lifestyle

The art of giving and receiving change in Japan

58 Comments
By Oona McGee, RocketNews24

If you’re tired of receiving vacant smiles and flippant customer service at your local grocery store, you may want to make a trip to Japan, where the customer always comes first and every transaction is concluded with a graceful bow.

This remarkable attention to customer service even extends to the handling of cash transactions in shops around the country. Akin to an art form, a simple payment to a store clerk in Japan will inevitably set off a series of steps and precise movements to satisfy the needs of both parties and respectively complete the exchange. Come with us as we take you through the steps of a simple transaction in Japan. The attention to detail and the clever reasons for it will surprise you.

The pictograph was created by Twitter user @M_Shiroh, who was so impressed with the cashier’s skill on a recent trip to the supermarket that they decided to document the details of the exchange.

Next time you make a purchase in Japan, make note of the way the cashier handles your change. If they’re good at their craft, you’ll receive your money in the following order and with a sense of gravitas befitting royalty. 1. Counting your notes

In Japan, notes are adorned with portraits on one side. The cashier will hold out the notes with these portraits facing you and the notes will be parallel to a wall as opposed to the floor. Using two hands, the amount will be counted out verbally as they flick through each note.

2. Handing over your notes

The notes will then be handed to you in a neat stack with the largest one on the bottom. When you put them in your wallet, your notes will now be in order from lowest to highest, making it more convenient for you when it comes to paying for your next transaction.

3. Handing over your coins and receipt

Next, the cashier will fold your receipt if it’s particularly long, and then place the coins neatly on top. By doing this, the receipt will protect the palm of your hand from coming into contact with any coins. You’ll then be able to slide the small change easily into your coin compartment and either return the receipt into the special box that’s often provided on the counter or slide it into your wallet. Cue graceful bow and you’re on your way.

Not only is this a wonderful way to treat the customer and ensure there are no mistakes or disputes, it’s also a great way to keep long queues moving quickly.

Source: ハム速

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- “Denki Anma”: The Japanese traditional torment that you’ll be glad stays in Japan -- Kinoko Girly: the weirdest time-waster you’ll play all day -- You’re not seeing things, that’s a cat selling roasted sweet potatoes

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58 Comments
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Not only is this a wonderful way to treat the customer and ensure there are no mistakes or disputes, it’s also a great way to keep long queues moving quickly.

Huh, how does all this showmanship "keep things moving quickly". Especially hwen the clerk is genrally then required to hand-write a receipt for the customer, even though they got an electronic one. Thanks, but I'll take the automatic coin dispensing machines they use in many modern cultures anyday.

-27 ( +9 / -36 )

the clerk is genrally then required to hand-write a receipt for the customer

Can't remember the last time I had a hand-written receipt. Oh yes, the vet - he's the only person I do business with who doesn't have an electronic till in his one-man surgery.

I'll take the automatic coin dispensing machines they use in many modern cultures anyway.

The article is about getting your change when shopping, not about changing large notes into coins.

7 ( +11 / -5 )

Negative, Jersyboy! If you cant' appreciate the gesture what are you doing here, commenting on it? Deal with your automatic coin dispensing robots, if that's what you get out of life. Obviously, you get nothing out of being in Japan. IF YOU'VE EVER BEEN THERE! What a pathetic post!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I like it when they do this. It's professional and helps avoid mistakes. I only wish they had done it where I once paid 10,000 yen for a 1,000 bowl of ramen, but didn't notice until I got home. To this day, we still refer to that place as the "Ichimanyen Ramen Shop".

13 ( +19 / -6 )

The article is about getting your change when shopping, not about changing large notes into coins.

Many retail stores in America have coin-dispensing machines for the change from a purchase. In fact, hold your breath for this one, places like Walmart have registers where you can scan in everything yourself, and, even pay by cash, and get cash and coins back in return. Now that is "also a great way to keep long queues moving quickly." Guess I don't need the security of having some kid flick bills in front of me and pile change on my receipt when I shop.

-18 ( +8 / -25 )

I have to wonder what was thumbs-down-worthy about my last post. It's a true story, I thought you all could get a laugh out of it.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Now if they could just hold off on handing me the bag until after they have given me the change to put back in my man purse. Really easy to put away coins and notes with one hand.

I do enjoy seeing their faces while they patiently hold the bag handles in my direction before realising I'm not taking them until I get my change. Some even apologise.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I think the whole system is backwards.

