Online commenters have a strong reaction to textbook’s advice, but there might be another angle to consider.

Japanese etiquette has a reputation for being extremely complex, but honestly, a lot of it is based on common sense. It’s just important to remember that one of the primary goals in interpersonal reactions in Japan is to not cause trouble for others.

Where things get tricky, though, is in imagining all the possible ways your actions could make someone else’s day more difficult. For example, Japanese Twitter user @tenana_p recently came across this piece of manners advice in a textbook.

The advice reads:

When using a credit card, say ‘Excuse me’

As we’ve learned, when a credit card is used, it has a negative effect on the store’s revenue. Because of that, when using a credit card, it’s good manners to say ‘Excuse me, but can I pay with a credit card?’”

The “negative effect on revenue” seems to be a reference to the processing fees credit card companies charge businesses, and the specific Japanese phrase the book recommends is sumimasen, which can also be used to mean “I’m sorry.”

Now it’s definitely true that communication in Japan involves a lot of apologizing (the Japanese language has several different phrases that all translate approximately to “I’m sorry” in English). However, @tenana_p was still startled to see paying with a credit card being designated as something that requires a verbal act of contrition, and so were other commenters, whose reactions included:

“Never heard that one before.”
“Why should the customer have to apologize for buying something from the store?”
“I really don’t think the part-timer working the register cares one way or another about the store having to pay processing fees.”
“That advice feels like it’s from 30 years ago, back when most people only used credit cards to make large purchases.”
“If it’s such a big hit to their revenue, then they should just say they only accept cash.”

▼ Note: The book’s advice should also not be interpreted to mean you should say “YOU’RE WELCOME!” when paying with cash.

However, are a collection of laymen’s opinions enough to overturn the judgement of an etiquette expert? Maybe, maybe not…but in this case it may not be an etiquette expert they’re up against. The book @tenana_p was reading isn’t a guide to refined manners, but actually one on the principles of bookkeeping, which is why it takes it as a given that the reader is already aware of credit card transaction fees, and also consciously thinking about them from a sellers’ perspective.

Between the source of the advice and the online reaction to it, it’s pretty safe to conclude that most shops in Japan aren’t going to expect an apology from you for hurting their bottom line if you reach for your credit card instead of cash when it’s time to pay. That said, there’s still a reason or two why a sumimasen is classy when using a credit card.

If the cashier has to scan your card or otherwise do some sort of register manipulation to complete the sale, it’s a bit of extra work for them, and also slows down the transaction, which could leave them with a longer line of customers waiting behind you, and thus a bit more pressure to work extra quickly to take care of them once they’re finished with you.

None of that is by any means outside the tasks a cashier should logically expect to perform during a day at work, but all the same, a quick sumimasen is still a nice gesture, especially since the phrase also carries a connotation of “thank you.”

Source: Twitter/@tenana_p via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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