Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Afternoon Tea x Pocky

Kirin bottled tea brand "Gogo no Koucha" (午後の紅茶 meaning "Afternoon Tea") and Glico's "Pocky Midi" currently have a collaboration product campaign going on.

If you buy a bottle of Gogo no Koucha's "Honnori Cinnamon no Apple Tea" (ほんのりシナモンのアップルティー meaning "faintly cinnamon apple tea") and a box of "Butter Hanayagu Potteri Custard" (バター華やぐ ぽってりカスタード loosely meaning "Buttery Rich Custard") Pocky Midi, you can combine the packages to make a charming fairytale scene.
Being a sucker for advertising--although I also do happen to like both Gogo no Koucha and Pocky quite a lot--of course I had to go out and buy both products shortly after seeing the ad. (At Lawson's, it was 151yen for the Gogo no Koucha, and 193 yen for the Pocky Midi.)

On the package, it recommends drinking some tea eating some Pocky, and then drinking tea again for the best taste experience. Apparently the tea is supposed to taste different after eating the Pocky, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference.

The tea is tasty; although if you are hoping for a good balance of cinnamon and apple, you'll probably be disappointed since--true to the flavour name--it really is nothing more than a "faint" after taste of cinnamon at best. But--as I find to be the case with most white-chocolate based treats--the Pocky is rather over sweet. Surprisingly it does actually have a bit of a buttery taste, though, so it's not just a standard custard flavour.  

What I liked most about the products, though, is the variety of arrangements possible due to the fact that there are two different Pocky box designs and the label on the tea also has two different designs.

Based on the advertising, it's likely the makers intended them to be aligned in this manner:
Gogo no Koucha x Pocky Midi  Princess x Prince Design
 Gogo no Koucha x Pocky Midi  Prince x Princess Design
But the products can also be aligned in this manner if you so desire:
Gogo no Koucha x Pocky Midi  Prince x Prince Design
 Gogo no Koucha x Pocky Midi  Princess x Princess Design

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'd like to think this could be considered a small win for equality?

Apology Burger

(Note: This is a follow-up to my previous post about "McDonald's Japan's Unbelievable Customer Service.")

So the call from the McDonald's manager came on Sunday around 11:20am--a good 25 minutes earlier than I was expecting. He asked if I would mind if he left/came over a little bit earlier, which was fine by me since I was up anyway and had not yet eaten anything.

As promised, he came bearing not only my 690yen refund for the Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger (Set) that wasn't, but also with a freshly made replacement set.
McDonald's Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger Set マクドナルド ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガーセット
The conversation was about as awkward as you would expect it to be--with him apologizing again in excruciatingly polite Japanese and ending with a 90-degree bow. Thankfully it was a very short conversation--quite a bit shorter than the phone conversation. Not an experience I would want to repeat, but some did good come out of it.

Having had some time to think about what I would say, I was glad that I was at least able to somewhat apologize for having inadvertently made it into such a big deal with comments along the lines of: "I"m sorry, if only I had noticed it while I was in the store..." and "Thank you and sorry for making you come all the way out to deliver this to me."

Also, I was glad that he did in fact come over to our apartment instead of me going over to the McDonald's (as my husband suggested I should call back and say that I would do). If I had gone into the store to pick up the refund, all of the staff would know my face and I doubt that I would feel comfortable eating there again anytime in the near future. But this way, only the manager can connect my face to the complaint. And since I had never seen him before I opened the door, I think it's fairly safe to assume that the manager isn't usually out front, seeing customers.

As for the "proper" Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger itself, well, it probably wasn't worth all of the fuss. There wasn't even all that much pulled pork on the burger anyway--I had to look twice after taking off the top bun to confirm that I hadn't somehow managed to get a pork-less burger a second time. The pork definitely did make the burger tastier the second time round but it didn't improve the taste enough that I would bother going back to eat it a third time.

So yeah, if you're going to make a complaint at McDonald's, I would highly recommend doing it in person while you are at the restaurant, rather than escalating things by filing a complaint through the McDonald's Japan's online comment/inquiy form (which I forgot to mention in the previous post was a bit of a pain to find anyway). My husband said that the apology wouldn't have been so over the top if I hadn't gone higher up the command chain with the complaint, and I tend to agree with him. 