Your purchased goods should be given to you after the money is exchanged and over with. I have to tell 100% of the clerks to put the bag on the counter and not hand it to me. It is way too clumsy to have the bag being held by one hand, the wallet between fingers in the other, and change dumped on top of a receipt which must be moved.

Give goods to clerk. Clerk charges goods and tells you price. You pay for goods. You receive change of bills first and allowed time to put them in your wallet. You receive small change and put in purse, pocket or wallet. You are handed receipt. You are handed bagged goods. Say thanks from both sides.

Isn't this more logical and easier than the other way?

6 ( +12 / -6 )

where the customer always comes first and every transaction is concluded with a graceful bow.

Seriously RocketNews24, what are you smoking?

skinneeMAY. 06, 2015 - 08:48AM JST Now if they could just hold off on handing me the bag until after they have given me the change to put back in my man purse.

JapanGalMAY. 06, 2015 - 08:54AM JST ...Your purchased goods should be given to you after the money is exchanged and over with. I have to tell 100% of the clerks to put the bag on the counter and not hand it to me. It is way too clumsy to have the bag being held by one hand, the wallet between fingers in the other, and change dumped on top of a receipt which must be moved.

Agreed. Almost every time I go shopping I have this moment where my hands are full juggling the change and my wallet but the cashier is trying to hand me my goods and refuses to just set them on the counter. It's to the point at some shops where the cashier extends the bag and I make a token touch of the bag with my finger, and then the cashier will permit it to be set on the counter while I put my money away.

6 ( +10 / -3 )

@ Sensei - I got a chuckle from your ramen shop story, but rarely click on thumbs (up or down). I decided to log in and vote after your second comment. You're always gonna peeve someone off, and please others. Just remember next time you see a down-thumb on your comment, that others may have enjoyed it but couldn't be bothered to login/sign-up.

3 ( +6 / -2 )

of note, all this so called service isnt free, the staffs time is paid for in the goods. now while making employment is good, there are far too many jobs in Japan that the average Taro is paying for but are not needed, eg parking attendants, specialty store with 5 staff serving one customer. give me the choice of minimal service at reduced prices, and ill probably take it 9/10 times

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thanks Holly! I guess there are nice folks out there after all :-)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Actually, the set ritual of handing over change in exchange for a bag here is kind of annoying in Japan, because it goes against common sense. This is one thing they might want to reconsider, Japanese culture or not.

-2 ( +6 / -7 )

people can find issue with anything can't they.

I love that Japan has protocols and rituals like this, that's one reason I love it here. In a world where manners are becoming less important to many, this type of thing is good and I hope it never changes.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

No No No. I don't usually bother complaining about things in Japan, but the vacant smiles and slow customer service that you get in most convenience stores here are one of the things that really bug me. I'd take the personalized service, eye contact and smiles that you get in western/european/us stores over most of the service I get in Japanese convenience stores any day of the year.

Most Tokyo convenience store staff (and a lot of supermarket staff) are paying more attention to the rituals and the people walking into the store than the person standing infront of them. They almost never smile. They rarely make eye contact. They seem to be talking to someone about 5 meters behind and above you. They basically repeat the same script, ignoring the obvious infront of them. They never say "hello" or anything personalized. They move with glacial slowness as they follow every step of the ritual and count out all your money even when you are clearly in a rush. They suddenly interrupt what they're doing/saying to join in the Irashaemase chorus and basically shout in your face. They are still running through their automated script as you are walking out the door, which hardly makes it feel personal. Etc..

That said, a lot of customer service in Japan is pretty good, but cheap/quick shop store staff is usually not part of it. I've had better service in smaller towns, where people are less likely to stick to the impersonal script, and more likely to smile. My local supermarket in Tokyo has one middle aged lady who is always smiling and friendly. the rest, not so much. One of my local convenience stores had friendly (again older) staff. The others not so much. The convenience store near my office has had a couple of friendly staff over the years, interestingly they were all non-japanese. Indian, Asian, etc..

Sorry for the rant. i mostly love you japan!

4 ( +9 / -4 )

I don't need a receipt for donut. I just give you the money and you just give me the donut. End of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this

Those paper receipts are very helpful. I can put some money in my purse at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week the paper receipts that the money has metamorphosed into tell me where it's all gone and what I've spent it on, even the little purchases that I'd otherwise forget about. Very helpful for writing up the kakeibo and keeping tabs on things.

1 ( +5 / -3 )

it always feels good when some one treat you with respect and care and in return you say thank you from your heart and then generous smile from the both side, you leave the place with a good mood and the clerk get refresh for the next customer.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Interesting! I never paid so much attention to these fine details when receiving change.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In a world where manners are becoming less important to many, this type of thing is good and I hope it never changes.

