store supervision. For the most the Japanese are very intimidated by "foreigners." If it is a non-English speaking establishment and they assume you don't understand Japanese, they'll delay you for several minutes to an hour then "rip you a new one" in criticism at ears distance. The younger, the worse, as they are frustrated by incompetence or lack of smarts. High-end or low-end, the Japanese assistants seem to be trained to be meticulous, methodical and mechanical as opposed to being flexible, confident, rational, and thinking on their feet. No one makes a decision other than to apologize. Where as in Europe, customer service is quick thinking and customer oriented, most of all very relax and friendly. I dress down to go shopping at high end stores, they never see it coming, when I pay in cash for their mark-ups. I love to hear that big gulp as they swallow all the biases generated by my entrance (U.S. also). However, we still can't generalize. I bought a "man-purse" at a high end store. Within a month the threads were loose. I got an exchange without receipt or further explanation (the assistants were (mid-thirties and above.) Yes, in Japan. I love the assistants at the community stores, i.e. combi, mom &pop eatery, local shops, etc. especially if you get to know them by name (then you'll see the difference in any country, as experienced in Italy, Spain, etc..) As a rule, I always feel like an ambassador to my country and never want to be "that guy."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For the most the Japanese are very intimidated by "foreigners." If it is a non-English speaking establishment and they assume you don't understand Japanese, they'll delay you for several minutes to an hour

An hour?? The exaggerations on this thread are getting laughable....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I’ve even seen guys mistakenly open the curtains to the wrong dressing room...

I've seen a lot of weird stuff go down in stores before, but never that. Try some nonsense like that in the US, and you better be ready for a serious fight to break out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I do miss the "Yeah, what do you want?" greeting you usually get in most fast food restaurants in the U.S.. I also do miss having to remember to always check the brown paper bag I got from McDonald's back in the U.S., because they would sometimes get the order wrong, or not put in what should be there. I also miss the challenge of going to a 7-11 in the U.S. to find a decent sandwhich that doesn't look soggy and like it's been sitting there forever.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As for social chats with clerks, back home (in the U.S.) it only happens with clerks in local stores and Mom and Pop shops where I live. Going to a hotel or restaurant in a touristy place, the "social chat" ends up being very rehearsed and fake. They only chat you up not that they genuinely care how you answer or what you say, but to get a bigger tip.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A shallow article by someone from where the customer service is equally superficial. Trying scratching it.

Yes, you might have to charm the shop assistant to get their attention in Europe. When you really need the customer service, however: troubleshooting a mistaken purchase or faulty goods, responsibility to the customer, backed up by robust consumer legislation, kicks in. Or you can sue the shop.

Here, I bought a cordless drill by a brand I trusted, but it developed a fault within a week. As I no longer felt confident with that particular model (even great brands have a duff product every now and then), I offered to upgrade to a more expensive unit by the same brand, explaining that I had DIY chores I wanted to do urgently.

No joy. I couldn't replace the tool, and had to submit it for repair. Turnaround was about ten days. The tool wasn't takkyubined to me, but returned to the shop, where I had to go pick it up. No apologies, no money off voucher.

I love this country. However, all the redundant little fiefdoms in its supply chains suck so much value out of retail that the frothy customer service resembles an elaborate, structural confidence trick.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I remember back in the day when we had Tower Records in the states. When they were getting ready to close forthe night, they used to say things like, " attention all TR shoppers, the store will be closing in 10 min., please take your purchases to the front counter or you'll be out of luck, once the register is closed, better hurry up." The staff would get funny sometimes with that, but you would never get away with that in Japan. They just start playing "should old aquanitence be forgot" trying to give you the hint.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Living in Australia I have to admit that customer service in Japan is streets ahead of ours. Just like Kawakami san indicated with her story about the finger pointer (in Europe), the customer in Australia is a distraction for staff, who are busy discussing last night's episode of Australia's Got Talent or some other mindless reality program.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

And btw it's farther than 5 km to go from Naha Airport to Ginowan.

A useful correction for those of us who have never been to Okinawa and have to take such stories on trust.

