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Five important manners to remember when buying something at a Japanese convenience store

27 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Convenience stores in Japan definitely live up to their name. Conveniently located, clean, reasonably priced, and offering fresh food and fast service, there’s really no room for complaint from a customer’s point of view.

However, all that convenience doesn’t come without a lot of hard work on the part of convenience store employees, And while tireless toiling with a smile is very much the Japanese way of customer service, there are a few things that, deep down, convenience store cashiers wish customers would do for them, which leads us to a tweet from Japanese Twitter user @oboro_zuki_yo titled “Requests from a Cashier.”

1. “Please unfold your bills. It’s a hassle to have to unfold them for you.”

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Japanese convenience stores are more like miniature supermarkets. Aside from snacks and drinks, they also sell full-fledged prepared meals and a wide variety of sundry goods. You can even pay bills there, and not just for small stuff like your monthly phone service, but even your taxes.

Because of that, it’s easy to run up a tab that requires multiple pieces of folding money to pay, and to make the payment process just a little quicker, unfold them as you pull them out of your wallet or pocket, before you hand them to the clerk.

2. “Don’t throw your coins. You’re not making an offering at the temple.”

If might sound like a contradiction of what we just talked about, but since the smallest bill in Japan is the 1,000-yen bill, you’re probably also going to need to use some change to settle your bill. Thankfully, Japanese convenience stores have a small tray next to the register where you can put your coins as you count them out.

The important word here, though, is “put.” Sometimes impolite customers sloppily sling their coins into the tray instead, in a manner more resembling the long-distance tosses into large collection boxes at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. No matter how transcendentally delicious the green tea ice cream bar you’re buying is, though, if you’re in a convenience store the polite thing to do is to gently place the coins in the tray, so that there’s no risk of them clattering over the counter/into the clerk.

3. “Please put your card on top of the money you’re paying with. Otherwise, I might not notice it.”

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The idea of giving the clerk both cash and a card might seem strange, but this isn’t a credit card we’re talking about. In Japan, many convenience store chains have reward cards, either proprietary ones or part of a shared network with other businesses. Go into a branch of Family Mart, for example, and if you show them your T Card, you can earn points with every purchase which can be redeemed for discounts not only when shopping at the convenience store, but at various coffee shops, restaurants, video rental stores, and even gas stations.

But the clerk has to swipe your card before they ring you up. If they don’t notice it until after they’ve scanned all the items you’re buying, they’ll have to cancel the sale and start the process all over from the beginning.

4. “Don’t snatch the change out of my hand. I’m not going to try to steal it from you.”

While the customer uses the above-mentioned tray to pay with coins (and bills, if they feel like it), the clerk will generally hand your change back to you directly. When they hold out the bills, obviously they’re doing so willingly, and not just waving them in front of your face before pulling them away, so don’t rudely yank the cash out of their hand, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in.

5. “I’m a clerk, but I’m also a human being, just like you.”

Japanese customer service is almost uniformly excellent, which makes shopping an extremely pleasant experience. Unfortunately, sometimes customers take advantage of this by lording it over front-line workers, becoming angry or even violent over assumed slights of slips of etiquette.

There’s a Japanese adage that holds “The customer is God,” but @oboro_zuki_yo would like everyone to remember that both shoppers and sales staff are mere mortals, so even if there’s a service hiccup, the divine thing to do is to forgive, or at least make your complaint in a civil manner.

Source: Twitter/@oboro_zuki_yo via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Six ways to avoid looking like an “idiot” when shopping at Japanese convenience stores

-- Japan Railways recently revealed ramen-style rice balls in its convenience stores

-- This beautiful, traditional Japanese building is actually a fully modern convenience store

© SoraNews24

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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And manners for combini staff:

If I'm carrying a cloth bag or backpack, don't automatically whip out a plastic bag. Ask me first if I want one (I don't).

When whipping out said unsolicited plastic bag, don't do it during the split second my attention is distracted while fumbling for my coins or wallet. Give me the chance to refuse it.

Don't stuff my plastic bag with plastic spoons and plastic straws that I don't ask for nor need.

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

or you could simply ask the clerk for just the products, it's what I do. probably easier than expecting people to read your mind.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

What Jeff said. Plus, the majority of staff I encounter at conbini recent are foreigners like me, and customer service varies widely. There are no norms.

As for this:

“Don’t snatch the change out of my hand. I’m not going to try to steal it from you.”

