Stories About Customer Service in Japan

Did you know that McDonald’s in Japan offers a “smile” on the menu? It is a real smile for free. On the menu board, it clearly says, “Smile….0” in Japan. You can see this sign at any McDonald’s restaurant in Japan.

Therefore if you have a chance to eat at McDonald’s in Japan, you should ask them, “Can I have a smile?” I am sure they would give you a big smile. To my surprise, however, I learned that there is no such thing in the U.S.A. I think this difference is based on cultures.

I don’t know if you remember my article “Something about bee,” that I wrote last year. When I went to buy medicine for a bee-sting, the sales lady said, “we have some products to offer, but they don’t really work that well”. Though my bee sting was very painful and I needed immediate relief, I was very impressed by her honesty and I recognized the differences between cultures on that day.

It has been my experience that some salespeople in the USA don’t try to sell the products that they don’t believe work well. I feel that they are very honest. On the other hand, Japanese salespeople will sell anything they have in order to make a profit. This may be one of the reasons why Japan is criticized as an “Economic Animal.”

I don’t intend to criticize Japan, but I would like to share a little more about my experiences regarding customer service in both countries. In Hawaii, salespeople are very friendly, but I feel they are not always polite.

I have noticed that salespeople usually don’t express their appreciation to customers for their patronage, whereas Japanese salespeople are trained to always be very polite and grateful when dealing with customers. It’s almost as if they regard each customer as a deity, and they always express their appreciation to the customers with a warm smile.

Another interesting difference between cultures is how people view the importance of the penny. When I was looking through my pockets for a penny to give as exact change at the check out counter, the sales lady didn’t take my penny.

This really surprised me, and it didn’t just happen to me one time. I have experienced this many times, and at different stores. I still can’t understand why business people in Hawaii don’t care so much about pennies, but I feel really lucky whenever this happens because I get to save a penny!

On the other hand, business people in Japan will always expect the customer to pay the exact amount on every transaction. So if the customer is short even one Yen, then there might be a problem. At the end of the day, if the cash in the register is even one Yen less than what the records show, all employees will have to stay until the money and the records match up.

Anyway, at this point, I would like to return to the original topic of this article: the power of a smile. The Japanese often say, “Warau Kado Niwa, Fuku Kitaro.” It’s a proverb that means: “Happiness comes to those who wear a smile.” Another definition is: “laugh and grow prosperous.” It indicates that the attitude of the person is what creates their happiness or unhappiness.

In my opinion, nothing is more valuable than a smile. When I see someone smiling I become so happy that I forget whatever unhappiness might be present.  Although I don’t believe I have a very handsome smile myself when I smile it makes me feel very happy and peaceful, and often times people will smile back at me.