Nov 072007

If you’re in Japan long enough, you’ll notice that everything here talks to you. Everything. And I think it’s all voiced by the same lady. She has a very kind and gentle voice that kindly and gently informs you that the escalator is not a toy, that the bus is arriving, that a train is approaching, that your call can’t be completed, that the elevator doors are closing, that the boat is leaving the dock, that your drink has been dispensed, and so forth.

She’s a hard worker.

It reminds me of one maddening wait in Kyoto for a bus. The bus was running late, so for the next 40 minutes, I heard the same woman repeat the same warning about the escalator every 17 seconds. It took her 9 seconds to gently warn you to be careful when using the escalator, then she would pause for 8 seconds, and then she’d go at it again. I’d hate to work there. I’d go mad after… oh… about 41 minutes.

How did I know exactly how long she took to say what she said? I timed it, of course. I had nothing better to do for 40 minutes.

We Welcome Your Money!

That reminds me of another thing that impresses me about workers in the service industry here: they have to greet every single customer that darkens their door, or threatens to darken their door with an “Irrashaimase!” that has to be perky and energetic, in order to help you part with some of those yen. (Irrashaimase is very polite speech for “I welcome your money.”)

At first, I had no clue what to do. I felt like I had to acknowledge them, so I would nod to them or something. Now I just ignore them like I would any other Wal-Mart greeter. If you try to acknowledge every “Irrashaimase!” tossed your way, you’ll just go mad.

Retail in Japan is hard.

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