Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Guest is God

A student, who I've mentioned before, works at a hotel giving information in front of the elevator, at an information kiosk, and in cloak rooms. She told me that the cloak room is one of the hardest areas to work at because it's so busy that the staff are close to a state of pure panic when their largest banquet hall (which hosts up to 1000 people) is occupied. This particular hall has its own cloak room and it's a madhouse trying to take bags and coats and hand out numbers.

She told me that a guest who is a semi-high profile person in the Japanese parliament gave her his coat and she asked if it as the only item that he wanted to check. He said that it was and went on his way. When this gentleman returned, he got his coat and asked, "and my muffler?" She told him politely that there was no muffler and a fellow coworker backed her up as she'd witnessed the transaction. Nonetheless, she, her coworker, and her supervisor apologized profusely for a mistake they did not make. Then, they apologized some more.

I asked this student why she and other staff were apologizing for something they didn't do and she said, "because the guest is God." She said she figured this gentleman had left his muffler behind somewhere on his way to the hotel and absently thought he'd checked it when he hadn't.

In a related story, she told me a coworker made a more serious error which further illustrated the stellar treatment guests may receive. She said this person misfiled a guest's coat and gave him the wrong one in return. When the guest said the coat was not his and they couldn't turn up the correct one, they offered to pay for his coat. Her boss said that, even if a guest claims that a coat costs 2,000,000 yen (about $20,000), they will have to pay for the loss.

I asked her what happened to the original coat and she said that another guest was probably given the more expensive coat mistakenly but just walked away with it. The only coat they had left at the end of the night was a cheap, grey one which belonged to the party who was given the expensive one. Apparently, the gods can be petty thieves.


Luis said...

Usually this saying ("okyakusama wa kamisama desu") is translated as "The Customer is God," and is considered analogous to "The Customer Is Always Right." Although I don't think that the sentiment is carried quite as far in the West as it is in Japan sometimes....

Shari said...

I figured this was a variation on "the customer is always right" which she was personalizing to her job situation. That being said, in Japan, I rarely feel that I'm regarded that way as a customer. That may be because I'm a foreigner but I think it's probably more likely that it's because I don't go to expensive enough places. ;-)