Walking into most major convenience stores in Japan, and buying either cigarettes or alcohol will put you face-to-face with the ultimate in security to prevent minors from acquiring these forbidden fruits. It comes in the form of a touchscreen display on the register that prompts the customer to touch “OK” if they are indeed over the age of 20.
Failure to do so would end the transaction and touching “OK” would make the customer a “liar-liar” and their pants would thus become “on fire”…or so we're told. Even if that doesn’t hold true, these buttons also have the magical ability to transfer legal liability away from the store in the event something is sold to a minor.
In other words, it’s pretty much okay for minors to buy tobacco and alcohol products as long as they go on record as lying to do so, and everyone is happy.
However, while this may be great news for juvenile delinquents and other naughty nellies alike, there is one segment of the population who are none to happy with the system: seniors.
Of course there’s the annoyance of constantly being asked confirm your age when you are clearly over 20. But more importantly, this automated age-verification system has become so commonplace that the purchase of a can of beer is usually accompanied by the clerk grunting and half-hardheartedly gesturing to the screen while hardly even glancing at the customer. It’s what columnist Masahiko Katsuya is calling a major lack of communication on the part of the store and a sign of the “hardening of society” on the whole.
After the topic was raised by media in Japan, comments from those old enough to never be mistaken for a teenager have ranged from mild amusement to irritation.
“I usually snap at the clerk, ‘Is it possible for someone underage to be bald and have wrinkles?!'”
“I tell them, ‘I look THAT young? Thank you!'”
“It’s really annoying but I just want to get my beer and get out of there so I play along.”
Meanwhile, younger netizens stood up for the touchscreen system or at the very least felt it was a non-issue.
“If they hate the touch screen so much, then they should just buy their alcohol and cigarettes at a supermarket.”
“It’s better this way so they don’t discriminate against anyone.”
“These annoyed old people are still going to be annoyed if they’re verbally asked their age.”
“It always looks like I’m about to enter an adult website when that screen pops up.”
“I’m so conditioned to it, I reach for it even when I’m just buying snacks.”
Sadly for the older generation, this dehumanization of convenience stores is only beginning. The major chains have all stated their intentions to operate without cashiers in the very near future to save costs.
The stage is already being set. Investments are being made in microchips cheap enough that they can be placed in stores’ items for automatic ringing up and payment. Also, as a young commenter pointed out, this age verification button seems to have the convenient side effect of further reducing human interaction and thereby conditioning us so that the friendly clerk will not be as missed when the time comes.
But while it appears inevitable, the fact that the elderly are now a huge chunk of the Japanese population means their purchasing power cannot be ignored. As the comments also mentioned, if they don’t like the way convenience stores are handling customer service, their money going elsewhere will speak louder than their words ever will. Luckily, with supermarkets and vending machines, there are no shortages of places to buy liquor and smokes in Japan.
Sources: News Post Seven, Itai News
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