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How would you rate customer service in Japan's shops, restaurants, transport facilities and so on?

36 Comments

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For those who say the customer service is not flexible, can you give a specific example? I'm curious if the problem is with the service or the customer.

Gap - bought a pair of pants and the first time I wore then the zipper broke. Took them back and to my shock the staff tried to tell me they were going to charge me 2000 yen to have the zipper replaced. Like hell. It was just when it opened as well and I got the manager out and said no way in hell was I going to pay for their crappy quality. Zipper was replaced for free but only after I blew my top.

Various restaurants/cafes - "Could I have this without X on it please = Teeth sucking, running to the manager, coming back and saying no.

Bank on sending an international transfers - You need X paper and this paper. Please come back. Go back the next day. Oh, we forgot you also need X paper. Please come back. On the THIRD visit I was told they would not send the money unless I told them what the money was being sent for because of issues with North Korea... Um...

Amazon.co.jp - sent us the wrong thing and expected US to pay for it to be returned to them.

Zara - Do you have this dress in a smaller size? "No". Could you call the other store in a different location? "No".

Shall I continue? I have plenty more cases of where people clearly need to be smacked upside the head for their "wonderful" customer service.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

For those who say the customer service is not flexible, can you give a specific example? I'm curious if the problem is with the service or the customer.

I wanted a mixed drink at an izakaya, a big chain one. They had both ingredients to make the drink on the menu but not the specific drink so I told the waiter to charge me for the most expensive drink they had. He couldn't/wouldn't do it. I then suggested that his manager use the register's miscellaneous key to ring it up at whatever price they wanted. He couldn't/wouldn't do it. Finally, I ended up ordering the ingredients separately with an glass of ice and made the drink myself. Needless to say, I never went back to that chain.

Most McDonald's in Japan will not sell you any of the special sauces. Yes, sell, as in I give you money for something you have, a transaction for a product. You have to have purchased McNuggets in order to get them. In other countries they don't care what you've order and will simply give you two or three packets of the special sauce for the equivalent of about 30 yen.

I've lost count of how many times I've been out to eat with a friend and asked that both of us get our dishes at the same time. Every other country I've ever been to has managed to do it so I'm not sure why it should be such a problem here.

Tipness and other places refusing to do cash payments rather than bank withdrawals. Why? It's quite easy to check if I haven't paid since I have to put my card through a reader. If I haven't paid, don't let me in. How hard is that and why should it involve my giving you my bank information. They already have registers and cash there for the products that they sell.

Again with Tipness. I was going home for about 6 weeks so obviously I didn't want to pay for services I wouldn't be using. I was told that if I didn't pay for the 6 weeks I was gone, even though I was informing the staff about my absence, I would have to join up again and pay new membership fees. This isn't exactly like getting a cable connection where someone might have to come to your house. This was me not being there for 6 weeks. There being a place where my card would have to go through a reader anyway so they'd know if I paid or not. They lost a customer with that one.

How many times have I read posters here asking for an edit button only to have the posts deleted or the request denied?

Yes, many of these requests and others given above were about something that was off the menu or irregular, so to speak, so one could argue that we, the customers, were just being difficult. The point though is that Japanese are always happy to claim that the customer is king. The customer is king in so far as the king is happy to do exactly as he's been advised. Heaven forbid he ask for a different throne and he'll see how far his title gets him. Additionally, of the many, many countries I've been to flexibility is a given. Once in a while, you get a particular chef who doesn't want to change anything, fair enough but are they really "chefs" at chain restaurants? For the most part though, if you present a solution for a problem, people are generally happy to try it out -- except in the land of customer is king

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Great until you have a problem and then it becomes horrific.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

About as kind as polite as you would like, but at the same time about as flexible as a vending machine.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Excellent as long as all goes to plan. Exceptions always causwe huge difficulties. also for mundane services it can sometimes be a little overbearing and time consuming.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"For those who say the customer service is not flexible, can you give a specific example? I'm curious if the problem is with the service or the customer."

Tipness, private members club to whom I paid thousands of dollars,, played MTV on the video monitors but with the sound turned down and a different separate audio service playing music(!!!). Once I saw a video I liked, asked if I they could turn up the sound so I could enjoy the video, the staff said "no." No reason cited. Just "no."

Asked them once to hold my bag for half an hour so I could run an errand. They said "no." No reason cited. Just "no."

Ordered cheese and crackers in French restaurant for appetizer. Lots of cheese, only a couple of crackers. Asked if I could order more crackers to make up for the deficit. Waiter consulted mait'dre. They deliberated for a while, and handed down their stern verdict: "no." No reason cited. Just "no."