The idea of the personal apology and hand-delivered replacement meal sounds impressive and makes you feel like the company values its customers in theory, but in real life it is just a really awkward and embarrassing situation all around.  And if--as my husband suggested (I hadn't even considered the possibility until he pointed it out)--it was indeed only by command of the McDonald's headquarters that made the manager apologize in the way that he did, and it wasn't something that the manager genuinely felt that he should do, then that definitely changes my perspective/feelings on the matter. It would suck to work at a company that makes you apologize so abjectly over such a small issue. Valuing customers is important, but it is more important to value your employees and to treat them with respect!

I would like to think the best of the manager and McDonald's, though. Even though I would never ask or expect someone to go so far in apology--especially over such a minor matter--I would like to take the gesture at face value as a sign of the amount of respect the Towada Aeon McDonald's has for its customers. 

And to end the post on a lighter note, have fun playing a game of "Spot the (Pulled) Pork"!
 McDonald's Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger マクドナルド ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガー
 McDonald's Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger マクドナルド ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガー
 McDonald's Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger マクドナルド ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガー
 McDonald's Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger マクドナルド ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガー
 McDonald's Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger マクドナルド ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガー

Thursday, February 19, 2015

McDonald's Japan's Unbelievable Customer Service

The high quality of Japanese customer service is well known around the world and a point of pride within Japan as well. I admit that after living here for nearly eight years, excellent customer service is something I have come to take for granted.

But McDonald's customer service has just blown my mind.

The background:
McDonald's currently has a limited time Hawaii-themed menu. I've been interested in trying out the "Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger" since I first read about it on RocketNews24. A friend of mine tried it out last week and he recommended it, so I decided to try it for myself while I was at the local Towada Aeon Shopping Center last night.
Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger McDonald's Japan ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガーマクドナルド
Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger McDonald's Japan ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガーマクドナルド
That pulled pork on the wrapper looks delicious, right? Well, I opened up the wrapper and was disappointed with how small and plain the burger was.
Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger McDonald's Japan ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガーマクドナルド
 Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger McDonald's Japan ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガーマクドナルド
No pulled pork in sight! I thought that was kind of odd, but I figured the picture was just supposed to be an image of what the patty was supposed to taste like. That was not the case, though, as it tasted like a plain old pork burger with some BBQ sauce. I was quite disappointed (and doubting the tastes of the friend who had recommended it to me).

I had some ice cream at Baskin Robbins to salve my disappointment before going to do my grocery shopping. But as I walked past the McDonald's on the way to the Aeon (grocery and everything store--the Japanese equivalent of Wal-Mart), I had a look at the big poster of the Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger and hey! there was the pulled pork! (It had been a couple of weeks since I first read the article, so I had forgotten what it was supposed to look like.)
Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger McDonald's Japan ハワイアンバーベキューポークバーガーマクドナルド
Well! At this point I started to think that I had gotten ripped off. After grocery shopping, I went home and checked out the McDonald's Japan website and read the description of the burger, and sure enough, it mentioned "horo horo pork" (ほろほろポーク) as well as the pork patty! I hadn't gotten a Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger at all--just a pork burger with BBQ sauce!

After a bit of searching, I managed to find a form to get in touch with McDonald's regarding any comments, questions, etc. I wrote a very polite but blunt message (in Japanese, of course) along the lines of:
 I ordered a Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger Set for the first time today and was very disappointed because even though the picture of  the burger showed delicious-looking pulled pork, all I got was a pork patty. I should have said something to the staff at the time, but I thought that was just the way it was supposed to be. It wasn't until I got home and checked the McDonald's webpage that I realized that there was supposed to be pulled pork on the burger. Since I didn't actually get the Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger that I ordered, would it be possible to get a refund or something? (If necessary, I have photos of the burger that clearly show there was nothing but a patty.)

I filled in the date, time, and location of the McDonald's I had been at, as well as my home address, email address, and home phone number and submitted the form.

From my limited experience with making complaints to stores (I once found a bug baked into the corner of a Chinese bun I had already bitten into, and all I did was pull out the part around the bug and finished eating the bun), I figured I would get an email back saying that they would send me a voucher for a free burger or meal or something.

