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Should saying thanks at a Japanese convenience store go without saying?

By Richard Simmonds

As the saying goes, being polite doesn’t cost a thing. Except, it does. It uses up some of our ever so valuable seconds, seconds that could be spent doing much more worthwhile things. Personally, I always say thank you but more out of habit than a genuine feeling of gratitude, so that more than once I’ve found myself thanking the automated check-outs at the supermarket. Similarly, I always say thank you to convenience store staff in Japan when I pop in for my daily essentials. But, according to more than a few Japanese social media users, I and my fellow gratitude-expressing kin just look ridiculous, or creepy.

There are plenty arguing that people saying at least a single word to show their appreciation should be common sense, whether it be arigatou gozaimasu (equivalent to thank you very much), arigatou (thank you), doumo (thanks, or ta), or the horribly grating to English-speakers’ ears, sankyuu. A surprisingly large number argued the opposite though, including some convenience store staff.

“I always say thanks, but I often overhear people behind me saying things like, ‘Aren’t they embarrassed?’ or ‘What an idiot!'”

“There are so many rude people! I get so annoyed!”

“What exactly are you supposed to be thankful for?”

“There’s no difference between them and vending machines, what do they care if you mumble something or not.”

“As a clerk, it’s really creepy when people start thanking you.”

“I don’t say anything, only weird people do, right?”

Arigato gozaimasu is a bit much, but you should at least say arigato.”

“I bet all the people who don’t say anything have never worked a job like that.”

A survey conducted by a student part-time job-finder site MyNavi found that only 21.8% of respondents said thanks every time, while 24.1% never said anything at all. In an earlier survey by the same company, thirty convenience store clerks were asked how being thanked made them feel and the answer was a unanimous “happy”, so maybe some of those who joined in the debate on the not-saying-anything side will rethink their stance…or take a leaf out of the foreigners in Japan handbook.

Sources: Yahoo! News Japan/J Cast News via jin115

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© SoraNews24

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Being British its always been a given to say a simple "thank you" to supermarket workers, bus drivers, taxi drivers etc in my home country. So saying "arigatou" has never felt strange to me after paying for my beer and fried chicken or whatever else it might be that I am buying from 7/11, Family Mart etc

13 ( +14 / -1 )

I usually thank the clerk. It’s natural to do that for me. The service can be robotic in Japan but at least the person serving you is somewhat present. Back in the UK it is as if the customer is interrupting the conversation that the clerks are having. Sorry to inconvenience you, but can you serve me please? Thanks!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Because it is my personal (and cultural) norm to do so, I thank every person who performs a service for me, no matter how small. After doing so I usually follow that with "have a nice day" in Japanese when I'm in Japan. I can't remember a single instance when clerks did not light up with a genuine smile. Often they answered with "have a nice day" in English. I hope it did a little to make their day a little brighter. Their smiles added more joy to mine.

"What exactly are you supposed to be thankful for?"

Everything and everyone who helps you to get through your day/life with the (often thankless) ways that they serve. It takes so very little in order to spread joy. Whether or not it's "their job" and you think yourself absolved of any show of gratitude because they are being paid, it's a happier and more serene way to go through life--even if others think you an idiot. At least you are a happy one.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Hmm, the Japanese think it is ridiculous to say a quick thank you to the convenience store but literally announce thank you as they leave a fast food place like Matsuya for example, or at curry shop, or at a fast food counter-style ton katsu shop.

Additionally, they will often that thank you to the bus driver when they step off the bus especially on buses that serve a limited audience. And it is like every one of them will thank them for doing his job. And, I have also heard them say it on public buses.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's very easy to take things for granted and when that happens negativity quickly settles in, often to your own detriment. A quick "thank you" is always welcome and doesn't really cost anything for you.

Please try it. You may find it'll actually make YOU feel even just a bit better throughout your day as well!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I like this admittingly bit automatic conversation. It makes the encounter at the register in a "Convini" or other shops more personal.

More embarassing, if you work there, may be to yell "Irashaimase" every time a customer enters your Ramen shop or Izakaya.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It’s entirely reasonable to thank people who do a favor or something out of the ordinary. Cashiers and waiters/waitresses are only doing their jobs, they’re not doing anyone any favors.

At least in Japan people in shops still thank customers. The staff in US stores are just flat out rude to customers.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

As customer, say thanks if you want but it is not required.

The culture in Japan is customers have higher standing , so as long customers not being an ass, it made store employees' job much easier already.

Generally they dont feel entitled to thanks or even tipping as they are just doing their job. And they thank you for shopping in their store or using their service.

