Time spent in line
It happens so often that it bugs the crap out of me. I go up to the convenience store cash register. An elderly person with a basket full of shopping is either already there or else slips in front of me. There are two registers and two clerks, but one register is closed as the clerk is re-stocking shelves, leaving a sole operating cash register. I have no choice but to wait - and elderly customers are so slow. When their charge is calculated they sloowwwwwly take out their coin purses and sloowwwwwly search for exact change - in coins! That’s the Japanese way.
It invariably happens that after standing behind a glacial-moving senior customer for an excruciating five minutes, and just as the customer is finishing her transaction, the other clerk jumps up, opens his till and calls for the next customer - that’s me. Always in these circumstances - and there are many of them as I said - I hesitate and regret moving to the suddenly open register. Sometimes I refuse outright and stick to my place in my line while the open cashier is calling, “Next customer! Next customer!” I’m thinking, “Shut up! Where have you been for the last several minutes?” I have to do a quick estimation, which will be faster, moving to the newly open register (where I might be first or second), or staying behind my old persecutor? Sometimes it turns out slower if I move - if, for example, the new clerk suddenly discovers insufficient coinage in her till to make change. I figure that I have invested so much time already in my line - by standing in line behind this old customer - that it is my line, the line where I belong, and I am loath to give it up, to abandon my place and take a new place in a new line with its own recipe of risk and uncertainty. Even though the potential reward of moving is great, that is only a potential, not a certainty, because even if I am at the head of the new line I still may not finish my business faster than the slow moving geriatric. It sometimes turns out that, having moved lines, I would have made better time by staying in the original line to begin with. I hate when that happens.
Why does the second cashier take so long to notice waiting customers and open his register? Customer Service in Japan is habitually smothers us with courtesy and is instantaneous - unlike surly, obnoxious Canadians. It’s too easy to say that it’s a racist thing because I’m a foreigner, or that the cashier is shy about serving me. That doesn’t mean it’s not true, but I rather doubt it.