I simply appreciate shops that allow you to pass money hand to hand, as opposed to annoying places like LOFT where they drop all your change in a little tray that you then have pick up one by one or lift the tray up and dump into your own hand. Has always struck me as poor service--like hey we don't want to get germs from our customers.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

“I’m a clerk, but I’m also a human being, just like you.”

This one is not specific to convenience stores. It's true for the whole service industry, and even more true in restaurants.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I don't need a receit for one onigiri.

They always hand you your change on top of the receipt...then I have to discard it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Some things like not tossing cash at another person is just normal. Others like where to place cards is just uber Japaneseness.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Maybe I have been in Japan too long, but this stuff is just common sense anywhere. Who pays in folded bills? (Unless you are slipping someone a discrete tip.) Who throws coins?

14 ( +14 / -0 )

More rules for konbini staff:

Actually acknowledge your customer and look them in the eye, not some far off place.

If a long time customer comes in, try having some friendly chat for once.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I sort of throw my money I suppose. I kind of give it a bit of a cast when I put it in the tray or on the counter, where it spreads the coins out so they can all be visibly seen and counted. It's actually been commented to me as 'kakkoii'. I wonder if that's what they are referring to here.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

If a long time customer comes in, try having some friendly chat for once.

That is a personal matter, not a combini thing. 2 or 3 stores I go to, the staff always chats with me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Unfortunately, sometimes customers take advantage of this by lording it over front-line workers, becoming angry or even violent over assumed slights of slips of etiquette.

This is my pet hate , arrogant oyajis ( not only but mostly ) who like to stroke their own ego by belittling staff at conbini or a supermarket. Always love the look on their face when I tell them that they whinged long enough about whatever petty subject they picked on , and that they are the embarrasment and meewaku to everyone else in the line behind them. Frontline staff are humans doing an often thankless task and don,t deserve that kind of crap.

When whipping out said unsolicited plastic bag, don't do it during the split second my attention is distracted while fumbling for my coins or wallet. Give me the chance to refuse it.

Don't stuff my plastic bag with plastic spoons and plastic straws that I don't ask for nor need.

Never had an issue with this , as even when the staff already pulled out the plastic bag , straws, spoons, tissues or whatever and started to put my stuff in , they always put it back when i say i don,t want it . Takes about an extra 2 seconds.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“When whipping out said unsolicited plastic bag, don't do it during the split second my attention is distracted while fumbling for my coins or wallet. Give me the chance to refuse it.

Don't stuff my plastic bag with plastic spoons and plastic straws that I don't ask for nor need.”

Practice having your wallet or payment card in hand by the time you get to the front of the line. Practice telling the staff that you don’t need a bag, spoons etc as you set your basket or items on the counter. It’s quite easy really.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Also as the clerk begins to scan your items, open and set your shopping bag on the counter where it serves to remind the clerk that you don’t need a plastic one and is quick and easy for them to pack.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is a certain type of person whose own life is so rubbish they only feel better about themselves when bullying or being rude to someone who is employed to provide a service. I see it all the time in shops, restaurants, at stations, the post office etc. People try to do it to me. These people should not be tolerated, staff should not have to acquiesce or smile at those treating them like crap. Throwing money at a person is just rude, not saying thank you is rude, harrassing or haranguing a person is not acceptable. Back in the UK I've had people removed from the premises for persisting in this type of behaviour.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Can we do all of these things in every service profession worldwide? I work in retail in the UK, all five of these things I wish people would do here as well. The folded notes is even worse now that we have the plastic notes (which are rarely folded, more scrunched up like a used Kleenex). I can spend upwards of 30 seconds straightening out a single note sometimes, that's how badly they're cared for, and customers rarely unfold them. Throwing coins is, thankfully, quite rare, but customers also rarely hand the money directly too me, but rather place it on the counter far enough away for me to have to stretch out and reach for it. Not easy to do if I've already strained a shoulder or my back (the latter happens more frequently, a downside to being tall). The last point is absolutely the biggest problem though. We may not have "The customer is God" out here, but they'll often chant "the customer is always right" even when they're proven wrong. Arrogance like that is a good way to offend the colleagues serving you, and if you cause too much offence, you can receive a store ban, lasting up to 5 years. Might not be a big deal in the city, but in a rural shop like where I work, you've got yourself a 50 mile drive to get to the next big branch, unless you want to use a different retailer altogether.