These aren't "manners". They are worn-out displays of phony "service", which as other posters have stated, you are paying for in the price of the goods. It is just like corporate bowing -- people expect it so they keep doing it even though it has no real meaning or function.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Also, I like how some shops clip your bill to the cash register or leave it in the payment tray until they give you your change. I guess this is done to avoid someone trying to claim that they paid with a higher value bill and were short changed? I've only ever seen this kind of thing done in Japan.

5 ( +4 / -0 )

I got no complaints with how things are handled here.

Some shops still got the old basket hanging from which they give you your change.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I hate it. Trying to move along quickly with my bag, wallet, purchases and then they hand you the money on the receipt that you pretty much have to take with two hands. Then things start dropping on the floor. Now I just point to that little tray and take my change when I am ready.

0 ( +7 / -5 )

I like it when the change is properly doled out as outlined in this article. Unfortunately, a number of staff don't properly line up the bills, and some of them put the biggest bill on top, rather than on the bottom.

I always re-arrange it right there when that happens, before I put it in my wallet.

4 ( +5 / -2 )

Jerseyboy, the Co-op Kobe, Supermarket Sato chain and others have self-check aisles. They're not that common yet, but some stores are implementing them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I like how some shops clip your bill to the cash register or leave it in the payment tray until they give you your change. I guess this is done to avoid someone trying to claim that they paid with a higher value bill and were short changed? I've only ever seen this kind of thing done in Japan.

When I worked at a Subway restaurant as a teenager, I had some woman give me a $10, then claim it was a $20 and that I shortchanged her. After this, my boss told me to never put the bill in the register until after handing back the change.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I love it in Japan when a female cashier places her hand under yours and literally holds your hand while placing the change in it.

10 ( +12 / -3 )

These aren't "manners". They are worn-out displays of phony "service"

Says a grumpy 50-something year old man living in America. The "have a nice day" that I received at clothing shops in the US may have been fake, but I still appreciated it. Same goes for the "fake" smiles waitresses gave me.

5 ( +6 / -2 )

Jersyboy. You must get out a bit more because Maxvalu/Eaon/Big has had the scan yourself/ pay cash or card systems for 2 years.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The cashier will hold out the notes with these portraits facing you and the notes will be parallel to a wall as opposed to the floor. - See more at: http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/the-art-of-giving-and-receiving-change-in-japan#sthash.9tC7guRb.dpuf

This was new to me. Me, well, I am from Australia and coins are usually placed in hand under receipt, which can be grasped by fingers when closing palm (or receipt is just put in the bag with purchased items). Getting coins as change here causes a moment of stress as I try to stop them sliding and flying into the air from on top of the receipt as the receipt is grasped.

Then again, in places around Europe and even here too, change is placed in a tray on the counter and the issue and point of the article have no significance.

Also,

choiwaruoyajiMAY. 06, 2015 - 02:12PM JST I love it in Japan when a female cashier places her hand under yours and literally holds your hand while placing the change in it.

See more at: http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/the-art-of-giving-and-receiving-change-in-japan#sthash.9tC7guRb.dpuf this reminds me of AKB member meeting events where all the ossans and their ilk can have contact, thereby reminding us what a wonderful Lolikom Paradise Japan can be.

But please never stop your comments, choiwaruoyaji - they always make my day.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

When you put them in your wallet, your notes will now be in order from lowest to highest

Nope, not in my part of Japan. Maybe its a western Japan thing, but here they normally hand me the notes with the highest on top, which means I have to reshuffle them lowest to highest (the way I like it). I asked a cashier once why they did it this way, and they said it was so the customer looked richer and wasn't potentially embarrassed when it looked like all they had were 1,000 yen notes.

Customs differ, even in Japan. This myth of a "culturally homogenous Japan" really should be replaced by "A clueless Tokyo that can't accept the idea that everyone doesn't speak and do things their way".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@jerseyboy

"places like Walmart have registers where you can scan in everything yourself, and, even pay by cash, and get cash and coins back in return"

Welcome to 10 years ago, if that's the latest in the US, I guess you haven't made much progress LOL It's time to get over your inferior complex and move on

3 ( +6 / -3 )

When you put them in your wallet, your notes will now be in order from lowest to highest Nope, not in my part of Japan. Maybe its a western Japan thing, but here they normally hand me the notes with the highest on top, which means I have to reshuffle them lowest to highest

I have noticed the same problem where I live. I read the article and was trying to figure out if I was doing something funny.

