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Turns out the ethnically intolerant are also sometimes sticklers for proper manners.

In Japan, people take their jobs seriously. For anyone who’s employed, being a diligent, conscientious worker is a source of pride, and even an essential part of being a respectable member of society.

All of this goes double for people who work in customer service, as their actions are not only reflect on their values as individuals, but the company as a whole. As such, even low-level jobs like working as a cashier are treated with a sense of importance, which has led to some emotional advertising for fast food chain McDonald’s.

McDonald’s latest ad to tug at the heartstrings is titled A Quiet Pair.

As a woman steps up to place her order, the cashier suddenly drops her voice to a whisper, asking “What can I get for you?”

Just as quietly, the customer responds, “A small café latte,” and when the clerk follows up (again whispering) by asking if she’ll be having her coffee in the restaurant, the woman nods and softly says she will.

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The hushed tone of the exchange is a little puzzling until the camera shows that the coffee-craving woman isn’t alone. She’s holding a small baby, who seems to have just drifted off to sleep, and we learn that the clerk didn’t want to wake the child up by speaking too loudly.

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It turns out the customer is actually a mother of two. As the considerate McDonald’s employee brings her order to her table, the woman’s husband and elementary school-age son come in. The older tyke, apparently not aware that his younger sibling has dozed off, shouts out an excited “MAMA!” as he spots her, but the McDonald’s employee gives him a swift yet gentle “Shhh.”

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The underlying sentiment is actually pretty sweet. In one concise package, it empathizes with the challenges of being a parent, and also reminds us that while kids will sometimes get a little rambunctious, there’s no need to come down unduly hard on them when they do.

And yet, one subset of Japanese Internet users is livid over the ad.

So what’s their complaint? Do they think that the cashier’s whispering is too familiar a tone to take with a paying customer? Are they opposed to a restaurant worker correcting someone else’s child, no matter how soft a touch is used? Is the issue that a woman who might still be nursing her baby is about to indulge in a caffeine-laced beverage?

Nope, what’s got certain people riled up is the way the cashier bows.

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Viewers with a keen eye who’ve also been involved in business transactions in Japan might have noticed that the manner in which the woman bows deviates ever so slightly from the orthodox way the gesture is performed in Japan. While it’s customary for women in Japan to clasp their hands in front of themselves when bowing, traditional etiquette dictates that the elbows shouldn’t be quite as flared out to the sides. The forearms don’t have to be rigidly locked, but in general the angle is slightly less acute than what’s shown in the video.

Getting bent out of shape over the bend of someone’s elbows might seem like a narrow-minded thing to do, but you know who’re narrow-minded? Hair-trigger racists, who took issue with their perception that the positon of the cashier’s elbows shows that she’s not bowing in the Japanese style, but the Korean one. Critical comments online included:

“This is an indicator that McDonald’s is finished. See ya.”
“Things like this are why McDonald’s sales keep dropping.”
“Hey, McDonald’s, are you trying to pick a fight with Japan?”
“Hmm…now I want to eat there even less.”

On one hand, Japanese-style bowing and Korean-style bowing are perceived as different enough in Japan that they’re referred to by different words, ojigi for the former and konsu for the latter. Still, the video obviously wasn’t shot guerilla-style. It’s a staged commercial, made specifically for Japan, with Japanese actors and presumably a Japanese director and film crew. None of them had a problem with the way the cashier bows, and one could make the argument that because of the counter in front of her, raising her arms up slightly higher than usual (and moving her elbows farther to the sides as a result of biomechanics) is the only way to show that her hands are properly clasped.

Likewise, the more-tolerant majority of Japanese Internet users came to the commercial’s defense:

“Ordinary people don’t even have such a detailed mental image of Korean-style bowing.”
“As usual, ultra-nationalist Internet users stink.”
“Are they dumb? They’re worrying way too much about this.”
“Rather than picking apart her bowing form, why don’t you jerks work on your own manners?”

If we ever meet the person who made that last comment, we’d like to buy him a Giga Big Mac in thanks for his insightful rebuttal.

Source: Jin, BuzzNews
Images: YouTube/マクドナルド公式(McDonald’s)