They say it’s a charm.

A popular fixture of the Japanese cityscape is the many plastic food samples that grace the windows of restaurants and other food retailers. These fake foods are crafted with such amazing attention to detail that they’re works of art in their own right.

Unfortunately, this can be a source of problems for the sellers of foods themselves when these lifelike dishes aren’t safely locked in showcases. Just ask the staff at Andrew’s Eggtart, who’ve been having trouble telling their fake tarts from the real ones.

▼ Andrew’s Eggtart is a division of Lord Stow’s Bakery, in which Andrew and Lord Stow are the same guy

In late October, an incident occurred in which a customer was accidentally served five plastic tarts when staff mistook them for actual fresh tarts. The Macau-based franchise which usually has locations in Osaka, Nagoya, and Kagoshima, opened up a temporary stand in JR Tottori Station and customers flocked at the chance to get the rare treat. It would seem that in all the ruckus the inedible order of tarts got handed out by mistake.

The company explained that part of the reason was that these particular food samples were designed to be hollow to save production costs. This also makes them much lighter than solid plastic sculptures and harder to distinguish from the weight of real tarts. In addition, attention to the samples’ look was so detailed that they even had the distinct color and texture of tarts that were baked off-site and cooled as opposed to freshly baked ones.

It’s that very attention to detail that made a lot of online commenters say they’d consider themselves lucky to be given samples by mistake.

“I’d totally rather have the samples.”
“I think the company who made the sample should feel proud.”
“Recent food replicas are amazing and really hard to tell from the real thing.”
“A long time ago my father bought some souvenir snacks on a trip but they turned out to be samples. He couldn’t return them either because it was too far away, but that was fine by me.”
“I wonder how you can make it clear without ruining the appearance. Maybe gluing it to a nice dish?”
“There is such a thing as being too high-quality.”
“It’s not like those silicon packets, but still probably a good idea to put a DO NOT EAT warning on them.”
“I wouldn’t mind buying a sample, but hopefully I’d realize it before trying to eat it.”

According to Andrew’s Eggtart, a sample costs about three times as much as the 209 yen ($1.50) price of an actual tart, so anyone who ends up with one would be getting a bargain. Luckily, in this most recent case, the customers were honest and brought the samples back for an exchange without any complaints.

This is actually the second time that Andrew’s Eggtart had this problem with a similar mistake occurring last January. After that happened, measures were put in place to prevent a reoccurrence such as clearly explaining to part-time staff which tarts were real and even refraining from placing the fake tarts out unless a manager was present.

However, in the case of temporary tart stands, staff is outsourced to local human resources not as well-trained or experienced to deal with such realistic food samples. Andrew’s Eggtart now says they will improve temporary location training as well to prevent this from happening a third time.

Source: Shukan Josei Prime, Twitter
Top image: YouTube/Lord Stow’s Bakery
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