Like a few others said, I have a terrible time trying to hold the bag, and dealing with the order it is given to me. Not saying it's bad, but it doesn't work out well for me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When you put them in your wallet, your notes will now be in order from lowest to highest Nope, not in my part of Japan. Maybe its a western Japan thing, but here they normally hand me the notes with the highest on top, which means I have to reshuffle them lowest to highest.

I'm pretty sure that's because of the problem of whether they only gave you change for a 5,000 when it should have been 10,000.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Goals0 May. 06, 2015 - 07:52PM JST I'm pretty sure that's because of the problem of whether they only gave you change for a 5,000 when it should have been 10,000.

That is a good point that I hadn't considered!

If you hand over 10,000 yen and you get 5 notes back, then if the top note is 1,000 yen you might still be being short-changed, but if the top note is a 5,000 yen then you're clearly not being short-changed.

Maybe it should be a Google job interview question? ;)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

True. Remarkable attention to customer service, attention to detail.

But, the other things get annoying. The staff (each one) shouting "konichiwa- irrashai". The plastic bags for each snack, drink,hot or cold. Taping the oden closed shut extra tight or the pizza-man wrappers. "I'm in a hurry", just friggin' give it to me. Then, they're alway swiping them darn T-point cards and people redeeming their score @ the cost of waiting to others behind them.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

"places like Walmart have registers where you can scan in everything yourself, and, even pay by cash, and get cash and coins back in return"

Welcome to 10 years ago, if that's the latest in the US, I guess you haven't made much progress LOL It's time to get over your inferior complex and move on.

Hide -- nice cheap shot. But if you really read my post, and understood the meaning of sarcasim, you would have ubdertsood the context in which I used that as an example to respond to Cleo.

HEY MODS -- NICE JOB OF TAKING DOWN POSTS FOR BEING "IMPOLITE TO OTHERS". GUESS THAT ONLY APPLIES TO US "JAPAN BASHERS", RIGHT?

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

@jerseyboy

These aren't "manners". They are worn-out displays of phony "service", which as other posters have stated, you are paying for in the price of the goods. It is just like corporate bowing -- people expect it so they keep doing it even though it has no real meaning or function

"corporate bowing - no real function" like shaking hands you mean.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The only issue I have is getting a receipt for absolutely everything - even a 20 yen chiroru chocolate! So much wastage...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I don't really see the big problem, normally i count everything i get, but here they actually show you the count. The service is a little slower, but you don't get treaded like a blob of meat thrown over the counter. I have noticed a lot of places US, Denmark, etc. that it's almost like the clerks tell you to "move!" because you are to slow. It may be fake, but it make things feel much easier.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many retail stores in America have coin-dispensing machines for the change from a purchase. In fact, hold your breath for this one, places like Walmart have registers where you can scan in everything yourself, and, even pay by cash, and get cash and coins back in return. Now that is "also a great way to keep long queues moving quickly." Guess I don't need the security of having some kid flick bills in front of me and pile change on my receipt when I shop.

I use those too, Jerseyboy, but what happens when the machine doesn't give you the change you're expecting? At least with a human you can discuss it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lived in Japan for many years and the way they make change never really impressed me. It is efficient and polite... but that is the style of the Japanese Culture in general. I'll take the U.S. Style... rude at times but at least they converse with you and don't get flustered.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"corporate bowing - no real function" like shaking hands you mean

Moon1 -- NO. "Corporate bowing" is that silly exercise that corporate execs go through, generally at a press conference, to show how "sorry" they are they got caught screwing up or breaking the law. ("We are terribly sorry for causing trouble..."). Which is done simply because the press and public expect it and care more about it than what actually happened. Not the normal greeting function of bowing or shaking hands. Handing money back a certain way, because that is the "norm" in Japan, and insisted upon by managers simply because it is an expectation, is not "manners". Hell, every bartender in Japan makes drinks in his/her shaker the exact same way. Is that "manners"? No, it is meamningless process which has become engrained into Japanese society.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I love that it's an art - I think it's a wonderful thing indeed. Presentation, attention to detail, a small vendor/customer ritual.

Long my it reign.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I live in the U.S, and I work at a grocery store. When I check customers out, I do not just speak a specific script. I genuinely talk to my customers and make them feel welcome, ask about their day, and hold a short conversation, all while I am checking out their groceries. I can usually have a customer done in a few short minutes, including counting back the change to them (large bills on the bottom), change in the palm of their hand, and give them the receipt if they want. My customers usually leave happier than they were when they came in. I have had a bunch of experiences in the past where my cashier was not so courteous here in the U. S. also. Not all stores here are the same just as not all stores in Japan are the same. I would definitely like to experience shopping in Japan though!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'd take the personalized service, eye contact and smiles that you get in western/european/us stores over most of the service I get in Japanese convenience stores any day of the year.

