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Saiki City mistakenly let resident claim ¥1.3 million in gift certificates

29 Comments
By SoraNews24

There certainly seems to be something in the air this year when it comes to local governments and losing money. A couple of months ago a 24-year-old man in Abu, Yamaguchi made headlines for accidentally receiving and then gambling away the whole town’s worth of COVID-19 benefits. Then we had the case of Miyazaki City which accidentally sent scores of lucky people an extra order of high-grade meat free of charge. There’s been more too, but we only have so many writers we can devote to these incidents.

An incident that occurred in Saiki City, Oita Prefecture, however, was more of a misunderstanding than a screw-up, but still ended up with some people, and one woman in particular, to make out like bandits.

Like many cities do, the Saiki City Commerce and Industry Promotion Division set up a stimulus scheme in which people can purchase gift certificates worth more than the price paid for them. In other words, those who spend 10,000 yen will receive 13,000 yen in certificates, provided they spend them within a certain amount of time. It’s a pretty sweet deal, so of course one household could only order a maximum of three books through a postcard application.

However, the city seemed to have overestimated demand and had 24,000 books left over from their initial supply of 60,000. So, they decided to put them out by direct sales which were outsourced to another company. This created a problem in that the company couldn’t realistically enforce the three-book limit because they couldn’t collectively remember the face of every single person coming to the counter every day.

As a result, several people were said to have simply gone back on different days to buy more than their allotted coupons. There was little the company could do about it either, so they instructed clerks to sell whatever number of books the customers ask for, which resulted in the following exchange between a customer and clerk on 30 April:

Customer: “How many books can I buy?”

Clerk: “You can buy as many as you want.”

Customer: “Is 4.4 million yen OK?”

Clerk: “It’s OK.”

Customer: “Here you go. I want to buy a car.”

The customer then handed over 4.46 million yen in gift certificates and as a result got 1,338,000 yen worth of vouchers for free. So, the “car” remark was no exaggeration.

Saiki Mayor Toshiaki Tanaka told media, “It is very disappointing that actions deviating from the rule of three books per person was carried out.” His wording seems to not point blame at any specific party, suggesting the city, company, and people all had a stake in the “disappointing actions.”

▼ A news report on the disappointed mayor’s press conference

However, the city will neither request that any of the people return any of the money nor stop them from using the certificates, instead vowing to not make the same mistake again, such as by preparing a more suitable number of books in advance.

“What’s the problem?”

“The rich get richer…”

“Hey, it’s another story of a city being stupid.”

“At first I thought she did something sneaky, but she just asked for it!”

“I’m surprised they couldn’t get rid of those things. It’s basically free money.”

“Aren’t they essentially giving one person 1.3 million yen in tax money?”

“Can you really use those at a car dealership?”

We were kind of wondering about that last question also. Much like customers, shops also must apply to participate in the scheme and any business seems free to volunteer. However, since the intended maximum amount of bonus money is only 9,000 yen it wouldn’t be very practical for car dealerships to join, except as a gesture of their community spirit.

However, after looking through the list of businesses involved in Saiki’s program there are about a dozen businesses with “Auto” in the name. Since they’re local businesses they don’t have much of an online presence but there was at least one that I could confirm sold both new and used automobiles, so she could conceivably buy a decent automobile with her certificates.

And good for her if she does. She asked and was given permission to get the coupons, and since the money to cover them had already been earmarked by the city and will go right back into the economy as planned, there’s no real loss. They just didn’t spread the wealth nearly as well as they’d intended.

By the way, if anyone in Saiki is reading this, the certificates have since been sold out, so don’t go getting any ideas.

Sources: TOS OnlineItai NewsSaiki City

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese town recovers 43 million yen in COVID money mistakenly sent to one man who gambled it away

-- Miyazaki City mistakenly sends over 2M yen in meat to 140 people, instructs them to eat it anyway

-- Japanese cat owner has to sell sports car to pay for medical bills, finds best buyer in the world

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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If there is a loophole or flaw in a system, you can bet that humans greed will find a way to exploit it.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

The clerk just followed instructions

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Good of the customer to make it very clear =)

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Hilarious, my wife hates it when I do the poiting thing, you know when you point at things before giving it the ok. I have always said “that’s a pointless exercise” people just don’t check, have little idea of what they are doing but pride themselves on being in that position.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The real problem this highlights is that government money, once allocated, never seems to be unallocated even when the need doesn't exist. That's one of the biggest reasons public spending never goes down.

In a sane world this town would have said "Hmm, it seems there was only demand for 24,000 books. Let's just scrap the rest of the program WHICH PEOPLE DON'T SEEM TO WANT, then we don't have to pay out the additional 3,000 per book on 36,000 books. We can use the 108,000,000 yen to fund something else that people actually do want. Or, you know, reduce our spending by 108,000,000 this year".

This isn't the only reason why people don't like paying taxes, but it is one of them.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This is what happens when you breed yes-man mentality from young - you get people who don't even bother questioning the peculiarity of the situation and just nod and agree. End result: embarrassing incidents like this.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Hilarious, my wife hates it when I do the poiting thing, you know when you point at things before giving it the ok. I have always said “that’s a pointless exercise” people just don’t check, have little idea of what they are doing but pride themselves on being in that position.

You and me, both, and even my kids tell me this is rude. I tell them that there are reasons for many things. This goes to prove that. Yes, the staff were just following orders. However, there are flaws to being "Yes" men.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@ADK99 you are so right, why couldn’t they just give that money directly (not to one person) to the community. That does seem such an amazingly difficult thing, rather they prefer this convoluted way of sort of distributing it through the same companies, same families as always.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

ADK99 nails it in that this is ultimately unwanted. The tickets are intended to boost local spending, but 24,000 people don't want to spend locally in the stipulated ways even when subsidized to do so. The subsidy should have been reallocated to something else. Osaka reducing everyone's water bill by the fixed charge for three months was a much easier and more sensible way to give every household 5000 yen.

