Japan’s service culture has to be the most interesting in the world. For one, it’s the only place where they apologize to you for a free upgrade.
But during my recent trip to Japan there were a couple of other uniquely Japanese service experiences I have to share, both good and bad.
Let’s start with the bad. I was having lunch with friends at one of the restaurants at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. We got there at around 2:30PM, were presented with lunch menus, and talked for about 30 minutes before ordering. The waiter comes over to take our order, and as we say what we want he says “oh, wrong menu, it’s not lunch time anymore.”
He proceeds to bring us the dinner menu, which has higher prices and a more limited selection. We asked if we could just order off the lunch menu since that’s what we were presented with, but he said no, because it wasn’t 2:30PM anymore. It’s the first time I’ve had the menus switched on me after sitting down.
Now, it’s not all bad news. As a Hyatt Diamond member I was given a 3,000 Yen (~$35USD) voucher at check-in for any restaurant purchase off the dinner menu. Now, while it wasn’t dinner time, the voucher specifically said that it was for orders off the dinner menu.
I figured that would compensate somewhat for the higher prices of the dinner menu.
He comes over and I present the voucher. He smiles and says “oh no, it’s lunch time, not dinner time.” Yeah, except you took the lunch menu right out of our hands as we were ready to order. He then claimed it was “snack time.” Fine, then present me with a “snack” menu and not the dinner menu please.
Look, I don’t want to be the “ugly” tourist. I understand Japan is about rules/procedures so I figured he could appreciate the fact that the voucher specifically said “dinner menu” and we were ordering off the dinner menu. While it took a bit of back and forth, we did eventually get the discount.
And here’s the other side of Japanese hospitality. We pulled up at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto and my friend had received a bottle of champagne as a welcome gift at the previous hotel. Stupidly he dropped it as the taxi door opened, and while it didn’t completely shatter, the top cracked and champagne started flowing out the top.
My friend grabbed it, not wanting to make a mess, but the lady at the hotel greeting us grabbed the bottle of champagne out of his hands and it sprayed on her instead, which we felt awful about. Nonetheless she proceeded to apologize profusely, and then performed “surgery” on the bottle to the point that it was fixed once again. It was made even better by the fact that she brought us some champagne glasses while at check-in so we could drink it in the lobby before it was flat.
On a somewhat unrelated note, negotiating (guaranteed) late check-out at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto was an adventure as well.
“Sir, would you like late check-out?”
“Yes, 4PM please.”
“How about 2PM?”
“How about 4PM, please?”
“We can do 2PM.”
“But am I not guaranteed 4PM check-out as a Diamond member?”
“We’re very full tomorrow. How about 2:30PM?”
“Please hold on, let me ask my manger if we can do 2:30PM check-out.”
“Okay, how about we move you to another room from 2PM to 2:30PM?”
And of course no trip to Japan is complete without some Engrish: