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Rail company workers have to pass the smile test

19 Comments

Her uniform looks good, with striped scarf and blue cap in perfect order, but railway employee Mitsue Endo has one thing to do before she faces the masses -- pass the smile test.

Endo, who works at hectic Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo for Keihin Express Railway Co, sits in front of a laptop computer with a digital camera mounted on top. At first she is a bit grim-faced, and the verdict from the company's smile-rating software is instant and candid.

"Smile: 0" pops up on the screen.

She breaks into a broad grin and the computer responds cheerfully, giving her a score of 70.

The company has installed the system to help employees check their smiles before heading out to face customers. The test is optional, but at major stations like Shinagawa, the 250,000 riders who pass through per day can be rushed and agitated, and a happy face can go a long way.

"Smiling helps our interaction with the passengers. I think the atmosphere becomes more relaxing with a smile," says Endo, whose job includes helping lost customers find their way and dealing with ticketing mishaps.

Keihin uses the software at 15 of its 72 stations, concentrating on the busier locations.

Taichi Takahashi, who works in public relations at the train operator, says it gives employees a chance to examine themselves before they go to work.

"I don't think that we have had much opportunity to stare at our faces that close and for that long to check our facial expressions until now," he said.

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19 Comments
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:-)

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Rail company workers have to pass the smile test.

The test is optional...

These two statements seem to contradict each other.

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That's not a smile, that's an upside-down frown.

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Rail company workers have to pass the smile test. The test is optional...

Optional like the saabisu zangyo (voluntary mandatory unpaid overtime).

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this is good, they can learn to fake-smile alone with their fake-jobs

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Can they bring to home this fake smile?

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Now that they are grading their smiles, why not grade their helpfulness?

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You take a 2 hour train ride to work, work 12 hours and then take a 2 hour train ride home again and now forced to smile.

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Whether a smile will be enough for the miserable zombies that pass through most Tokyo stations remains to be seen.

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A smile from the teeth out (if you can actually SEE the teeth) means mothing. Those of us who have spent a long time in this country know exactly what can be behind those Japanese "smiles." Tatemae is an abhorrent Japanese trait, hiding the "honne" which is vsary scary indeed, at times. However, I find most of the Station employees to be friendly and helpful, and a smile never hurt anyone. If it can help to brighten up the hell-like commuter travel situation in the Tokyo area, then that can only be good. The vast majority of people I encounter on the trains and in the stations of Tokyo are extremely rude and selfish, only looking out for "No. 1." The rest are in the depths of a self-induced coma.

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Smiles are always nice, but you know what I can do without? The mofo that seems to be required to personally thank each and every commuter passing through the turnstiles at rush-hour. No, really, a never ending stream of robotic "arigatoo gozaimasu"s doesn't do it for me.

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this is workplace harassment.

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Great idea. Smiles work wonders. For years I used to hear this on FEN radio: "When you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours". I have lived here a long time, but it is especially in recent years that I notice more and more smiles in shops, agencies, offices, everywhere. I welcome the trend. Fake smiles, huh, you can see those all over the world.

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Smile, then where does it go when you go out the door. Train people are some of the grumpiest people I have ever seen. And they control the air conditioner on the trains. It is so hot on the Odakyu line in the morning people pass out. While they sit in relative comfort.

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Even if it's a fake smile, as long as it SEEMS genuine it has a beneficial effect for the company. Corporate employees that are out in the public eye are considered PR representatives for the company and the company can (and does) expect those employees to present a certain attitude or get relocated... either to a position out of the public eye or to the unemployment line. It's not harassment, just part of the job description. I guarantee that woman's job description includes the word, "cheerful".

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The perception of Japanese people having two faces is becoming more of a reality. The companies want you to pretend to think alike. I prefer individuals being real and working hard by providing quality service. If it's not a genuine smile, this is misleading and it's more for insecure people. Maybe that is why Japanese talk about same thing.

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So shallow aqnd pathetic itb is laughable. They even talked about this on the BBC yesterday and couldn't5 believe how childish it was. What a complete bunch of silly sausages.

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I thought smiling came with enjoying your job.....it is found in the common sense manual.

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I'd wish they'd bring the smiling software to Kobe...

Recently I've had two ticket mishaps and left something behind on the train. They weren't helpful or smiley. The week after, I humbly asked for them to look after my guitar for an hour as the coin locker was too small. "Use a big coin locker," was the gruff response.

To cap it off, a JR worker ran out and screamed like a banshee when I carried my folding bike down to the tickets gates at 11:50pm for not having a special bike bag.

Triumvere, I'll take the Arigatou gozaimasu mofo any day!

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