Service with a smile

As we began to move around the shop, an elegant, smiling assistant stepped up to us.

My friend Pramila and I were strolling through a shopping area in Tokyo when she spied an electronics shop. She grabbed my elbow, saying, “Let’s go in. I’d like to buy a camera.”

As we stepped into the shop, we were greeted by bowing ladies with welcoming smiles. They directed us to the camera section. After much deliberation, she picked up one that seemed to meet her requirements. She took it to the billing counter where the man asked, “Omiyage?” She blinked. It meant ‘present’ and I quickly said “Yes” to avoid confusion. Rather pleased with himself for asking, he gift-wrapped it.

“Let’s take a look at the other sectio-ns,” Pramila suggested. As we began to move, an elegant, smiling shop assistant stepped in front of us. “Please leave your camera here. You can collect it on your way out.” Pramila did as she was bid.

We wandered round the various sections, admiring the things on display, walked out of the shop and went to our hotel. Only then did Pramila realise that she had forgotten to collect her camera. She was understandably upset. “Don’t worry. Your camera will be safe.” I asked her to give me the bill which had the telephone number of the shop. Communication is a big obstacle in Japan. My knowledge of Japanese is limited and it wasn’t exactly easy to comprehend their brand of English.

After several attempts, I made them understand that we had left the camera behind. “We will come now to take it,” I said. After another lengthy conversation which required resourcefulness on both sides, I gathered that the shop was closed for the day. “Then we will come tomorrow,” I said. “Don’t worry. No problem,” she assured. I couldn’t figure out what that meant.  Did it mean that we were not to worry as there would be no problem in our going to the shop the next day to collect the camera?

We were still mulling over the interpretation when Reception called to say we had a visitor. We looked at each other, perplexed. We had no friends in Tokyo. So who would want to meet us? “Let’s go down and solve the mystery,” said Pramila.When we reached the lounge , a lady rose from a chair and walked towards us. It was the same elegant lady who had requested Pramila to leave the camera on the counter. She smiled, bowed and held out a cardboard carry-bag.

Inside was the prettily packed camera. Only then did we understand what her  ‘Don’t worry. No problem’ meant. It meant there was no need for us to go to the shop the next day. The camera would be delivered at the hotel. The address would have been on their copy of the bill.

We were overwhelmed by this thoughtful gesture. We, in turn, bowed and thanked her warmly. “Arigato, arigato,” we said. (Thank you, thank you.) This was service at its best, rendered with a smile.

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