After looking it up, I see it's actually 14.5 km as the crow flies, and about 23 km by road.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

I go to the service counter I went to the

When I was vacationing in Florida, I experienced 2 Macy's Store Employees argue. One of the store employees tried to make me go to the website and complain about the other store employee's attitude to fire her or reprimand the employee. CRAZINESS

I go to the service counter to look for help but no one is there. No one comes to help me when I can’t find something in the store. That happened to me to in Japan. But I do not need to generalize and say all japanese stores are sh!tty.

■ Talking in-store

Let the buyer beware & enter at your own risk

You can talk just as long as it doesn't get in the way of customer service. SOUNDS LIKE YOU WENT TO THE WRONG STORE & WRONG COUNTRY.

■ Eating in-store

If the store employee is eating potato chips WHY BOTHER SHOPPING THERE ? LEAVE !!!! I hate tourists attitude. MAYBE it was racism or bad attitude towards asian tourists or tourists. If I had been involved in that situation I would have complained. Usually if she/he is on tea break or lunch break she should be replaced by someone else coming off break time. THE MAIN POINT if the store or company allows the employee to EAT CHEETOS or drink a cup of tea during working hours while dealing with customers. The company is screwed up !!!!! And you should not support their business.

JUST WALK AWAY or FIND OTHER MEANS

■ Wrapping

Hahahahaha NEXT !!!!!! Japan 1 plastic bag vs. U.S. paper or plastic bags

Sometimes I forget to bring the Costco bag or IKEA reusable bag. I ask for plastic bags. In Japan, it's a real hassle asking for extra bags. Especially when the IDIOT lends you 1 little plastic bag for 10-12 heavy items.

Some times I look at the Seiyu, Daiwa, or 7 Eleven Holdings store for 1 or 2 extra bags.

Sometimes I like to double bag the groceries, usually I walking home with the food. Sometimes they give me the annoying look or look of frustration when 1 ask for 1 or 2 more plastic bags.

1 PLASTIC BAG Vs. Carrying a 2 liter soda, bottled water, milk, eggs, rice, bag of frozen veggies, bag of tomatos,corn, canned tomatos, pasta, broccoli, meat and etc. doesn't cut it with just one plastic bag. Unless I want my groceries all over the roadside.

■ The customers: taste-testing vs blatant in-store snacking

My mother likes to eat the individually wrapped candies while shopping in the store. When i was a child, I didn't understand my mother eating in the store. Never like her bad habits, but what the heck. I understand candy or samples. But drinking beer or eating a sandwich. Now that's funny !!!!!!! Are they that hungry ? Or just ghetto, 3rd world low brow type of individuals.

■ The customers: trying on clothes

The West: Many male customers accompany their girlfriends when buying underwear ... all the way to the dressing room. Some excited guys peek in to check on their girlfriends or even ask them to try on something else they found. HINT OF JEALOUSY ????? FIRST OF ALL - Maybe he's buying it for his girlfriend or maybe they have a good relationship and they like to shop together. IT'S A NICE THING TO DO. I like to accompanying my girlfriend to the lingerie, grocery & clothing stores. ANY STORE WESTERN MEN TEND TO DO THIS. SORRY !!!!!!!

Some department stores, THE WHOLE FAMILY will go into the changing room. I've seen in Florida & California, Spanish mother, father, aunts, uncles, brother Beemish, little daughter and son go into one dressing room. For what ? Stuffing clothes into their britches ? Or family together-ness I don't know ? Maybe they are a CLOSE family.

I’ve even seen guys mistakenly open the curtains to the wrong dressing room while the occupant is in the middle of changing. YELL SCREAM SHOUT !!!!! They won't do that again !!!!!!

And then there’s people leaving their trash in the dressing room after they finish. YEP !!!!!

I've worked in the clothing retail business and YESSSSSSSSS

People are scumbags.

