In no-tipping Japan, most people just pay whatever the meter says, but this company is now letting passengers pay more.

Taxi operator Sanwa Kotsu is always looking for new ways to innovate. Among the services they’ve offered are ninja drivers and, in honor of the Tokyo Olympics, drivers outfitted in fencing gear.

As of this month, though, Sanwa Kotsu is doing something that’s arguably even more unusual for a Japanese cab company by introducing a system by which passengers can tip their driver.

Japan is famously a country where tipping isn’t done, whether you’re dining in a restaurant, getting a haircut, or taking a taxi. A lot of cultural guidebooks go so far as to say that Japanese society would consider it rude to offer a tip, but it’s more accurate to say that it would be considered weird, like if you tried to offer a tip to a, say, a cashier at a department store in a tipping culture such as the U.S.

But starting July 15, Sanwa Kotsu, through a partnership with digital tip service Respo, has built a framework through which passengers can give their driver a gratuity. The company is currently conducting a customer service survey, and at the bottom of the card customers are asked to fill out is a QR code they can access with their smartphone’s camera, then select the amount they want to tip.

▼ The survey and QR code, circled in red

Surprisingly, Sanwa Kotsu says that there have been instances in the past where passengers have tipped the company’s drivers, and that its partnership with Respo provides an official “easy and casual way to say ‘thank you,’” to quote Respo’s mission statement.

It’ll be interesting to see how many people volunteer to pay above and beyond what the meter reads at the end of their ride, though. Sanwa Kotsu’s drivers’ encounters with a certain number of outliers aside, tipping taxi drivers is very much not the norm in Japan. Also worth considering is that, while some drivers might have smoother vehicle control or more polished conversation skills than others, the vast majority of Japanese cabbies are already satisfactorily skilled and polite. Especially for short jaunts around town, it’s hard to imagine what’s going to convince the average passenger that a ride warrants payment above and beyond the pricing structure for safe, courteous driving that’s been in place in Japanese society for pretty much as long as taxis have been a thing.

▼ “Wow, this guy really didn’t crash into any other cars while driving me home!”

For now, Sanwa Kotsu, which is based in Yokohama and also operates cabs in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, says the optional tip system is only in place for its cabs running in Tokyo’s Fuchu district on a test basis, and the company will be deciding whether or not to expand it to other areas at a later date.

Source: Sanwa Kotsu via IT Media
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Sanwa Kotsu, Pakutaso
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