A little over a year ago, I was in Japan and had a customer service experience that is worthy of a story. There is this great little hole-in-the-wall sushi place that I wanted to go to again. The restaurant is called Sususoon (we just called it “Lesbian Sushi” and if you ever get a chance to eat there and see who runs it you will know why). It had been closed for remodeling for a few months and I was not sure if they were back open yet. I looked in the English phone book, but did not see it.
I thought I had a flyer but I had no luck finding it and was only 90% sure I remembered the name correctly. I could not even find the Japanese version of 411 in the phone book. Frustrated but not ready to give up, I called the phonebook company to get the number for information.
I fully expected to get a typical American customer service response like: “you have the wrong number,” “we don’t do that,” or “I don’t have that information.”
I explained to the woman at the phonebook company that I was looking for the number for information. She asked me what I was really looking for and then took down my number.
About five minutes later I received a call back. She had called the restaurant, verified that they were open, got their hours and even how busy they were. She told me all of this (and their number) so I wouldn’t have to call them because the restaurant owner didn’t speak much English. Remember, this was not the information line, it was the phone company receptionist that you call to order a new phone book!
I was astounded. It is one thing to get extra help from someone face-to-face. But to go that far above and beyond anything I had hoped for is not what I would expect from a faceless phone voice. In that moment, I found a new respect for the Japanese people and a general embarrassment for the rest of us. In that brief encounter, she displayed more humanity than I have ever encountered from any other anonymous person.