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News 'Customer abuse' rampant in Japan's service industry

thomas

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Customer abuse (カスハラ), to be sure, harassment of front-line workers BY customers with aggressive behaviour or unreasonable requests, has become an increasing problem in the service industry, prompting municipalities and companies to take stricter measures. A 2022 survey conducted by the Japan Trade Union Confederation, better known as Rengo, found that 67.5% of respondents had experienced some customer harassment in the past three years, among which another 76.4% said such experiences had negatively affected their lives.

The case below—prominently featured in the national news—has become a sad example of the harassment many eateries face.





While big corporations can typically handle the negative impact on their reputation and finances due to confrontational customers or those engaging in unsanitary stunts for attention, such customer behaviour can drive small business owners to their limits.


One extreme case of customer abuse occurred at the Ibadai branch of the Ikkenme ramen chain in Mito. The problem started after a man entered the restaurant conveniently located near Ibaraki University in spring 2022. After being served a bowl of ramen, he ordered additional toppings of chopped onion every two minutes. He exited the eatery without even touching the meal, leaving behind a bowl covered with a heap of chopped onion. The same customer visited the noodle shop at a later date and was recognized by staff. They declined his requests for additional toppings. Infuriated, the man poured condiments and about 500 toothpicks into the soup. The 51-year-old manager banned the customer. When the man came back and continued his annoying antics in March last year, the manager called police. Ibaraki prefectural police reprimanded the man. But that only seemed to escalate the man's abuse of the ramen shop. He started calling the restaurant at least 20 times a day, and even threatened to kill staff and set the place on fire. At least one employee was too scared to work and quit. The eatery made a tough decision to close in July last year. "I thought human life and safety must come first," the manager said. The customer was indicted on a charge of intimidation, and the Mito Summary Court in January this year ordered him to pay 100,000 JPY (USD 640) in fines.


 
I don't understand what motivates that behavior, in the case of the man mentioned. It could be at least understood why a customer would be unhappy if there was some issue, food quality or the cleanliness of the store or behavior of the staff, but in this example there just doesn't seem to be any motivation.
 
I don't understand what motivates that behavior, in the case of the man mentioned. It could be at least understood why a customer would be unhappy if there was some issue, food quality or the cleanliness of the store or behavior of the staff, but in this example there just doesn't seem to be any motivation.

I was wondering about this, too. It looks like an inflated sense of entitlement (fairly common in Japanese customers) combined with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies.
 
And it's not only the small eateries that are concerned with "kasu-hara":

On Friday, ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Airlines Co. announced they will tackle customer harassment through newly established joint guidelines. These guidelines aim to prevent staff resignations caused by abusive customers. They address behaviours such as harassment, unreasonable demands, and physical violence, as well as unauthorized access to workspaces and property damage.


JAL and ANA tackle kasu-hara (customer harassment)

Photo credit: Kyodo

The move comes as so-called kasu-hara, Japanese slang for customer harassment, has become a social issue in recent years in Japan, a country known for its hospitality culture. The two carriers follow convenience stores and railway companies in taking measures to protect their employees from such abuse. ANA and JAL said they will call on other airlines to take similar steps.


 
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