Do you want more examples? I've got a million, could write a book, but typing fatigue is starting to set in.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Generally, great! Pizzatime. Totally agree. The incessant screaming indoors is too much.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I like Japanese customer service much better than most other countries, but I do wish they would provide more English! This point is the great failing. I don't mean for my own sake (I try my hardest to get by in Japanese) but for my friends and family when they come to visit. I don't want to have to babysit them all the time.

Also, sometimes customer service for non-Japanese in non-urban areas leaves a lot to be desired. One day I took my European friend to a very famous, but somewhat rural sightseeing spot. When we approached the tourist information booth, the woman at the counter gasped in horror "kita, kita, gaijin ga!" and ran to the back. Then I heard her arguing with a co-worker about which of them was going to come out and deal with us. They were greatly relieved when I addressed them in Japanese.

We got exactly the same treatment in a souvenir shop later that day. I was so glad that my friend couldn't understand what people were saying about us.

The infrastructure for domestic tourism is excellent, but they really need to ramp up the English (or other language) support.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Better than any country I have ever been to

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"Japan's shops"

I had the experience of opening the door to a barber shop and upon seeing me, the barber immediately crossed his hands in front of his face to tell me to get lost.

"restaurants"

There are way too many restaurants that allow smoking. I've had quite a few meals ruined by smokers.

"transport"

Rush hour trains are a real pain. I really dislike getting shoved into and out of the train at virtually every station on my way to work.

Other than those things, great!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

What people don't realize is that it's a huge burden on the employees.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

On the one hand, it's generally quite polite and thorough in terms of checking to see that what you've purchased is in working order and all.

On the other hand, it can be ridiculously slow, especially in department stores where the cash registers are often not in the place where you purchase things so the salesclerk has to run to where ever it is the money is kept. In restaurants, I appreciate the not having to tip and that the waitstaff isn't overly friendly but I don't appreciate the lack of communication that seems to go on between the waitstaff so that something you may have requested with your order is often not told to the person who brings out your food. I also find it annoying how you often have to wave down waitstaff in order to get condiments, refills, etc. and the way they'll either take your plate the second you're finished or walk by your table 20 times without clearing anything obviously finished off the table.

To repeat what a few have already said, it's generally fine if you go according to script. If you deviate, you'll get the tooth sucking and whines of how difficult something is going to be. A little less rule following and a little more self-initiate would go a long way towards making it excellent and not just good. Overall, in Japan I find department store service far better than restaurant service but think that for many, it's just that the bowing and scraping goes a long way towards convincing them that it's actually good service.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"The best"

Yes, the best foreigner-refusing barbershops, smoke-filled restaurants, and packed-like-sardines trains!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Transport services are excellent. Restaurants and shops not so much. In those places customer is king as long as you don't deviate from whatever they want to offer.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Best in the world, even though it is over done sometimes with the bowing. I love Starbuck's where their cheerful service is a good pick-me-up. In restaurants, waiters and waitresses need to be a little bit more flexible and more knowledgeable about the menu items, but it is getting better.

In Japan, I find service in the hotels, airports, transport outstanding.

Recently, I was in Australia, and it was a real eye-opener. I went into a lawyer's office and the female receptionist was reading a book and having a cup of coffee as I approached her. It didn't really bother me but it was just so different from Japan. Where service does suffer in Australia is in department stores where they have laid off a lot of floor staff. You can spend ages there and not get anyone offering to help you.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As good as I've seen. If 'and so on' includes staff handing out flyers for izakaya I'd just like to say to some of them that maybe I'd like to go to your place too and use the discount coupon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Try reporting a lost bag at Nairta airport. 4-5 extremely helpful and professional people will appear out of nowhere to help you. Much different from the U.S.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Much, much better by far than here in my homeland, the USA !

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Generally, great! Pizzatime. Totally agree. The incessant screaming indoors is too much.

I agree too. If you have to have people standing around shouting about something, it's nothing special.

I hate it in supermarkets when they stack things in your basket tidily so the heavy things don't crush the light things etc, but it ends up the exact opposite of how you want it to be when you have to put everything into your bags etc, so it takes longer to pack it up.

Also, I HATE the bowing. If you are waiting on a long line, and the checkout person is doing the dumb bow after each person has finished paying, it takes longer to get through the people waiting. Not everyone want to be treated like that. Do your job faster. I'm sure the people would prefer that. it's the same thing at convenience stores. Stop it with the stupid piece of tape on the bag!

I'm not even going to start on what I think about banks here, or as I call them "idiot shacks".

1 ( +5 / -4 )

How can the service in banks be so slow? It takes ages to do anything if you have to talk to someone. It takes weeks instead of minutes to give you a cash card.

