Is silence golden, or is chitchat a necessary part of running a store?

In contrast to many other countries’ responses to the coronavirus outbreak, retail stores have largely remained open in Japan throughout the pandemic. That doesn’t mean it’s been business as usual, though, as many have implemented various countermeasures in hopes of preventing the transmission of the virus.

For the most part, these are temporary provisions that will be phased out once things get back to the old normal, but Japanese Twitter user @Miqyuro hopes that one store’s coronavirus customer service tweak becomes a permanent policy.

That in-shop sign reads:

“In order to help prevent the spread of infection, our staff will not be actively initiating conversation with shoppers.

If you have questions, please ask one of our employees, while maintaining a physical distance.

We realize this is an imperfect solution and apologize, but we ask for your understanding in light of current conditions.”

“Please, apparel store workers, let this be permanent…,” tweeted @Miqyuro along with the photo after a May shopping trip, and a handful of commenters who’d also like to be left alone while browsing echoed the sentiment.

“I get so terrified when they ask ‘Are you looking for something?’”
“Seriously. Every time I go shopping I think to myself ‘If I need your help, I’ll ask for it.’”
“It’s a pain in the butt when they come up to you.”
“I think part of the reason people like shopping at Uniqlo is that the staff there doesn’t approach you.”

However, just as many commenters could see the other side of the issue, even if they didn’t necessarily relish the chitchat itself.

“Part of the reason we approach customers is for theft prevention [by letting them know we’re aware of them]. Please understand that it’s something we need to do if we have merchandise on display between the exit and the register.”
“I used to work in an apparel store. It’s not like running a supermarket. You need to develop relationships with repeat-business customers, and to do that it’s necessary to talk with them, learn what their needs are, and help guide them towards what they’re looking for to coordinate their outfits.”
“I’m a former apparel salesperson, and honestly the store’s sales increase when we talk to customers. It’s also an effective way of discouraging shoplifting.”
“A lot of people don’t like being approached by salespeople, but then there are also shoppers who get angry if no one offers to help them.”

So in the end, it’s unlikely that the shop @Miqyuro visited, nor many others, will continue with a “don’t speak unless spoken to” policy once the coronavirus situation settles down, so if you do prefer to shop in silence, it’s probably best to keep the phrase “Daijoubu desu” (“I’m fine”/”I don’t need any help”) in mind when out shopping.

Source: Twitter/@Miqyuro via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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