Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Uncanny Service

by AJ/Skald

Everything youve heard about Japanese service is true. Its goddam amazing! I have never encountered so many friendly, helpful, and eager people in all of my life. Some examples:

*I have NEVER... in three weeks,... waited in a line longer than two people. A common scene: I stroll to the cashier in a convenience store. There are two people in front of me. Suddenly an employee pops up from behind a shelf across the store, runs (literally runs) to the counter, opens another register, and motions me to it. This happens all the time.

*I have never successfully bussed my own tray at Starbucks. Ive turned this into a game... determined to throw away all my trash before an employee can grab my tray and do it for me. Ive never managed it. They always see me heading for the trashcan and head me off. Once I made it there, but I hesitated. They had separate bins for various categories of recycling. As I contemplated the choices, an employee ran (yes, ran).... apologized, took my tray, and bussed it for me.

*I ate at an Okonomiyaki restaurant yesterday (more on that later). Today I returned. The cook recognized me and remembered my exact order... including the fact that I was a vegetarian. I was drinking water. The SECOND the glass emptied, he grabbed it, filled it, and returned it in an instant.

*Gas Stations: Its still the 1950s here. A small army stands outside (in the cold, snow, rain, etc.) waiting for cars. When you pull up, they rush to your car. They fill the gas, wash the windows (ALL of the windows), check your oil (if you ask), and take your garbage. When they finish, they run into the street and stop traffic in both directions-- so you can pull out. As you pull out, they bow.

Its uncanny. When Americans (or Thais... or anyone else) speak of "good service" they dont know what they are talking about. The Japanese are the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world in this department.

And it does make a difference. Grumpy as I am about my job.... I find it hard to remain so once I get out into the city. The people are so damn nice and helpful! Its very hard not to smile and bow right back to them.

Anyone considering a freelance stint should visit this country. Youll learn a whole new standard for helpfulness and good service.

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