You're going to a supermarket, not a social club, what's the matter with you? Shopping should be a case of in, pay, "thank you", out. Boom, done. No invasive chit chat, no empty smiles, no comments about the weather, just simple, efficient service.

This ritual, if it can be classed as such (sounds more like a routine to me but hey), sounds quite good, quite neat. Better than having all of your change and receipt thrown vaguely at your hand as I've frequently encountered. Though, some of the early comments worry me. You should always receive change and be given the time to put it away before the shopping is handed to you. It prevents you dropping your money for starters. It's also very rude to try and rush a customer into leaving, especially the old and the infirm.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Asking if you have a point card...and have been going to the store for years...um, get a clue please!!!!!!!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

After all the little details, checking out in Japan is still faster and more efficient than in the US. Cashiers in the US chat with each other, with customers... all the time. It can be easily an extra 2 minutes added to each customer when the cashiers are too "friendly".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'll never be able to fully assimilate to Japan. 50 years old and I still wanna punch that screen when I buy a beer.

But I do love the service here. This works great for fast food restaurants when you wash your hands while waiting for the food. The coins never touch your skin and go straight into the pocket.

It's nice to have the larger bills on top and I'm not that anal that the bills are backwards when I flip them and put it into my wallet.

My favorite is the cashier panic attack when I accidentally drop a coin.

I don't mind the chit-chat between the cashier and the customer back in the US. It takes a few days to get used to it again. But when the coworkers do it at the larger places, that bugs me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm so happy that I'm not the only one who notices how inconvenient it is to be handed a heavy bag of goods then a mountain of change. Putting change in my wallets and putting my wallet away shouldn't require circus-level dexterity.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

One of the first things I learned when coming to Japan was exactly this - how I should properly hand over paper bills. Face up and facing the other person, "it's manner here", the wifey said. Since then it is "common sense" to me and - mistakes as the one stated above (handling wrong bill) - can never happen to me.

I can pay with closed eyes, 'cause the wallet content is aligned/sorted properly by default :-)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm from Australia and I'm used to having the price stated and then the change verbalized as an addition to the price, as it is placed in your hand coin by coin. That way there is double-checking against a mistake. In Japan you have to look at the pile of coins placed on you hand and count them yourself. In case of an error the onus is then placed on the customer to point out the mistake. This seems like a disservice.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I don't know, in terms of convenient stores or supermarkets, I'm just getting my change. If the amount is right, I'm a happy bunny and hop off. I don't need it to be a ritual or a floor dance routine. I've never had any problem in any country I've been to and I appreciate each staff's style. Japan is fine, the US, Europe, Russia, whatever.

We're here for a simple business transaction. I pay for a product or service and if need be, you give me change, and our relationship is over.

I'm not so sensitive that if they offer a fake smile or no smile, my feelings are hurt.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Who uses change or paper money anymore anyhow? I haven't in 2-3 years.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

"Who uses change or paper money anymore anyhow? I haven't in 2-3 years."

You must be the only one to do that.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My local 7-11 shop is great, as I know the owner. Sometimes, he gives me free alcohol and sometimes it's a free party in the back office. Great times.

Usually, the service is good in Japan, but as most convenience stores (everywhere?) Are franchises, there can be great, and pretty "ghetto" ones, with rude or unprofessional staff, dirty premises and poor products.

Some of my peeves, which don't happen that often, include:

trying to force me to accept tape on my goods when I don't want a carrier bag (I just ask for my money back and leave if they press the issue).

giving notes before the coins.

serving other customers while I'm still pouring my change away or getting my stuff off of the counter.

However, like I said, all I have to do is just leave and go somewhere else.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"NatorMAY. 06, 2015 - 12:35PM JST No No No. I don't usually bother complaining about things in Japan, but the vacant smiles and slow customer service that you get in most convenience stores here are one of the things that really bug me. I'd take the personalized service, eye contact and smiles that you get in western/european/us stores over most of the service I get in Japanese convenience stores any day of the year."

I find if I return a few times to the same convenience store, and make some small talk, they always remember me, and I get a lot of smiles.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find if I return a few times to the same convenience store, and make some small talk, they always remember me, and I get a lot of smiles.

The staff at the combini near my office is downright chatty with me. I've been going there for years now, and we've chatted lots.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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