Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Customer service

There are a lot of set phrases or ways of saying things in Japan. It is a polite society. And saying the right thing is regarded very highly. That extends even to the supermarket checkout. The person on duty will greet you with a word of welcome as you put your basket up. She (or sometimes he) will then empty your basket for you and tell you the price item by item as it is scanned and then placed neatly into another basket. Often this is all done in a kind of high-pitched lilt or singing-kind of voice. You hand over your money (usually cash - very little use of debit cards here) and the checkout assistant confirms the amount you have handed over, then confirms the amount of change before uttering (in the same lilt) a closing greeting to welcome you back for more custom some time. With all these greetings and careful packing, not forgetting the cash transaction, it can tend to take a while to pass through the queue at the checkout. But as the customer is valued so is proper service valued. Self-scanning areas are beginning to appear in a very limited way at Japanese supermarkets - speedy, efficient, but not quite the same service. For a society which is so technologically advanced, it's often interesting to see how many people are employed to give personal service to the customer. A bit more time-consuming perhaps but refreshing at times to have contact with real people rather than a machine.

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