A recent incidence reported by Twitter user @domoboku in a convenience store in Tokyo involving a non-Japanese Asian man and one of the store’s clerk triggered me to write this post.

This is most probably what happened at the convenience store. A non-Japanese Asian man (a tourist?) walks into the convenience store, sees a tea bottle with big black bold letters inscribed “FREE” on it, thinks “Hey, isn’t Japan great, they have free tea in convenience stores!”, grabs the tea bottle, opens it and starts drinking. The store’s clerk sees the man opening and drinking the tea without paying and confronts him. “You are shoplifting” most probably said the clerk to the man. “What did I do that was wrong? It says FREE on it” argues the man. The clerk then shows the man the price label of the tea (most probably a sticker in Japanese on the shelf). The man then argues that “the design is bad and they should change it.” Of course the convenience store can’t do that, the blame is on the tea producer, Pokka.

This is a typical communication problem caused by engrish! The tea producer could have a specialist like EngrishCheck to check the wording on the tea label before going into production. It would have saved the producer a lot of problems, money, bad publicity and embarrassment, not to mention the stress caused to the poor convenience store clerk! The specialist could have explained to the tea producer that “FREE” when shown on products means “Complimentary“, “gratis” or “no need to pay for it!

Japan will be receiving a lot of tourists in the very near future due to the Tokyo Olympics for example. All the Japanese businesses and people that are interacting with the tourists should seriously consider dealing with the engrish problem! EngrishCheck is here to help!

Here is the original description of the incidence as twitted by @domoboku:

Here is the full text of @domoboku’s tweet:

アジア系の外国人が白昼堂々ドリンクを万引きにしててコンビニ騒然。店員と喧嘩。「何がいけないんだ」と叫ぶ外国人。様子が変だから間に入って事情を聞いた。

そしたら彼もコンビニも悪くなかった。悪いのはデザインだ。

外国人もしばらく「書いてあるんだからよこせ」的な論調で、アホな表記を丁寧に説明したら「よこせないなら、せめて表記を変えろ」と。 店員も仕入れた商品に書いてあるだけだから訂正しようもないし万引き未遂されるし、双方被害者という構図。 二人とも振り上げた拳のやり場が無くて気まずかった。

わざわざ日本に来てくれた観光客と善良な店員を、ストレスまみれの抗争状態に追い込んだ商品。 そのキャッチコピーが「ストレス社会解放応援飲料」である皮肉。

今更になって「このfreeはタダって意味じゃない。だから私は金を払って買う。その後君に上げようと思う。そうすれば友よ、この1本はタダだ」と奢ってあげりゃ良かったと後悔。 有料なのを実演しつつ店員の顔も立てられた。何より「日本に幻滅」を「日本大好き」に変えるチャンスだった。

 


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