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A Menu carved in stone

Illustration by Dot

Japan is the country of outstanding service, where companies go to great lengths to give their customers the best service possible. In Japanese there is even the phrase Okyaku san ha kamisama, which literally means that the customer is God.

However, when it comes to the lunch menu, it no longer matters what the customer wants. Absolutely under no circumstances can there be a substitution of one item for another. In restaurants, if you don't want the coffee that comes with the lunch menu, the waiter may have to have a meeting with upper management to see if he can bring you water instead. The price might actually go up because now that you have eliminated the coffee from the lunch, it really isn't a lunch anymore.

This practice has even spilled over into the American fast food chains. At KFC I ordered the two piece meal and a sandwich without mayonnaise. The clerk had to ask somebody if it was ok to make the sandwich without mayo, so I knew I was going to be in trouble when I asked her to make both my pieces of chicken, legs. Well this caused real confusion because it just isn't possible to make special requests. It was going to take many more people than just the clerk herself to solve this problem, and she quickly called the management for a meeting. When she came back she was with both the manager and the assistant manager.

The manager told me, "You can't pick what kind of chicken you get in the two piece meal." His rationale? "If everybody was able to pick what they want, there would be no chicken legs left for others."

Ok, I get it now, he would rather piss me off and not give me what I want, so nobody else can order what they want either. If legs are so popular why don't they stock more? I guess that would make too much sense, and we definitely don't want to have logical restaurants.

So I say to my Japanese brethren, you have a wonderful country with wonderful service, why not extend this hospitality to the restaurant world?

Many thanks to reader Michael Degelbeck for this Rant.

Metropolis Online
349: Life in the cycle lane
Playing chicken with a ladybike
348: Daisuki na Tokyo
Tokyo's my favorite!
347: Nihongo dake!
Why am I not fluent in Japanese yet?
346: People make the city
The beauty of Tokyo's people
345: Cross Training
Commuting by train in Tokyo
344: Yellow Line Fever
A guide for the blind... and a pain in the neck
343: Welcome to Tokyo
What did you bring me?
342: Positive thinking
Three reasons why we love Japan
341: I'm a rounder...
Veterans of Japan vs. Japan rookies
340: Discard your bank cards
The labour of replacing lost bank cards
339: Shoganai...
It can't be helped
338: Respect your environment
Poluution problem in Tokyo
337: Strike Three - You're Enlightened
How omiyage ruins a vacation
336: Missing manners
No manners outside of Japan
335: Goodbye jitensha
Is stealing bikes a popular pastime in Japan?
334: War of the Words
English borrows from other languages too!
333: ENGLISH ONLY, please
Don't bother writing your name in Japanese
332: A menu carved in stone
No special requests for lunch!
331: The Zen of Looking Busy
The art behind faking work
330: Lyrical Phlegm
Japan's spitting dilemma
329: Rock harder, Japan
Big, bad and ugly concerts
328: Noise Deficiency
The unrelenting quiet that is not Japan
327: Chopstick Diplomat
Constant questioning = constant answering
326: Game over
Cutting off the game for regular scheduled program
325: Grown pains
The hooligan behavior of middle-aged salarymen
324: The Price of Fame
Young teen actors light up on-screen
323: A Customary Affair
The universal language of consumerism
322: Robber barons
JR steals from the rich.. and the poor
321: Tegami Or Not Tegami
Deny the letter to save money
320: The Garbage Men
Variations of the "salaryman"
319: Holidaze
Japan - Home of the lamest holidays in the world
318: Box your ears
Be the karaoke star you've always dreamed of
317: The winter of my discontent
No oden if it's spring please!
316: The Bells
Going insane from bells and voices
315: The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
No garbage cans + too much garbage= a clean city?
314: The Kamikaze Spirit
The war may be over but the spirit lives on
313: Movie Mania
Laughing alone in the corner
312: Geek parade
What's going on with gaijin men?
311: Gleaming gomi
Rinse it out before you throw it out
310: Lower Mathematics
Teaching practical mathematical equations
309: Escalator clots
Blocking the flow of escalator traffic
308: Sky's the limit
Favorite channel on the hit list
307: Bring on the studmuffins
Thanks to the "Men looking for women"
306: Burning Rubber
Narrowly averting bicycle collisions
305: Fishy Business
The sushi wasn't dead
304: The Invisible Gaijin
When gaijins collide
303: Talk work only
The Japanese perception of idleness
302: From kotatsu, with love
A blanket covered electric coffee table
300: Why 2K?
The millennium bug ain't no big deal

ISSUES 350-381
ISSUES 250-299

ISSUES 233-249