Service with a konbini smile

They are often taken for granted, but, without them, the konbini [コンビニ] as we know it would cease to exist at konbini. This week on Konbini Capers, I turn to the people that make the konbini magic happen: the wonderful staff.

Sure, Japan is know as the Land of Robots and I know that it’s entirely probable that one day certain jobs in konbini will be performed by robots, but I just can’t help but feel that this would be a great loss. It would truly mean the end of what I consider to be the perfect example of omotenashi [おもてなし] or what we define in English as, ‘hospitality,’ or ‘service.’

This week, I want to tell you about a few of the special staff at my local konbini and how they brighten my day, every single time I go in.

Let’s start near to my apartment: Family Mart. This is where I go to when I need snacks, toilet paper, my morning melon/meron pan [メロンパン] or I need to top up my ICOCA transport card. It’s also where I go to when I want to see Chou’s big grin and help her to practice her English. The minute I walk in the door I’m greeted by the loudest, “Good morning!” or “Hello!” I think I’ve ever heard in Japan. The first time she did it I actually jumped. I couldn’t believe a booming voice like that had actually come from a Japanese person. In fact, I wasn’t even sure that I could say it that loudly. Whatever the case, she surprised me, but now that I’m used to it, we both bellow out our greetings when we see one another. She tries out new English phrases she’s learned and she’ll often ask me how to say something in English when she’s not sure. I’ve watched the expressions on her co-workers faces and they’re kind of a mixture of A. disbelief that she actually has the courage to speak to the gaijin [外人] or foreigner and B. disbelief that a Japanese person can be so loud. I think they’re also secretly in awe of her English ability and wish they could do the same thing. Either way, she totally makes my day, especially when she waves like a maniac and yells out, “Goodbye!” at the top of her lungs when I leave. That, my friends, is service indeed.

Now, let’s talk about my local 7-Eleven. Ah, the staff here are just lovely. Their huge staff actually range s from students, right up to retirees. The service here is unbelievable and to prove it, let me tell you about my morning coffee. As I have written, I get coffee from 7-Eleven every morning. They know I will be there without fail unless I haven’t stayed at my apartment that night or I’m dead. Even when I’m sick, I drag my sorry carcass down there to get my daily dose of Vitamin C (see what I did there?) ☺ I often wonder if I brighten their day as much as they brighten mine. All I know is that firstly, I have caught the young guys in the act of watching out the window for me and then racing to see who can get the cup to me first and secondly, they will often stop in the middle of serving someone else to slide the cup over to me or hold it out in exchange for my 100 yen coin. The first time it happened I felt terrible because I just thought it was so rude to stop serving someone else to serve me. I hope being foreign doesn’t have anything to do with it, but I suspect it does. Anyway, the staff always serves me with a big cheery grin and don’t mind in the least when on Friday I bring all my small change to pay for my coffee. In fact, they all laugh about it.

Yes, I am very grateful for having such fantastic people to serve me each day and I was wondering just last week if there were other foreigners out there like me who have their favourite konbini and favourite staff who serve them. Let me know, I’d love to hear your stories of service.

Bye for now!