I've seen trash sometimes the trash is - tags ripped from the stolen clothes because A) they are wearing the stolen clothes B) bought the clothes and choose to wear it NOW C) try it on

In America, I've seen used condoms, used tampons, dirty diapers, juice boxes, soda bottles, old tunafish sandwiches, dirty underwear, birth control pills, pregnancy test devices and everything you can think of, you will find it in an dressing room in America.

So yes, I understand Western countries do have dirty people using dressing rooms as a personal bathroom.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japanese customer service is on a totally different level, really amazing.

I don't get why foreigners complain about the Japanese not being able to handle "off the menu" requests. why are you requesting things that the establishment does not usually offer? go somewhere else that does or take what they give you, it's not that hard. but then again Westerners are always about "me me me" and never know how to read the situation and don't care if they make others uncomfortable.

anyway, I really hate going to the States, Australia or England (or the worst, Canada) because of the awful customer service. everyone is fat and rude (although that's usually true for the entire population) and doesn't seem like they even want to be at work. but I have to go often because my job sends me on business trips 3 times a month, so taxing. even the 5 star hotels I stay at rarely have truly good service in Western nations. give me Japanese CS any day of the week :)

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Anybody who has traveled to another country will experience WTF moments !!!! It's part of traveling. If you can't adjust to it !!!! Don't travel abroad. I just laugh and take a picture. Show it on the web for people can laugh at the ridiculousness OF IT !!!!!!

What I've learned visiting 23 different countries.

Every country has crazy people. Not everybody is highly intelligent. Crazy people like to hang around busy &crowded places. Beware of taxi drivers overcharging ( tourist prices ) Don't ask people for directions because you will get extremely lost. Ask a cop for directions ONLY, Don't drink the tap water, point what you want to eat to the server, smile and be polite when you are in other countries. DO what they do !!!!!!

MOST ANNOYING DOUCHBAG AWARD

Goes to a Blonde Canadian Immigration Officer in Vancouver Had the personality of a Robocop & looks like a man.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@lachatamber

Please provide links that everyone is the countries you mentioned are fat and rude.

lt may be someone asks if something can have an ingredient removed which is quite normal in most decent eateries. I went to a place with my family which sold hamburgs with different sauces. I asked for one without any sauce and the waitress was shocked and said she thought they only did with sauces. This is inflexible and not good service though apart from eateries Japanese service is mostly top rate.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

well why are you going to a restaurant that serves hamburgers with different sauces when you don't want sauce? just eat it and stop complaining. my mother never let me change my order at a restaurant when I was a child because she said it was childish and rude to the waiter/waitress/establishment, and I still think she's correct.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@Sir_Edgar I would rather be ignored

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@lachatamber

anyway, I really hate going to the States, Australia or England (or the worst, Canada) because of the awful customer service. everyone is fat and rude (although that's usually true for the entire population) and doesn't seem like they even want to be at work.

I'll ignore the the fact your implying im fat and rude (which im not). However, this is exactly what I was saying above. A nations customer service is reflective of the nation it self (Im australian). I love the customer service in Australia. You're correct in saying we seem like we don't want to be at work. It's TRUE! We would much prefer to be by the pool relaxing. Everything here reflects that. It's just the way I like it. It's the same for you liking Japanese customer service.

Neither is wrong or better. Give me relaxed, easy going, fast and most importantly REAL customer service any day. I hope you can understand what Im saying here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@lachatamber

Please learn the difference between a hamburg and a hamburger before posting such a silly response. I worked in the restaurant trade for 8 years and part of the service is to please your patrons. Saying "just eat ut and stop complaining" would end in an empty restaurant very quickly.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

