One person’s bargain is another’s burden.

One of the small pleasures in working late in Japan is that when stopping by the supermarket late in the evening for a quick pre-made dinner, you’ll often be greeted with a sticker knocking off anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of the regular price. This is of course because as closing time approaches, the supermarkets need to offload these perishable foods quickly, so at certain times an employee will come out and plaster all the bento with discount stickers.

For customers, it’s a great bit of value at the end of a long and hard day, but as Uncle Ben once told a young Peter Parker: “with great purchasing power, comes great responsibility.” The predictability of these sizable markdowns can sometimes have the power to corrupt people leading to uncivilized behavior.

Such a corruption occurred in a rural supermarket in Japan and has grown into a recurring nightmare for its staff. A 23-year-old part-time employee there explained her grief in detail in a post on the “Trouble Solving Bulletin Board” (Onayami Kaiketsu Keijiban) website. At 6 p.m., she puts 20-percent-off stickers on all the side dishes, such as fried chicken, spring rolls, and potato croquettes which are sold in her section. Then, at some point between 7:00 and 7:45 p.m. she puts half-price stickers on top of the 20-percent ones.

▼ Some items commonly seen in the side-dish section

Image: Pakutaso

In doing this, she always encounters a sub-group of regular customers who will hover around that section of the supermarket, sometimes for up to an hour, waiting for that half-off payday. That’s no problem for her or anyone, as those who want to invest their own personal time into waiting for a lower price are free to do as long as they aren’t bothering anyone.

However, among them is a sub-sub-group which she classifies as “supermarket beggars.” They are characterized by their proactive approach of rudely demanding half-off stickers before she ever puts them out. When she explains that it wouldn’t be fair to the other customers, they often snap back with “I’m a regular! Hurry up!”

Others will take what they want and put it in their basket ahead of time. They will then walk around for an hour or so until she comes out to put the half-price stickers on. At that moment, they’ll come up to her and demand “Gimme a sticker too.” or even just shove their basket in her face without saying anything.

It’s against store policy to put stickers on items in people’s baskets, and a sign on the counter explicitly prohibits it, but in keeping with Japan’s “customer is god” philosophy she usually gives them the sticker anyway. The times she doesn’t usually don’t end well, with customers yelling and causing a scene when they don’t get their discount.

▼ Some meat and potatoes marked down an initial 20 percent

Such a scene happened the day before she made the post. She was approached by what she described as a “disheveled looking middle-aged man” who slapped her on the butt and said, “Hey, stick it on!” She angrily pointed at the sign and shouted that she can’t put stickers on things in people’s baskets, this caused the other guys standing around to giggle at the man who went from cocky to embarrassed rather quickly.

Trying to save face, the man clicked his tongue at her – a gesture considered more offensive in Japan – and slowly took his items out of the box one by one. She started to put stickers on for him, but was further enraged by how slow he was going. Shouting “That’s enough!” she stopped and instead went to deal with the other people who were standing around, waiting for their own discount stickers.

By the time she finished up with them, that same man returned with the remaining items that he wanted a 50-percent discount on. He muttered “I’m sorry, I was so slow…” and humbly presented his items again for stickers. After she applied them, he left without saying a word, let alone “thank you.”

▼ Bread can get the sticker treatment too, but usually on a daily basis rather than hourly, so “beggars” aren’t a problem

Her stories were met with a flood of sympathy, both from other supermarket workers and civilians who couldn’t believe what she had to put up with on a regular basis.

“You should put the stickers on their foreheads.”
“By putting items in their basket without the intent to buy them at full price, they’re preventing other customers from doing so. I do believe that’s the crime known as obstruction of business.”
“I admit, I sometimes hover around for discount stickers, but I’d never ask for one.”
“Could you just make the discount time random, so people don’t wait around?”
“At our supermarket we deal with these people by going out as a team and refusing anyone who demands them from us. There’s strength in numbers.”
“I admit I did that last New Year’s, along with a bunch of other customers who were walking around until sticker time. I wouldn’t normally ask like that, but at that time of year the side dishes they offer are the more expensive kinds.”
“It sounds like the side-dish counter is a high-risk area for COVID.”
“You should charge that guy who hit you with sexual assault.”

“If you can’t stop these people, maybe set up a ticket system so they aren’t wandering around with perishable food for an hour.”
“I’m sorry you have to deal with so many jerks, but know that you are a big help to many more normal people who appreciate the work you do, so hang in there!”

Some comments also pointed out that one cause of the problem might lie in society itself. For those on minimum wage in some areas of Japan, cutting half the price off a bento can make a huge impact on their budget. The stress of such a lifestyle can also manifest itself in rude behavior, that in some cases might really be mischanneled embarrassment.

The original poster pointed out that many people in search of discount stickers were polite, and for those customers she is grateful. She is also taking some of the suggestions from replies and presenting them to her manager to hopefully find a better system that will help them move all their products with less stress on employees.

▼ Some garlic chicken with a half-off sticker

And hopefully the end result of this isn’t the gradual abolishment of discount stickers. It’d be a shame to once again not be able to have nice things because of a few bad apples. While we might not be able to get rid of “supermarket beggars” we can help by not becoming one ourselves and offsetting their influence by showing appreciation for the people working to help us eat day in or day out, even if it’s just with a simple “thank you.”

Source: Onayami Kaiketsu Keijiban, Career Connection News, Girls Channel
Photos ©SoraNews24 (Unless otherwise noted)
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