Was it tasty?
The other day, I was standing outside our shop watching the river of people go by, when I noticed a foreign couple coming along towards me. They weren't on my side of the street, so I doubted that they would notice my shop, and that was indeed the case. It turned out that they were looking for a place to eat, because as they neared the café across the street from me, they stopped to read the menu panel outside.
And they then did something quite interesting. She moved towards the door as if to go in, but he pulled her back. He then stepped to one side away from the crowd moving by, pulled out his phone, and began tapping at the screen, while she waited beside him. A moment later, he shrugged, put the phone away, and the two of them continued walking down the street.
Now although I don't know for sure, I would guess that what he did was a quick online search for reviews of the place. Now I myself like that café, so curious about what he might have read that put him off, I just did a similar search (it has a romanized name, so even people who don't know Japanese can look it up). I found ... nothing. It seems that perhaps not many tourists have eaten there, or at least none who felt the impulse to write a review after doing so.
But what kind of behaviour was that? I can understand giving a place a 'pass' if you come across some bad reviews, but to skip it just because it hasn't got any reviews? Does he only eat at places that have been 'starred'? I think he'll get a bit hungry around here if he persists in that habit!
But I shouldn't be too light-hearted about this business of on-line reviewing, because as we all know, this is going to affect my own business, and affect it greatly. The ladies on my staff who are going to be 'hostess' for our Print Parties are really worried about this - they are afraid that if they fail to 'perform' properly, we will get bad reviews, and our business will fail.
I do not share their apprehension at all, for a few reasons. One is that we are offering a pretty good experience for people; everybody so far who has been through our Print Party room has had fun making their prints. And we are nothing like a restaurant, which frequently has to deal with people in a bad mood, in a hurry, who are stressed, etc. etc. In our case, everybody who comes through our door is already 'primed' to have a good time: they are in this wonderful exotic fairyland of Japan, are walking around wide-eyed at everything they see, and - having made their reservations online some time before - are looking forward to the experience.
I've told the women on my staff, "Look, for a foreigner here in Japan, if he or she has to deal with a young lady like you who perhaps cannot speak the best English, who is perhaps a bit flustered at running the Print Party, but who stays cheerful and eager to assist them, this is not a bug, it's a feature! You're part of the attraction here! Just stay relaxed, have fun yourself, and I can guarantee you, they will enjoy themselves ..."
They hear me, but they certainly don't believe me. Their 'training' is all Japanese, and that training is clear - nobody would dream of offering a public service like this without extensive staff training ... including strict 'scripting'. Script? No way are we going that route; that's the quickest way to turn people off, at least people like me, and I'm the 'model' for our customers. If we can produce an experience that will please me, we're in the clear.
We've only had a couple of dozen Print Parties so far, and have garnered no online reviews yet (to my knowledge), so I guess that's why all those thousands of people are passing by our front door without coming in. "Hmmm, no listing for Mokuhankan ... can't be anything there worth trying ..."
Our day will come!
Story #465, November 23, 2014
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