Saturday, May 31, 2008

Department Store Heaven

I forgot about the department stores here in Japan! The other day I had to go to buy a watch for Sydney for her birthday and I wanted a specific Swatch watch. The best place to get a Swatch is at the Mitsukoshi Department store in an area of Tokyo called Ebisu. I took the train to Ebisu on Wednesday morning after having coffee with my friends Amanda and Michelle. Nothing of consequence opens in Tokyo before 11am, so morning coffee was essential before doing errands.

I arrived in Ebisu about 10 minutes before 11 and sat on a bench in the sunshine. (We have had the worst spring weather-wise! It has been very rainy and quite chilly. I relished those few minutes of brightness with my face lifted to the sky, eyes closed.) At about a minute before 11am I stood up and walked closer to the door of the department store. There were a few people milling about with me, studying the window displays which were elegantly done with the latest styles of clothes, shoes, and handbags. At precisely the appointed time, a man from the inside walked toward the glass door and with a flourish of the keys, unlocked the doors. He stepped outside and, holding the door, shouted, “irrashaemaseh!” This translates to “welcome, please come in and spend money!” The people filed in the door and along the main walkway of the store, there were salespeople positioned every few feet, all of them bowing and saying “irrashaemaseh” as the people passed. After about five minutes of this greeting, the employees went about their business.

In Japan, every customer deserves a proper greeting and welcome into the shopping experience. It is part of the national ethos to revere the customer.
Downstairs in the Swatch area, the salesperson hovered quietly while I surveyed the merchandise. When I was ready, he showed me several selections, letting me turn them over and over in my hand while I decided. I finally chose a multicolor watch with a second-hand to make it easy for Sydney to learn to tell time. He rang up my purchase quickly, asking if I wanted a gift box. He was a bit confused with I said that I would wrap it myself – I wanted to show it to Marc before wrapping – but he complied and put the purchase in a lovely shopping back which he taped shut securely before handing over to me.

It was such a quiet and civilized experience. If all shopping was done this way then the world would be a much happier place.

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