"taste-testing vs blatant in-store snacking." When you have integrity and honesty to pay for the opened items, I see no problem here. "It seems recently young people are better about waiting until they get home but elderly folks have no reservations about holding personal tasting parties whenever and wherever they please." When that thing called hunger strikes us older folks, you need to put out that fire a.s.a.p other reasons like illness maybe considered, i.e. diabetics... The store detectives can sigh relief when the item is scanned. No harm done. Also, in certain cases, it's a must to calm that bratty child. We've seen enough of those being dragged through the super markets and malls. On the subject of tasting. What I don't like is bartenders who seem to stir and/or taste everything, then replaces the bar spoon or whisk back into that glass of water (all night long), then put a stirrer in your glass. I order drinks "don't stir please.". @lucabrasi I agree, I was a bit hyperbolic, i.e. "several minutes to an hour* driven by personal experiences. However, there is a special "passive-aggressive" component when the assistant gets flustered, more so in Asia than in the U.S., they just get pissed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While I think there are bad points in both British, European and Japanese customer service but both have their good points too. Service in some British chains such as BHS or the big supermarkets like ASDA or Tesco can be a bit surly and rude but then service in chains of John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer are polite, responsive and for the most part are agile to "out of the box" requests. Also I have never, ever, seen or heard of a case of men following women into female changing areas at any UK clothes store. All the big chains like H&M, Topshop, etc operate strict policies segregating changing areas by sex and treating harshly anybody who dares cross that boundary. Case in point I was in a branch of River Island with my girlfriend who went to try someone on. I sat down outside the female changing area and overheard one shop assistant enter and say to my girlfriend: "Sorry to disturb you but theres a man hanging around outside, want me to move him on?" At the end of the day if Reiko had seen such a thing take place she should have reported that promptly to the store manager because that kind of thing is absolutely, positively, completely not allowed. Another area which appears to be a massive cultural misunderstanding is gift wrapping. In the UK, unless you're in a big department store and its a very special gift then you gift wrap it yourself. No exceptions. In the UK if you give someone a present that looks like its obviously been wrapped in store or via amazon.co.uk, etc then that shows that you're pretty lazy on your part and can't be bothered to make the effort. So, what may seem like excellent customer service in Japan might lead to relationship issues in the UK!!! I think Japan beats the rest of the world on up front customer service and politeness. They're happy to see you, happy to help you and so on. They go the extra mile so long as what you ask for falls within the exact parameters of their job. Ask them to do something out of the box and they panic. Some panic at the very sight of you which is embarrassing to say the least not least for the company they represent. So the one major problem with Japanese customer service is that you always feel like you're on rails: stuck for the duration of the ride with no opportunity to deviate or change course.

Also another problem is that you don't get to banter or have fun with staff like you do in the UK, Europe or the USA. Japanese staff either completely panic and go all mute (cutely of course) or completely blank you when you crack a joke or try and strike up conversation. Of course many will argue that you're there to buy stuff and not make friends but its that personal touch that makes many a shopping experience in the UK, USA or Europe such a joy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just adding to the above post (this time without going OTT on the bold). One example of an awesome personal touch are the platform staff on London Underground who add comedy to their platform announcements. One member of staff was so eager to get people to move down the platform that he started singing "move on down to the front of the train.." to the tune of Monty Python's "Always look on the bright side of life". Complete with the whistling. Beats the ultra-politeness and annoying keyboard jingles of JR and Tokyo metro any day...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Customer service is great here in Japan. They often go out of their way to help out. One time, I lost a bag on the train, the train staff went out of their way to look for it and eventually found out which station had found it. I also love how they ask me at convenience stores if I want to have the hot and cold food in seperate bags. At the local ramen shop, the mama-san even gives me free pickled vegetables and sometimes free gyoza since I'm quite a regular now. She chats me up a lot and her failed attempts at speaking a bit of English are hilarious. I even like getting all the free sample food in the basement of department stores. I practically can eat my whole lunch by just eating a bit here and a bit there.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I find customer service here very good, way better than back home(which is good).

Granted I get good food and extra service at the local ramen shop as the chinese lady and her japanese husband lived next door. Always get extra pickles or an Onsen Tamago.

I also found that most shop-staff remember you and your preferences(like receipts), etc. And they do also chat during quiet times, etc. Get often asked about my son.

Was recently at a local restaurant and couldn't finish the meal so told the mama-san "sorrry, upset stomach" smiles all round.

How you treat the staff here also depends on how you get treated. Recall one lady that was relieved that I could speak Japanese and recently asked another lady for help(she was actually helping another customer) she asked for permission and helped us. That was at Yodo.