For me I usually give head nod.

But again, some people say thanks to satisfy their own ego or out of habit. what is next? pushing small changes as tip? When in Japan do as the Japanese do. We dont really need to push unnecessary change to existing culture.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

Hardyansein DjongToday  01:08 pm JST

The culture in Japan is customers have higher standing 

Only in so much as the customer wants exactly what the shop is providing at minimal effort. If you want any kind of change to procedure whatsoever, you quickly learn how superficial the customer's higher standing really is.

But again, some people say thanks to satisfy their own ego or out of habit. what is next? pushing small changes as tip? When in Japan do as the Japanese do. 

Bollocks to any of this "do as the Japanese do" nonsense. I didn't come here just to give up every shred of uniqueness about myself whenever a random Japanese person, not even the majority of Japanese people, do things differently. Especially when the Japanese person on the receiving end of the gratitude appreciates it 100% of the time.

I thank cashiers when I genuinely feel gratitude for their politeness and respect for me. That happens in almost every interaction. I'm not going to stop expressing that gratitude just because some random selfish person in line behind me or some rando in the Internet peanut gallery doesn't approve.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

i always think people were not brought up right if they can’t even say a simple thank you at the convenience store. It says to me that the person has little empathy, and is somewhat self-centered.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

What's wrong with the people who argued against saying thank you? They must be pretty sad people, leading pretty sad lives. It's simple common courtesy to say thank you after a transaction.

In the US, I always say "thanks". In Japan, I mumble a quick "domo" or "arigatou".

Sure, a full "domo arigatou gozaimasu" would be overkill, and seem a little strange at 7-11. But, wtf is wrong with a quick "domo"?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why would you not.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

i always think people were not brought up right if they can’t even say a simple thank you at the convenience store. It says to me that the person has little empathy, and is somewhat self-centered.

Yep. A quick thank you just shows a bit of respect for someone. Doesn’t hurt and I’d have visions of my mother slapping me on the back of the head if I didn’t.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I am Japanese and I thank convenience store staff everytime. All my friends and family members do too.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Spent a month in Hawaii in December. Was surprised by the politeness actually.

Here I always thank even the floor sweepers. I get many smiles back.

I do not believe the person above that said they heard comments behind them degrading their politeness. It would be impolite and embarrassing for someone to do that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I do not believe the person above that said they heard comments behind them degrading their politeness. It would be impolite and embarrassing for someone to do that.

I'm pretty skeptical myself. If someone said that behind me, I'd point them out for being stupid. I've never heard anyone say anything like that though.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I say "arigatou" 95% of the time to cashiers and the like. It's just natural to me to say thank you, I've always done it at home in Canada. As far as I can tell the staff always seems happy when I say it and they usually reply.

My (Japanese) boyfriend noticed how often I say it and did comment on it before, saying he thought it was really nice that I always say thank you, because a lot of Japanese people don't. He used to work at a 7/11 in university and he said it always made him happy when the rare customer would say thank you.

So yes, it isn't typically said by Japanese customers, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find an employee who would be upset at you thanking them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How interesting. After reading the article on Japanese manners, this is a bit surprising.

In America we don't usually thank store clerks unless we have caused some problem or issue, like asking a question or holding up the line or needing help finding something. Of course it could be a problem for the person behind you so sometimes we apologize. But not always, there is a lot of rudeness in America.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

there is a lot of rudeness in America.

There is also a heck of a lot of kindness. Just yesterday, one lady calling me from her car to tell me my backpack was open, and another rolling down her window to apologize for blocking the crosswalk with her car on a major 3 lane road. She couldn't have seen wishing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She couldn't have seen us waiting

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"“As a clerk, it’s really creepy when people start thanking you.”

Good grief...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm more than a little thankful to store clerks running to get my fried chicken, process my bills and the like........

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always say "arigatou". The characters you come across who just grunt a single word to request something and never say thank you seem incredibly rude to me. They may think themselves superior, but they are ill-mannered ignoramuses.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's no harm to say thank you. Working in a retail outlet can be quite trying with long hours and friendly customers are always a bonus.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

their politeness is often quite fake.

There is no such thing as fake politeness. You are either polite or not. Your actually feelings don’t change whether or not something is polite.

For example if I met Trump for some reason, I would thank him for his time, even though I quite despise him. I would be polite, even though my feelings towards him are not good ones. That’s not ‘fake politeness’ it’s politeness. I just wouldn’t like the person I was being polite to.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I always say thank you, without fail. And as I frequent the same stores so regularly and encounter the same staff, it’s even more important. These people are part of my community.

Honor the dignity of labor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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