Help keep Japan’s convenience stores convenient by learning and following these six Japanese etiquette points.

The esoteric nature of Japanese etiquette is something that’s often exaggerated by foreign observers, but it’s still accurate to say that Japan strongly considers being considerate a critical responsibility for any non-infant member of society. That goes double for places where large numbers of people gather, such as convenience stores.

Since many convenience store customers are in a hurry, the industry has devised various systems and pieces of equipment to streamline the process of getting in and out of the store as smoothly as possible. However, not everyone is observant enough to utilize these, prompting frustrated Japanese Twitter users to give examples of “things idiots can’t see” in convenience stores.

1. The tray idiots can’t see
Starting things off was @gyoniku_sanaari, who referenced fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes while saying:

“I don’t know if there really are clothes that are invisible to stupid people, but I know this is a tray that idiots can’t see.”

@gyoniku_sanaari, who might be a convenience store clerk speaking from frustrated experience, doesn’t mean for his words to be taking literally. Instead, he’s expressing exasperation that many customers either don’t notice, or don’t properly use, the tray in question. Of course, even SoraNews24’s intelligent and mannerly readers might not know what it is if they’ve never been in a Japanese convenience store, so what is it?

It’s a tray to put your coins in when you pay for your purchase. In Japan, the smallest bill is 1,000 yen (US$9.20), which means that just about any transaction at a convenience store is going to involve paying with at least a few coins, and instead of handing them directly to the cashier, you’re supposed to toss them into the tray, which has rubberized pips to make it easier for the clerk to scoop them up, as well as angled sides to keep them in the same general area as they’re being counted.

▼ Some coin trays are raised, as opposed to sitting on the counter.

2. The box idiots can’t see
So what else do Twitter users say “idiots” fail to see in convenience stores? This little box, which like the coin tray, is often located near the register.

It’s a receptacle for unwanted customer receipts. Though the store is required to give you one, odds are you don’t really need to keep written proof of your lawful purchase of that bag of sweet bean-flavored potato chips, but rather than leave it on the counter and making it trash for the clerk to have to pick up, you’re supposed to place it in the box, which may be labeled in Japanese text with 不要レシート入れ (“Place unneeded receipts here”).

3. The sign idiots can’t see
Speaking of Japanese text…

…if you see this sign sitting on the counter, it means the register is currently unavailable (that’s what レジ休止中 means), and you’ll need to go to another one, instead of standing there fuming or impatiently calling to the staff to come take care of you.

4. The marker idiots can’t see
While you’re keeping an eye out for written guidance, don’t forget to look down.

Japanese convenience stores often have a designated spot, marked on the floor with a pair of feet, where customers are supposed to form a line while waiting for a register to open up.

This keeps the shopping aisles clear so other customers can move about easily, and also gives the clerks a single point from which to usher customers over to open registers.

5. The screen idiots can’t see
In all fairness, this is a screen some people legitimately won’t be able to see, since it only comes up when making certain purchases.

In Japan, the minimum age to purchase alcohol or tobacco products is 20 (and it’ll stay at 20 even when the age of legal adulthood gets lowered to 18). So if you’re buying either, there’s a chance (depending on the store) that this screen will pop up on the register, asking you to verify that yes, you are old enough, by pressing the button marked はい, meaning “yes.”

6. The request idiots can’t see
This one can take on various specific forms, but they all consist of a sign or sticker near the trash cans which include the text 家庭ごみ and お断り.

Those translate to “trash from home” and “not accepted,” and serve to inform customers that the convenience store doesn’t want you dumping your personal trash (i.e. things you bought somewhere else) in their bins.

In practice, there’s actually a little bit of leeway here. For example, say you purchase a can of Coke from a vending machine, drink it while you’re out and about, and then pop into a convenience store later on that day and want to throw the bottle away, since it’s not one of Coca-Cola’s awesome limited-edition Japan travel designs. As long as you put it in the correct bin (the recycling one), odds are the convenience store staff isn’t going to get bent out of shape over it. On the other hand, if you’ve got a half-dozen empty cans and bottles from the Shinkansen ride you just finished, and you want to toss them all out in the convenience store, that’s really going beyond the services the store is set up to provide, and they ask that you hang onto your trash until you get to your hotel or hostel.

As often is the case with Japanese manners, being a foreigner means that, to an extent, you’ll be forgiven for not knowing all the things discussed here, and the staff and local shoppers probably won’t think of you as an “idiot” for your lack of knowledge. However, familiarizing yourself with these common convenience store courtesies will go a long way towards making your time in Japan, and everyone’s time in the shop, more pleasant.

Source: Twitter/@gyoniku_sanaari via Hachima Kiko
Top image ©SoraNews24

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s enough of a regular at his local convenience store that he now knows the employees’ shifts.