Others like where to place cards is just uber Japaneseness.

Actually this is something I wish customers in Britain would do too. Don't bury your reward card, phone top-up card, or your gas/electric/rent card in with the notes. Especially if I've got a long queue and you're handing me a wad of notes. Put it where I can see it, and things will go much more smoothly.

Actually acknowledge your customer and look them in the eye, not some far off place.

If a long time customer comes in, try having some friendly chat for once.

This is a very tricky one, actually. Some customers will get agressive if you look them in the eye "too much". As for chatting, not everyone wants small talk, and not every colleague is good at giving it/comfortable with giving it. Knowing when it's "safe" to give small talk is also a lot like walking in a minefield. The safest option therefore is to bite your tongue and let the customer initiate. That said, I do wish customers would learn to take a hint. If a colleague isn't reciprocating the small talk, that doesn't mean they're being rude. There's any number of more likely factors, but customers love making accusations.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Never had a bad experience really. Rarely I get a jaded Japanese clerk that assumes I don't speak Japanese so they don't say the usual pleasantries. I also had a recent occasion where a clerk gave me back 100 yen less than what I should have gotten and I am unsure if she skims money that way or was just an honest mistake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I suppose I am a bit anal by laying my change in the tray organized by denomination. When I place my items on the counter I say at that point if I don't need a bag. If I get a receipt and don't need it, they have that little trough or tray to place it in. No biggie. No getting upset. I love conbinis and let them know with a smile.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Educator60

Practice having your wallet or payment card in hand by the time you get to the front of the line.

I'm holding my purchase in one hand. I need two hands to remove my wallet and take out my bills and/or prepare the appropriate amount of coins from the ones in my pocket.

Practice telling the staff that you don’t need a bag, spoons etc as you set your basket or items on the counter.

Oh, I've tried that, alright. At that point, they are nearly always saying "irrashaimase" and a few other standard words, so I need to talk over and interrupt them, and then repeat the request. It's one of those hassle that's minor by itself but pretty annoying when encountered 1,000 times.

I've been thru this rigormorale...about a million times. I know what I'm talking about.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Jeff Lee,

I know it’s hard but I think it can be done with a little creativity. I’m old and the fingers are not so nimble. However I manage to have a small wallet out as I enter the store and hold it in the same hand that holds the handles of the basket, plus the shopping bag hooked over my forearm. Somehow I manage to get through frequent visits without aggravation or other mishap. If dealing with cash is so difficult why not get an electronic money card (like Wain, Nanaco, Suica, T-money, etc) for the stores you frequent most often?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

WAON not wain

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Konbini manners?  what next?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Perhaps the article should point out that these were requests made in Japanese by a Japanese store worker to Japanese customers.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Five important manners to remember when buying something at a Japanese convenience store

aka - basic, commonsensical things you do in a shop pretty much anywhere.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Family Mart staff always ask me if I have my T point card if I forget to give it to them.

"If a long time customer comes in, try having some friendly chat for once."

There's always at least one person behind me - never time for friendly chats.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But the clerk has to swipe your card before they ring you up. If they don’t notice it until after they’ve scanned all the items you’re buying, they’ll have to cancel the sale and start the process all over from the beginning.

What program are they using - that's antiquated

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Educator60

 However I manage to have a small wallet out as I enter the store and hold it in the same hand that holds the handles of the basket, plus the shopping bag hooked over my forearm. 

Now, THAT'S a hassle. I used to do something like that, but a couple of years ago left my wallet in the basket or the counter and went home. This was stressful, since my gaijin and credit cards were inside. I had to retrace all my steps back to the combini where it was retrieved. Prefer not to go thru that again. Best to keep one's wallet and money safe inside one's own pocket until needed.

"I know it’s hard but I think it can be done with a little creativity

"Creativity," LOL. It shouldn't be so "hard." The cashier could use a little common sense and consideration. Training by the employer on the dangers of plastics on the natural envirnoment wouldn't go amiss, either. A big reason we have this global environmental problem in the first place is that certain corporations make freely giving out vast volumes of unnecessary plastics is part of their service model. This needs to stop. Someone proposing a contribution to the problem should be lauded, not questioned.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Conbinis are convenient but customers are one step behind the robotic procedural aspects of interactional item-purchasing functions demonstrared by the staff. Let’s hope that customers become more observant of the necessary purchasing displays required by combini purchasing ettiquette.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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