If you are polite and ask in a friendly manner I found the Japanese very helpful.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have to laugh at all the, sometimes excited, sometimes vicious comments :-) The woman is just relating her personal experiences. Japan versus Europe? Hmmm. Europe is not just one country where the concept of service and doing business conforms to one standard. The differences are wide, due to history, culture, national character, custom, etc. In each country one can have good experiences and one can have poor experiences.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Also another problem is that you don't get to banter or have fun with staff like you do in the UK, Europe or the USA. Japanese staff either completely panic and go all mute (cutely of course) or completely blank you when you crack a joke or try and strike up conversation. Of course many will argue that you're there to buy stuff and not make friends but its that personal touch that makes many a shopping experience in the UK, USA or Europe such a joy.

Although I agree with most of your post, the section in BOLD, I totally disagree with the above quote. Every time I say something to a store clerk or an attendant elsewhere, or say something funny the responsive is positive and it is very rare that I get a blank stare. But let's say one man's humor may not be understood or appreciated by another man. Your joke or humor has to be able to cross cultural divides.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Still no edit function, posters are not allowed to change their minds. Grrr. Responsive = response. Sorry!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have been in Japan now over 20 years. While I can not speak of Europe, Australia or other Western Countries... I can speak of America. Wrapping: US. that is what service counters are for. Jp. I comprehend the politeness, but I dont always need my chocolates wrapped individually, in a box, wrapped in paper then put in a bag - when they wont make it home in the first place. Eating facilities: US. Yes fast food is just that fast - speed doesnt always (tho in a perfect world should) mean clean. Not all places are attentitive, while others earn (plus more) the tips that are left behind. Jp. I agree (someones comment above) that fast food is slow in the wait - and I dont want to hear about how they make sure the order is correct. Thats BS! Plenty of my orders have been messed up enough that I (normally a patient person) call the manager. Just last night my husband and I took our children out to celebrate our 19 th wedding anniversary - the place we went to, while the food tasted great ... The service was - well if tips were given here, I would have left none (& Im a good tipper)!! Our meals came so erratic that my husband & I finished our shared desert before any of our children were even brought theirs. When asked where the deserts were the waiter replied - that they were waiting in turn of the order .... We ordered the deserts at the same exact time. Mean while while waiting we watched 2 persons standing in the kitchen ( behind a glass window for all to see) eating, chatting and laughing ... Hello? I have had bad service in America as well. So?

There are many many more items that I can point out... But (yes, I have a huge BUTT)....

My answer is - Japan is not better - nor worse than other countries. Each place has its good points and its bad points ... But all in all they are all equals. Everyone just has to decide which points are most important to them and live in that place - or learn to survive with their surrounding bad points.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the last two days I have had three bad service experiences in Osaka.

At a major shopping mall my family was unable to be seated in a half empty restaurant because there was no non smoking section. At a big store I was (and only 50% of the time get asked) not asked if I have a store points card despite the clerk asking two customers before me whether or not they had points cards. I think staff are either taught not to ask or just don't bother asking if they have a non asian looking customer. Mid transaction at a convenience store today the clerk helped another customer with a purchase without excusing herself from helping me. I told her point blank that I thought it rude on the part of the customer and herself. I am a regular at that convenience store.

Despite all this I like the service in Japan, but it is far from perfect

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sorry Presto345 but the fact that all of my words were in bold and you didn't type response correctly means I win the debate! Nyer nyer nyer!

Only joking :) good point btw.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wrapping: US. that is what service counters are for.

I guess McDonald's and other fast food places in the U.S. need them since almost everytime they try to wrap take out, it always comes out shoddy and never keeps the food in it's place. Then again, I almost never go to fast food ever again in the States after hearing the number of shenanigans that I've heard go on in the kitchen as workers prepare your food (e.g. stepping on the lettuce and posting it on Youtube, spitting in your burgers, etc.). The McDonald's I visit in Japan makes it hard for the workers to do that since the kitchen is open in clear view. I can see them preparing and wrapping the burgers from the counter as I wait for it, and see them change the fries in the deep fryers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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