Sunday, June 07, 2009

What's the keyword?

Over on Japan Economy & News Blog, one can read a number of reports on the continuing decline in sales at department stores. I suppose there are many reasons for this, but one thing is for sure: Poor service has nothing to do with it, for Japan is as well-known for its uniformly good---even superior---service as it is for being hygiene-obsessed and uniquely having 4 seasons.

Imagine my surprise when due to what she called bad service, the wife decided to go down to Minatomirai for lunch instead of our usual Takashimaya. She didn't actually refuse to go, but said she'd eat at Takashimaya (reluctantly) but would do no shopping.

So off to Yokohama we went, with her explaining her reasons---repeatedly over the 20+ minute ride---for cutting up our Takashimaya credit card and ditching thoughts of investing in Takashimaya stocks*. Seems she was so upset by the service at the Shinjuku Takashimaya that even after several complaints and entirely phony apologies, she is planning on sending a written complaint to the president of the company.

A week or so ago, she had stopped at the Shinjuku branch of Takashima to pick up some sushi and discovered that they were holding a special event there for Kyushuu foods. After picking up some ¥200 each fish cakes from one vendor, she went into line to pay. The clerks were telling folks which line to stand and wait in because it was quite crowded.

Finally, she got to the Money Taker. The MT woman said, "Keyword, please."

A**ko: Huh? What keyword?

MT: Didn't you see the TV CM? You have to have the keyword.

The wife, not being the submissive little Japanese lady of myth and fetish was less than pleased to be bothered with such nonsense and let the woman know it. The "embarrassed-looking" Money Taker went to ask the "Idiotic-Looking Manager".

I-LM: We're very sorry, but we can't sell you those fish cakes without the keyword.

A**ko: Do you mean I have to watch TV for a keyword and I can't buy anything here if I don't? I don't care about the discount, I just wanna buy these.

I-LM: Sorry. There are many other items that may be useful to you that you can buy here, but since this is a special event, you cannot by those fish cakes without the keyword. It's only those which you cannot buy.

Ready to punch an Idiotic-Looking Manager A**ko: You don't have any signs saying that a keyword is needed. None of your staff told anyone. I stood in line to buy these. Why don't you let people know before they waste their time?

I-LM: Well, if we put a sign up, then customers will tell each other the keyword and anyone could buy it.

After a few minutes of this, and perhaps fearing for his life, he offered to call someone higher up "to apologize." She refused as "I didn't want an apology! They wouldn't admit that they did anything wrong, they just wanted to apologize because I had to wait."

She sent an e-mail through Takashimaya's website complaining about that, and they wrote back and said that they would set up a sign informing customers of the need for a keyword in future events. Since they still "have not admitted they they did anything wrong," she still refuses to accept any vague non-apology apology.

Personally, I find this shocking! Less than perfect service in Japan? And an improper apology from the always polite citizens who always sincerely apologize? Perhaps the wife has been spoiled and no longer understands Japan.

*We would not invest in the stocks expecting to gain anything, but because stockholders get a 10% discount on purchases. Mitsukoshi offers a similar scam deal and she is now considering an "investment" there. This isn't an uncommon thing in Japan from what I have heard and it is done for the discount and other benefits, not as a "normal" investment.

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