Rambling Notes from Japan
Here are some blog posts that we hope will make you feel a part of things, and help you understand how to pray better for us and Japan. Please see our external blog in Blogger, if this page does not display correctly.
Foreigners Don't Get the Point
In an effort to keep customers loyal, it seems that every business in Japan -- from the largest chain department store, to the smallest ma and pa variety store...everything -- has their own unique point card. Spend a hundred yen, get 1 point. Collect 5000 points, get a coupon for a few yen off your next purchase. Just make sure you use your points within a certain period of time, and for certain items only, etc. This is the way it goes. And Japanese people seem to be almost fanatical about the concept. The first question you are asked by the cashier is "Do you have a --- card today?" and "Would you like to make one?"
I realize the point card system is popular in the States as well, but the Japanese have truly mastered it. For myself personally, it seems more fuss than it is worth: managing all those point systems for such a meager return. It seems smarter to simply shop at a discount store from the beginning. I guess I just "don't get the point" as a foreigner.
However I do have a few point cards (okay, only one) for places I visit frequently. When making a recent purchase, I was quite excitedly about finally cashing my hard-earned points in to cover the cost. I hadn't frequented the store in a while, but now was finally the moment. When the cashier announced the price of my sale, I confidently flipped out my point card:
"Please use my points." I said proudly, expecting him to be amazed at my diligence.
He looked at the card oddly and then said, "I'm sorry. But this card is no longer used by our store."
My heart sank. All my carefully saved points took wings in an instant. I would have laughed had I not been so amazed. How could they do this to me after carrying that card around so long in my wallet, using it at every opportunity?
"We do have a new point-getter machine. Every shopper can use their store card to get up to 100 points any time they visit." the clerk said, trying console me in my obvious shock.
This was small comfort. But I followed him to the point-getter machine for a demonstration. He inserted my new store point card for me. We waited. How many comfort points would I be awarded? The answer came. As if sticking out its tongue at me, the machine spit the card back out. Printed on it was a big, fat zero.
I guess foreigners just don't get the point.
Ode to Quiet Shopping
There's a place in Japan I dread going. It sucks the breath of me when I know I must. No, it's not the dentist or even the immigration office (that is an experience, though). It's the large chain electronic store.
Visitors to Japan will quickly notice that quiet shopping is hard to come by in Japan. The worst "offenders" by far are electronic stores. It seems that each store has its own unique theme song promoting it's outstanding prices, great service, thoughtful employees, and so forth. The one I visited yesterday pumped out this information at 2 minute intervals to the tune of "My Eyes Have Seen the Glory."
These infomercials are blasted quite loudly and so repeatedly that one wonders how the employees are able to endure their workday. I suppose like the person living next to the railroad tracks that never hears trains anymore, one eventually grows acclimated to even this environment. Still, I can't believe it can be very psychologically or physically healthy to be exposed to the decibels and repetition. As for myself, I make a beeline for what I need (an ink cartridge, some batteries, an audio cable) and get out as soon as I can.
Lately I've that Amazon.jp is a much quieter (and often cheaper) option. Now if only I could make the gas pump stop giving me instructions and promoting items to the Japanese pop tunes. That is a topic for another day.