service with a smile

The Japanese are not like the Americans in so many ways (most of them good). Sure, they’re a little behind when it comes to gender equality (that post is coming), but other than that…they pretty much have us beat. Their food is way better. They have honor and respect. They are cleaner; they take their shoes off before entering your home and have super cool things like moist towels (which you use instead of a napkin through your entire meal–in case you were wondering, no, you don’t put it in your lap) and towelettes at restaurants (even Starbucks!).

Yes, little most towelette all ready to clean my hands off after I eat my pastry. So much better than a napkin!

And when it comes to service? It’s like living in a Nordstrom 24/7. Yeah. I’m serious. It’s that good.

 And now, a few examples to illustrate my point.

On Monday, I became the owner of a new iPhone 4S (my old iPhone 4 will not work on the Japanese networks). When purchasing the iPhone, the salesperson at the cell phone company, SoftBank, was a dream. I mean, clearly he was not on a New York schedule, but it was kind of nice not to rush (and my boss had warned me that the process of getting a cell phone–or any other service set-up for that matter–would be very slow). He didn’t try to sell me something I didn’t want. He didn’t try to get me to upgrade my service. He didn’t force a new case on me. He was just very straightforward with me and helped me get exactly what I wanted. And said thank you many, many times.

Unfortunately, the phone I purchased ended up having a busted camera (noticed the out of focus shot above). I took it back to SoftBank, where I was told (as expected) that I would have to go to the Apple Store. I understood this, but I was not happy because I’d purchased a case and they’d put the screen protector on in the store, so it was super smooth, and there was this really cute button for my home key that was going to have to be removed assuming Apple would replace my phone. 
Well, the lovely salesperson offered to remove both the screen protector and the button for me so as to maintain the quality of the two items. Then she stuck them both to clean pieces of plastic and told me to come back and she would reapply them. So, that’s exactly what I did. (Apple didn’t actually replace my phone…just the camera. I should also mention that my Genius appointment occurred right on time, as does every other scheduled thing in this country. Another thing Japan does better than us.) Only the screen protector wasn’t sticking perfectly, so she managed to find another one in the back of the store and applied that one free of charge. 
Then there’s the button. (And yet another story of how I embarrass myself any chance I get.) After my trip to the Apple store, it was time for dinner, so I found a nice looking Chinese restaurant and proceeded to have dinner. I sat down to a lovely place setting and ordered. As I was sitting there, I saw this curious thing on the table. Unsure of what it was, I picked it up. Underneath, you could see that batteries went into it and there was a sort of little speaker. Realizing it’s a button, what do I do? I pushed it, of course. (Yes, apparently being a curious five-year-old is the identity I’ve assumed since relocating to Japan.) And out of nowhere, my server appears, ready to acquiesce to whatever request I decide to throw at her. I would like to say that I quickly came up with a reason for pressing it, but I did not. I just smiled and apologized.

One of the things Japan does not do as well as the US? Takeout and doggy bags. I noticed, after several meals out, that people never leave with any doggy bags. So, I asked my boss (because sometimes I try not to learn from my own mistakes) if that was something people did. She told me that it is not. Well, at said Chinese restaurant, as it happened, I ordered way too much food. But it was so good. But there was no way I could (or should) have eaten it all. So, instead, I decide to just go ahead and ask if I could get the rest to go. And, in true Japanese fashion, the answer was, “Yes. Of course!”

I have never had such amazing dumplings (potstickers) as the ones I’ve had in Japan. Seriously, I don’t know how they get the wrapper so thin, chewy, and crispy all at the same time.

Ten minutes later, the bag of food finally came back to me (apologizing profusely–as the Japanese do–about how long it took), indicating that this was clearly not something they are used to doing. (Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent a busboy to the store to buy containers and little soy sauce packets.) In any case, my food did not go to waste and I avoided another embarrassing moment by not having to puke in the uber-chic toilet post-meal. And as opposed to the US, where I would normally have offered a huge tip had someone gone to such lengths, you do not tip in Japan. Good service is an expectation. Can you imagine a living in a country where honor even applies to the server at a restaurant? If not, I’ll just tell you. It’s amazing!

Oh, and one more example. My international assignment coordinator sent me an email asking me how I was enjoying my accommodations, etc, etc. I told her they were very nice and I love being in a building with a gym (they were considering trying to get me in a different building so I’d have a little more space), but that if possible (and I could stay in the building) it would be nice to have a little more space. So, tonight, I come home to an email stating that a bigger apartment will be available starting this weekend, in the same building, and that they’d been able to negotiate the rate so it was still within budget. Seriously…I may never leave this country.

3 thoughts on “service with a smile

  1. I bet they would bring you a hammock, hang it in a tree by the ocean,mand be sure you had a fruity drink, too.

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