Telephone shops are a nightmare. Anywhere else I can walk into a convenience store and buy a SIM and be out and up and running in minutes.

Why do staff at some restaurants shout at you when you are two foot in front of them? Do they imagine everyone is deaf?

Then so many shops play music that must have been designed to irritate.

Generally, they are good about replacing faulty items. However, one supermarket near where I live refused to replace a sweater that fell apart in less than a month. I haven't bought a single thing from that chain since.

"Okyakusan was kamisama" is just another Japanese myth.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

In Japan, manage your expectations, compensate accordingly, and don't sweat the small stuff. Find what works for you, and focus on the things that are so much better than how they'd be wherever home is. Having said that, though (rant starts):

Don't mistake meaningless obsequy for customer service. Nine times out of ten, the vendor - customer relationship (even in restaurants) follows an inflexible manufacturing template of predetermined product/delivery/price.

The battery contact broke on a cordless drill the day after I bought it. I told the staff I was still confident in the brand, but not in that model, and wanted to upgrade (paying the difference) to the next model, and that I was keen to get back to my DIY schedule. Not possible. Could I get a replacement, then? No. The only solution was for the unit to be fixed, which delayed my DIY by a week.

I've come to verbal blows with subway station staff reluctant to give individual fare receipts (a foreign client was insisting on them). One old fart told me I should buy paper tickets (rather than use Suica) if I wanted receipts. Was this a rule? No, but..

And staff can be very creative at inventing reasons why they can't do something. I asked to see the movement in a used Swiss watch to check if it was genuine, to be told that it wasn't the type of watch that could be opened!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I appreciate that you are nearly always served by someone who is doing their best in the job and has a smile in cheerful disposition. If I go to Europe I am often served by someone who has a bad attitude. I do prefer to go to smaller places to eat where you can get friendlier service and have a chat. The chain stores in Japan are a little bit too by the manual for me but they are always pleasant and helpful.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Very nice. But I will never understand, at some shopping malls, all the screaming! Irashaimase. Outside is fine but inside a mall??? Too much.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Overall the service is very proffessional ,punctual and efficient, but on the other hand, not very flexible in offering alternative solutions.. But i guess you can,t have it all..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The best.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

How can the service in banks be so slow? It takes ages to do anything if you have to talk to someone. It takes weeks instead of minutes to give you a cash card.

45 minutes to make an international transfer at Hokuyo Bank. I complained about the slow service and asked if they had online banking. They said no. How about a dollar account? They said yes. But it would take an hour to open a dollar account. Pathetic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Excellent compared to European sales staff who see the customer as an annoying disturbance. My only complaint is that you need to foresee much more time for certain services. I do have a few bad experiences though, often related to the fact that I am a foreigner.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I like the glass of water and (often) the wet towel that you get in restaurants as soon as you sit down. And I appreciate the thoughtful way that the servers come around and replenish the water, most times you don't even have to ask. Yesterday I went out for lunch with a couple of friends, we finished our meal and stayed on for a further hour chatting and drinking water ... and the servers still kept refilling our glasses, without nagging us to order more stuff!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Smith, I'm disappointed... where are you?

Maybe busy writing yet another long winded whinge about everything that's wrong with service in Japan? Check back in another hour or two?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I love going to the supermarket here. Never get tired of

Sakana Sakana Sakanaaa!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Department stores, shops, supermarkets and restaurants generally fantastic.. Banks & government offices mostly way slow. Dont mind the bowing , its a fundamental part of culture here so wouldnt expect them to change it...the two seconds it takes for the checkout lady to bow to each customer is not gonna kill me.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Viclovesdrama: I do have a few bad experiences though, often related to the fact that I am a foreigner.

Did you have bad experiences because you were a foreigner or because you couldn't speak Japanese? I can understand if it were the latter but if it were the former that's just ridiculous and unacceptable.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

For those who say the customer service is not flexible, can you give a specific example? I'm curious if the problem is with the service or the customer.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Excellent almost without exception. Duh.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@kurobune- theres no way youre american. no one from the usa would ever use the word "homeland".

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The quality and level of customer service in Japan is regarded hands down as superbly excellent. In the western world the customer is the king while in Japan the customer is God. Great and pleasant service goes beyond being polite and courteous. It looks at providing that every point of contact to a customer is taken care of. It emphasizes being quick and responsive to customer needs. It empowers being flexible and to take quick, efficient action in service failures. It pays close attention to the fine details and little nuances. However the key and the ultimate in Japanese style service is the application of kikubari, which is the anticipation of the customer's needs and fulfilling them proactively. It is simple yet a powerful to way to reach out and build relationships with people from any culture.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

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