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If you’re still into planking, owling or tebowing, you’re way behind the times in terms of online photo trends. In July this year, a wave of photos featuring part-timers (more commonly known as arubaito, or simply baito, in Japan) at convenience stores getting cozy in their working environment started a new trend – “freezering”. The photos featuring convenience store baito taking a snooze inside an ice cream freezer instantly went viral, and soon baito at numerous stores and fast food outlets jumped on the bandwagon, tweeting photos of themselves inside freezers, playing with ingredients in the kitchen and more.

As expected, the series of unbefitting photos sparked outrage online, employers were questioned, apology notices were sent, and some outlets were even pushed to the extent of shutting down. But did you know that some nefarious villains are actually offering pranksters for hire? And even worse, that some businesses are turning to them to defame rivals?

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Like with most viral trends, you might think that it will soon fade away, but as they always say, in every crisis there’s an opportunity. While most of the online community was still busy getting ruffled over the inappropriate snapshots, an opportunist turned the tables to their advantage and started a “terrobaito outsource” service.

As the tongue-in-cheek name suggests, the company outsources baito to create “terrorism” at business outlets in attempt to shut them down. The mastermind behind this incredulous service runs a detective agency on the façade, but provides “payback service” such as online mail and call spamming on the side. A member of staff of the agency explains that the “terrobaito outsource service was inspired by a photo of a Pizza Hut staff pressing his face into pizza dough, causing outrage on Twitter in mid-August this year”.

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It might sound like a crazy idea, but according to the agency, they have had business requests to “put down rival outlets on Tabelog (a popular restaurant and bar review website), so there might be a demand for more ridiculous posts to cause more damage on the targeted outlets”. With as much competition as up to 20 izakaya (Japanese casual drinking tavern) within a 3km radius, it is without doubt that some establishments are resorting to more “creative” ways of beating the competition.

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For 150,000–200,000 yen (US$1,540–2,050) per case, the agency will dispatch a part-timer to work undercover at the targeted establishment, and said baito will then unleash cyber hell to defame the establishment. As outrageous as it may seem, the agency claims that they have already received several enquiries regarding this service. They are also intending to approach potential clients instead of plainly waiting for business to come knocking on their door.

When asked for an opinion on the “terrobaito” business, food and beverage operations consultant Miyagawa could only sigh, stating that there has been increased concern over such inappropriate behavior by staff, and while well-established chain stores are less likely to suffer major damage since they are often prepped with apology notices and procedures for immediate response if such cases should occur, smaller businesses will probably have a tough time dealing with such problems. Miyagawa also mentioned that “getting fired would bring everything to an end for the baito, whereas the victimized establishments might be cornered into shutting down in certain cases,” and that there is no absolute way of preventing such unbecoming behavior “unless security cameras are set up in every possible corner of the outlet.”

That being said, business owners are not entirely unarmed. Some establishments have chosen to attack, taking such matters to court, suing the photo-tweeting culprits and demanding compensation, while others have strengthened their defenses by making staff sign an agreement that prohibits the inappropriate use of SNS.

When the going gets tough, there are bound to be those who would stop at nothing to tear down their rivals. And wherever there is demand, there will be supply. While it is obvious that the “terrobaito outsource service” is not the nicest business idea around, you’d have to agree that it is indeed a one of a kind business opportunity. But what goes around comes around, and as consumers all we can do is to bank our hopes on karma to put this hideous business strategy to an end.

Source: Jin, ShuuPure News (Japanese)
Image: Hachima Kikou, Urban Robot Cafe, Byoukan Sunday