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Suggestions for telling cashiers at grocery store I do not need a bag

PatPaul

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Hello Everyone,

I would like some advice about an "ongoing challenge" I have at the local stores in my city. Whenever I get to the cashier to pay, if there is not one of those plastic cards that say you don't need a bag and throw in your basket, I do my best to say in my most polite Japanese: "Sumimasen, fukuro ga irimasen." or, as some Japanese people say is to use: "Sumimasen, fukuro ga iranai." I seem to have a great deal of difficulty getting myself understood. Any advice. I would like to add that the job of a cashier is terribly demanding and stressful, so I feel bad about voicing my petty issue.

PP
 

Buntaro

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Pat,

I used to live in China, and I quickly learned the value of carrying small cards with these kinds of things written on them, in my wallet. (Tones in Chinese are particularly difficult for me, and when I cannot make myself understood, it is usually because I am not pronouncing the tone correctly.)

Just have your wife write it out in beautiful kanji and show it to the clerk when you need to. (Would you be embarrassed to do so?) For me, this has been a 'guaranteed' and easy way to solve the problem.

I have been a cashier. Been there, done that.
 

bentenmusume

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Honestly, it's somewhat surprising to me that you're having this problem, given that there's a general trend in Japan (I'd say for the past couple of years, at least) of encouraging customers to be environmentally friendly by not using レジ袋, and to carry their own bags instead. In my experience, cashiers at places that don't have cards will generally ask you if you need a bag, at which point you can just say "daijoubu desu", "irimasen", or even just wave your hand "no" and be perfectly understood.

I doubt it's an issue with the content of what you're saying in Japanese, although if we were going to nitpick, it'd be more idiomatic to use "wa" instead of "ga", and you could specify "reji-bukuro" instead of just "fukuro". Still, you're more than close enough that there's no reason you should be experiencing this complete communication breakdown unless your pronunciation is way off. (If you're concerned about that, maybe ask a Japanese friend to help you practice?)

Buntaro's suggestion is fine, but seems a bit extreme to me for such a common and intuitive (at least it should be) situation. Assuming the reason you don't need a bag is because you have your own, why not just show the cashier your bag and say "Fukuro wa daijoubu desu"? The only reason I can ever imagine that cashiers would force a bag on you is if you're buying tons of stuff and don't seem to have anything to put it in.

Also: seriously, don't feel bad. It's not a "petty issue"; millions of Japanese people tell cashiers every day that they don't need bags, and the stores generally appreciate it (some supermarkets even give you a 2-yen discount).
 

PatPaul

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Hi,
Thanks. I did get my daughter to write the message in kanji and used it once and felt it was a little patronizing. I have asked Japanese friends or the people behind me in line if I said it right and usually get a "Yes, you did.." reply
 

Glenski

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I, too, can't really understand what the communication problem is here. The only thing I can guess is that your pronunciation is poor.

When they ask me, it's essentially to ask if I need a bag.
  1. Shaking my head no will work.
  2. Saying "Arimasu" works.
  3. The easiest thing is just to show them the bag that you brought with you. You can add #1 and #2 to emphasize.
 

Majestic

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袋はいらないです (fukuru ha/wa iranai desu)
or
そのままで大丈夫です (sono mama de daijobu desu)

should get the message across.
I would dispense with the "Sumimasen", because, while the intention is to speak politely, it's almost too polite for a casual interaction at a cash register, where the shopkeeper is the one who is supposed to show you deference. So if you launch into a phrase starting with "Sumimasen", it could sound too polite, too formal, too heavy, for the occasion. It might sound like you are about to complain about something ("EXCUSE ME!"). Depending on other factors (your accent/pitch, how busy the register is, how attentive the staff is) it could be the cause of some confusion. Its OK, and not rude, to drop off the "sumimasen" and instead just say "fukuro ha iranai desu". As noted by JT, replace "ga" with "wa".
 

jt9258

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Cashiers see a foreign face and they fully expect you to speak English, its normally that simple, they
refuse to accept that a person with a foreign face can speak Japanese, regardless of how good
you are.

The best way to resolve this issue is to place 2 plastic shopping bags in your shopping basket, they
will never ask again.

Its the same when paying with a Credit Card, if I am with my wife they will try to give the Card back
to my wife even when I gave it to the cashier, but they do this because its normal for a wife to handle
the finances.
 
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Buntaro

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Pat,

A lot of Japanese waitresses and store clerks see a gaijin face and immediately think, “This person cannot speak Japanese!” I found one thing that often works is to start speaking by saying, “Eeeeeeeto…” (I trust you are familiar with this word?) This often will jar the listener into thinking, “Hey! This guy is speaking Japanese! I had better listen.”

I find this works more often than expected.

~~~

It has been said that communication is 90% body language. (I agree) Just look at the bag, shake your head no, and wave your hand no in a slightly vigorously way. (I trust you are familiar with the Japanese way of waving the hand side to side to mean no) THEN you can say, “Fukuro irimasen!”

Watch this video. At 4:36 the girl makes the unmistakable Japanese “no” side-to-side wave.

First start the wave, then say “Fukuro irimasen!” as you continue to wave "no". Stop waving simultaneously with finishing saying “Fukuro irimasen!”

It is the body language that really makes this a make-or-break communication event.

Tokyo Bon

 
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voicesinjapan

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Hello Everyone,

I would like some advice about an "ongoing challenge" I have at the local stores in my city. Whenever I get to the cashier to pay, if there is not one of those plastic cards that say you don't need a bag and throw in your basket, I do my best to say in my most polite Japanese: "Sumimasen, fukuro ga irimasen." or, as some Japanese people say is to use: "Sumimasen, fukuro ga iranai." I seem to have a great deal of difficulty getting myself understood. Any advice. I would like to add that the job of a cashier is terribly demanding and stressful, so I feel bad about voicing my petty issue.

PP
I sympathise with you and am still extremely annoyed that cashiers in convenience stores automatically put everything in a plastic bag without asking me. Simply, just as they about to take a plastic bag out to put your things in say, "ah, Sono mama ii desu". They are quick though, so you gotta be paying attention!
 
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Deibiddo

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I heard an old lady saying "fukuro ha ii desu" so I say it and don't get a bag. Before I was saying " fukuro ha iranai (desu)" but way the old lady said it sounded nicer so I say that instead. I know a guy that says "shi-ru de ii" as in 'a seal is okay', like when you don't get a bag they stick one on, and it worked in Kansai but not Tokyo apparently.

Re. timing, I say konnichiwa or whatever when I get to the register then after (probably as they're scanning the barcodes) I say something to avoid getting a bag - you never know when they're going to reach for one!
 
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