Thursday, July 10, 2008

Geisha in conflict

Last week I won an argument in Japanese but lost some pride in my normal fairly polite Japanese composure. I wanted to exchange a jacket for a different size at FCUK and had arranged with the salesperson the day before to do so. This was apparently a problem because I had bought it at another store and silly me! I should have known to tell the salesperson every fucking detail about the purchase. Once they saw I wasn't falling for the sorry-we-can't-do-it-line they tried to pull another one on me by claiming it was past the return-by date. Well that was one detail I managed to convey to the salesperson the day before so her fault again. Back and forth we went as the problem got handed off in the end, to three different people. Phone calls were made to the branch I bought it at, messages were left with the salesperson "helping" me the day before and a lot of standing around. One woman who I presume was as close to a manager as any of them, kept getting me to repeat my conversation with the salesperson the day before. I wanted to ask her, If my story is different than hers, you're going to believe her? Or, if my story checks out, you're going to help me?

I'm not usually a difficult customer and I have thrown a lot of money at FCUK here in Tokyo. If it had been a Japanese store I would NEVER even ATTEMPT to return something as it isn't done so much here. Some places accept exchanges and returns but they don't much believe in buyer's guilt in Japan. This wasn't even guilt, I just wanted a different size and because it was FCUK I figured they should be able to hook me up. But no. The manager kept trying to tell me that it was past the date and that they couldn't do exchanges from other branch stores. Throughout the whole thing I remained positive and friendly, remembering back to one day in Japanese language school when we did a unit on conflict resolution and making complaints in Japanese. I thought I was doing pretty well.

I told them that if they had such strict rules the salesperson should have fully investigated the details of my purchase the previous day. I came all the way (I specifically said this) to Shibuya before work to do this but she still wouldn't budge. So she explained the impossibility of it all again. And then had
the nerve to ask, do you understand? That's when conflict resolution went out the door and working my foreign ass came in. I said I did understand but the salesperson clearly knew that I had bought the jacket several weeks before. Manager bitch (yes I'm reduced to calling her that now) said that we must have had a communication misunderstanding (code for you are a stupid lying foreigner) and again laid out why it would be oh so difficult to give me a different size jacket. I could see this wasn't moving along anywhere new so I was very very bad and said to her, So what? Which was a very shitty thing to say in Japanese and in the tone I used. She drove the resolution out of me and I needed to exchange my 17000 yen jacket. MB looked down for a few shocked moments and then said, Because you brought it in with a receipt, tags, and in perfect condition we will do it just this once. Like I'd attempt to go through that again! It wasn't just that though, she had treated me like some crack ho who had swiped a jacket and was trying to return it for cash instead of the nicely dressed customer who paid with plastic and kept the tags on.

When I got to work later and looked over my victory jacket, I noticed that they had taken the tags off!!! Just in case I showed up again trying to pull some more crazy shit because hey let's face it, I've got nothing better to do than argue with retail bitches about who said what.

It's hard knowing how to behave here. In some ways I feel I should just speak Japanese the way I speak English and act how I normally would. In other ways, I know enough Japanese to know how to speak properly in different situations and I might have mentioned before how my voice gets higher in Japanese. It feels like I'm selling out but I also feel the need to conform in some ways to be better understood and respected. It's a compromise either way and in all honesty, I'm glad I pulled the bitch out of the bag at FCUK that day.

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