The way you get the change back in Japan
A few days ago, I received a question about this thing from one of my students (I teach calligraphy).
Because he had read this article of The Japan Times and wanted to know my opinion.
“Dear Alice,” the article starts. It seems like the person had experienced with this strange tray at the tills when he shopped and found it weird. (If you are curious about the article, please go ahead.)
My answer to my student was, “I have seen this in other countries”. I don´t know where Bernard is from. But I think this is quite common in Europe too. What is this tray anyway? The official name of this tray is carton, French-origin word and means cardboard. But usually they are made of plastic, metal or leather. In Japanese they are commonly called koin toree (コイントレー/ coin tray) or tsurisen toree (釣り銭トレー/ change tray), change tray in English.
I saw this in a cafe in Berlin. Even supermarket in Berlin have them although they have a built-in type into the protection of the barcode scanner.
The article in The Japan Times explains well about the history of the coin tray. So I like to talk about here, why Japanese people use it and how Japanese shop assistants give the customers the change.
There are so many different opinions in terms of how they should give the change. Some say, they don´t want to be touched by strangers. Some say, they love being touched if the shop assistant is a young woman. Some say, they should separate the change, the bill and the receipt. Some say, they should be in order. I don´t see “the correct way” of giving the change back.
Here is a video I´ve found how to pay at the till in Japan.
I´ve heard many konbini stores don´t use change trays to speed up the payment.
Then people complain that it´s hard to see if the change is correct, that the change gets too warm and of course that they don´t want to be touched.
However there are demerits of coin trays. If it´s made of metal, the change runs around on the smooth surface and hard to pick it up. I´ve seen people even grab the tray and shake the change off into the hand. If it´s made of plastic, this rubbery spikes really sucks the coin and the last one is always hard to pick.
You may know from the experience that Japanese people don´t touch each other so much comparing to the European people especially between strangers. Not only they feel uncomfortable, they feel yucky.
Japan, especially Tokyo is famous for crowded trains during the rush hours. Everyone looks for somewhere to hold on. It can happen two people grab the same strap or the pole and the hands touch each other. In my experience, quite a few people show unpleasant feelings on their face, in a quite obvious way.
There are people who don´t care at all and wouldn´t move the hand away. If you were in the train, you may have seen a Japanese person leant his head on to the person next to him as he fell asleep. Then that person first subtly shakes the shoulder to wake the man up. But the shake gradually becomes harder if the man wouldn´t wake up.
According to a survey, 51% of the people don´t like to be touched when they receive the change. 35% are don´t mind or rather nice. But I sense that this depends on who gives the change to them.
But it´s true Japanese people have less physical contact in general. Recently more young couples walk on the streets holding hands but about 10, 15 years ago, you could see it much less than now.
In Japan, touching hands could probably be considered too intimate. Hand shake is fine but touching the hand of especially a Japanese woman could give her a wrong impression, means – I like you (in a romantic way) -.
A Spanish friend of mine has once told me a story with his Japanese teacher who had very cold hands. Since he is from Spain where people like to touch each other, without thinking deeply, he held her hands to warm them up. Then she immediately withdrew her hands and her face was really red.
Yes, that would never happen in Japan unless you want to go out with that person. When I need to hand something to a Japanese person, I try not to touch his/her hand. It took me a little while to think it´s OK if my hand or fingers touch other person´s hand when I hand it.
So Japanese people have invented so many ways to give the change back to the customers. They are so creative!
1. Hugging. The shop assistant´s hands sand the customer´s hand. The customers are often feel uneasy.
2. Tsuribashi (吊り橋/ suspension bridge). There is no hands contact at all. But be careful, the coins may fall.
3. Jikaoki (直置き/ directly on the counter). It´s not a gambling and could scare the customer.
4. Zabuton (座布団/ cushion). First lay the bill and place the coins on top. No direct contact.
5. Nagekomi (投げ込み/ throwing in). Depending on the hight, the coins fall and bounce away. Considered as a little rude.
6. Yubisashi (指差し/ pointing). The shop assistant refuses to be handed the money and point at the change tray without a word. Scary…
7. Sashidashi (差し出し/ sliding). While the customer expects to be handed the change, suddenly the shop assistant slides the tray in front of you. Your hand remains in the air and feel a little embarrassed.
Recently this article has become a little popular among Japanese people on Twitter. The way he received the change was very pleasant and thoughtful.
The bills are lined, the big one (5,000 yen) at the bottom and the smaller (1,000 yen) on the top. All in the same direction. The coins are on top of the receipt, which is folded in two. When you put them in your wallet, the receipt works as a slide and easy to throw the coins.
Handing or using a tray, it seems to be quite personal and almost each one has his/her own favourite way to get the change back. Which way do you like?
This is an App, Otsuri kaeshi (おつり返し). You can play how to give the change back but I think this is a good practice for numbers in Japanese.
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