One sip over the line, sweet Jesus. One sip over the line…

Fresh-brewed coffee has been a welcome addition in recent years to the already bountiful selection of goods and services found in Japan’s major convenience stores. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s often dispensed from a self-serve machine after purchasing a cup from the register.

▼ Here’s a look at how it works at 7-Eleven.

Like many of Japan’s creature comforts, it relies heavily on the honor system because the customer can select between different sizes and qualities of coffee by themselves, often out of the eyesight of staff. But before you go remarking to yourself about how well-behaved everyone in Japan is, it should be noted that this system has resulted in the occasional arrest and attempted murder.

And now we have the case of a 59-year-old man who was caught nipping a little extra coffee with his order and was detained by police for it. His cover was blown last December when he popped into a convenience store during his lunch break and ordered a Regular Coffee for 110 yen ($0.75). However, while at the machine, a little devil on his shoulder convinced him to press the button for a Large Coffee valued at 180 yen ($1.23) which filled his Regular cup to the brim.

He then left the store but just as he was about to get into his car, the clerk called out to him and reported him to the police. While waiting for the authorities, the clerk interrogated the man and found that he had done this twice before at that store.
The man was then questioned by the police but no charges were pressed and the man was released. However, since he was the principal of a nearby junior high school, word of the incident got back to the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education who questioned the man once again.

This time he admitted to having misappropriated coffee a total of seven times since June of last year for an approximate total of 490 yen ($3.34) worth of ill-gotten coffee. He explained that the first time he did it, it was an accident, but when he discovered that a Large Coffee fit into his Regular Coffee cup and the staff didn’t say anything, he decided to do it again, even knowing it was wrong.

▼ There’s probably something to be said about a Large Coffee fitting inside a Regular Cup. Our own P.K. Sanjun recently had a weird experience with a Large Coffee that looked more like a Regular, though he might have just hit the wrong button.

As a result, on 30 January, the Board of Education handed down a disciplinary dismissal for “gross misconduct unbecoming of an educational public servant.” They also apologized “from the bottom of [their] hearts” for allowing this to happen.

Comments online were mixed, with some agreeing that a person in the delicate position of running a school shouldn’t get caught up in embarrassing scandals. Others felt that the punishment simply didn’t fit the crime.

“He was axed for stealing about 490 yen worth of coffee and wasn’t even charged with it.”
“He’s 59 too… I wonder if he still gets his retirement benefits.”
“Just say it was an accident, dummy!”
“It does set a bad example for the kids if someone isn’t held accountable for their misdeeds.”
“He could have bought like 100,000 Large Coffees with those retirement benefits he lost.”
“This guy gets a disciplinary dismissal, but principals who cover up bullying do not?”
“He’s an older guy, he probably could have gotten away with saying he didn’t know how to use the machine.”
“He threw away his life for 490 yen.”
“But when politicians do 1,000,000 times worse, nothing happens.”

By far, most of the comments were pointing out the discrepancy of a public servant losing so much over so little at a time when members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are suspected of misappropriating about 600 million yen ($4 million) in slush funds. Although the scandal has shaken the structure of the party and greatly hurt its approval rating, it so far has led to little in the way of tangible punishments.

Perhaps it’s time that we all come together and hold our elected officials to the same level of accountability as our junior high school principals. Though, I guess if we did that we’d have to launch all those guys into space or something.

Source: YTV, Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Pakutaso
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