Unless the car is manufactured locally, the spending on it will have a very low multiplier effect on the local economy.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Problem in this case was that the supervisor actually thought about the situation and changed the rules

3 ( +3 / -0 )

 so I don't see the problem!

That's a big problem

3 ( +5 / -2 )

My town issues the same tickets. Half of the tickets are restricted to certain local shops and services who may sell stuff you don't want, but the other half can be used in the supermarket, gasoline stand, etc. While the tickets give you free money, 13,000 yen of tickets for 10,000 yen of cash, some people don't buy them because of the usage restriction. In my town's case, there is a raffle for the right to buy any remaining ticket books. There are some left over, but it's certainly nowhere near half the books that they issue.

To me, this sounds like someone has worked out that a usage restriction on the tickets doesn't affect them, i.e., the car dealer will take them. Free money suddenly becomes much more attractive when you can spend it where you want and are not limited to spending at the dry cleaners, the wagashi shop, and the ripoff sports shop with the monopoly on school gymwear.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The governed must pay tax and bureaucrats devise systems like this for over entitled recipients of our money to make errors which aren’t penalised.

It will continue…

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The arrangement was flawed from the beginning. To be worse, they try to patch a loophole with an extra rule, which gives rise to another loophole, and things go on :)

The makeshift with extra rules or a long list of disclaimers seems to be rather a general trend in Japan. We encounter so many exceptions or limits to certain discount sales or free services.

Examples above are ample such as in commercial ads: 50% Discount! Come! Don't Miss it!!! type of an eye catcher, followed by sober instructions in much smaller sized texts;

Max two items per person

Stay on the queue (a fast track available only if paying more).

Only adults (should carry an ID for purchase)

But the 18 year-old can be considered as an adult.

Cannot claim returns & refunds

Sales available at 10-15, business hours only

We don't sell during lunch time

Not applicable for weekend

Not applicable for holidays

One should bring with him/her a coupon downloaded on the Internet

To download a coupon you need to register

You need a valid phone number for registration

.... to name just a few! :D Enough is enough. Simplicity is a virtue, and hardly exploited by crooks.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I saw the same thing at a local festival, the city hall gave out tickets to use at the stalls for mainly children but in the backstreet I saw them give thick bundles to adults and other VIPs. Basically stealing money.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“It is very disappointing that actions deviating from the rule of three books per person was carried out.”

Well, YOU let it happen. This is on you.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Because it's just too hard to register the gift cards to be used only when activated online, like most of the convenience store ones.

Which would require registration and some identification at least.

The lack or repulsion to technology by the Big Shots in this country is astounding.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

And where exactly is the problem? Those vouchers were all printed beforehand and it was intended to hand them out , producing and accepting a certain minus amount for the society represented by that certain percentage of those bonuses. So it is all priced in already. Would also make no sense to initiate a bonus program in the hope that it is not used. In addition, that customer spends now a lot of own money for that car, which is in a certain sense keeping jobs at the car maker and the profit from the car sales is also taxed again bringing back some money of the issued. There’s economically almost no difference, if 100 people buy several cheap products bonus promoted , which also little by little saves jobs and brings some tax back, or if one customer buys a big expensive thing also bonus promoted.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

and this months winner of Darwin prize is....Saiki Mayor Toshiaki Tanaka,greetings from happy citizens of Saiki town!congratulations for your professional work.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't see a problem here, also I don't understand why one would call them bandits.

They actually didn't do anything bad, just made extra money.

If you are smart enough you will be rich and have a lot of money. If you just work from 9-5 like a zombie you will stay on your salary till the end of your life.

Think about it!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Is this Japanese media's latest sensation? Reporting mistaken bank transfers and all?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

If there is a loophole or flaw in a system, you can bet that humans greed will find a way to exploit it

No loophole here, the person who purchased them asked for confirmation and was given an affirmative answer that they could purchase as many as they wanted.

She is not guilty of anything, and she is not responsible in any shape or form for the mistakes that were made along the way.

From the comment you made here, you come across as trying to state she found some "loophole or flaw in a system" There is zero evidence of that occurring, and she sounds blameless!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Jadyn…

This situation is no different than when people sign up for repeated First Time accounts on Uniqlo with a different email address to get the ¥500 coupon for new customers. This sort of "crime" is more ingenuity than anything else.

I didn’t know that… thanks for the information!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In other words, those who spend 10,000 yen will receive 13,000 yen in certificates

My town let's you buy ¥10,000 for only ¥4000, for a much bigger return on investment than the one in the article.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

However, the city seemed to have overestimated demand and had 24,000 books left over from their initial supply of 60,000

You didn't overestimate you underestimated.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

There’s been more too, but we only have so many writers we can devote to these incidents.

I highly doubt this at all. It's not like the articles on Sora are written by Nobel prize laureates!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This situation is no different than when people sign up for repeated First Time accounts on Uniqlo with a different email address to get the ¥500 coupon for new customers. This sort of "crime" is more ingenuity than anything else.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

In the end it doesn't matter if 20,000 people are able to get 3 books each or one person gets 60,000 books! First come first serve! The money have already been earmarked for this campaign, so I don't see the problem!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

This isn't the same as the "gambled the money away" story. In that case, money was mistakenly sent to someone who knew the money was not his, and rather than attempt to return the money he knew was not his, he decided to enact a plan to withdraw the money, place it in a different bank and then use it for gambling. And even then, a whole lot of you idiots defended his actions are perfectly legal and morally ok.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

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