The customer service:
Instead, when I checked my email this morning, I had a message from McDonald's saying that someone from the Towada Aeon McDonald's would be calling the number I had put down in the form. Unfortunately that was my home number, so I missed the first call, but thankfully I have an answering machine so I got the message that the store manager would call me back.

I was expecting that he might ask me to come into the store and bring the receipt for the meal and the picture of the offending burger so that he could process a refund for me. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Around 8:30pm, I got the call. The manager was very apologetic and asked if I would allow him to come to my house to personally deliver the refund. All this and no question whatsoever about proving that the burger had indeed been made missing the pulled pork, or that I had truly purchased a set (and not just the burger).

But here's the real kicker: since I had been disappointed with my first Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger experience, he wanted to make it up to me by also delivering me a freshly and properly made Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger Set together with the refund.


Being completely surprised and having no experience with this kind of conversation in Japanese, I couldn't figure out a polite way to refuse the offer. Ironically, I ended up feeling extremely apologetic about the fact that he was being so apologetic about the whole thing.

So yeah. This Sunday afternoon, I will get a refund and a freshly made Hawaiian BBQ Pork Burger Set hand delivered to me by the manager of the McDonald's. Oh, and even though we confirmed the date and time for him to come, he will also call me before coming over on the day of, just in case my plans change or something.

Never again will I think that people are exaggerating about how over the top Japanese customer service can be.


Looks like I won't be giving up the (bad) habit of always wanting to try out McDonald's new special menu item anytime soon. I'm still not a fan of the company overall, but I do have respect for McDonald's Japan now.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Conversations with my Japanese husband

My husband and I have some amusing conversations. It probably has less to do with cultural differences (he's Japanese; I'm Canadian), and more to do with the fact that we are both slightly odd.

"My Wife"

We're sitting on the couch. It's time to brush our teeth and go to bed. My husband gets up and lies on the floor because it's cool (it's summer--late August). So I put my foot against his posterior and give a couple of little pushes to silently tell him:  "C'mon, let's get moving."

He says (in English): "My wife kicks my @$5."


We got some boiled chestnuts from my husband's uncle. Knowing my fear of biting into one to crack it open only to discover a bug inside, he kindly shelled a bunch for me. Since it was a lot of work, I gave/fed him one of the last peeled chestnuts, and...

Him: Mmmmm...むし (Mushi = Bug)
Me: だからあげた(Dakara ageta = That's why I gave it to you)
Him:ダカラ⁈ (DAKARA?! = THAT'S why?!)
Me: It's protein.
Him: My wife こわい (Kowai = scary>

(Of course there wasn't *actually* a bug inside the chestnut. I split them all apart to make sure they were clean before I started eating them. :P)

"What did you just call me?"

After a dinner time conversation about the difference in pronunciation between "full" and "fool":

Me: I'm full.
Him: I'm fool.
Me: It should be "I'm a fool."
Him: I'm a full fool.
Me: That's right!!
Me: ちょっと待って、そういうことを賛成しっちゃってダメじゃない! (Chotto matte, sou iu koto wo sansei shicchatte dame jyanai! = Wait, I shouldn't be agreeing with that, should I?) 

"A 'Normal' Conversation"

This is what passes as a 'normal' conversation between me and my husband recently.

Him: Nya nya nya. (Shall I make the rice?)
Me: Nya〜! (Please, and thank you!)
Him: Nya. わかりました (Wakarimashita = Got it./Understood.)

("Nya" is the sound cats make in Japanese.)

"Terms of Endearment"
My husband is making popping noises with his lips to create a random/unidentifiable tune as he drives.

Me: My strange husband.
Him: My scary wife.

We smile at each other. :)

Fun in Hachinohe

My husband and I tend to lounge around the apartment on weekends, but we wanted to see the Hachinohe City Museum of Art's Special Exhibit, "Neko" (ねこ, Japanese for "cat") before it ended so we headed out to Hachinohe this weekend.

We started off with lunch at Nagisa Cafe (ナギサカフェ). The aim of the restaurant is to serve food that is good for people's health, so the meals are very wholesome and include a lot of veggies. The restaurant is in an old Japanese house, so the atmosphere is very peaceful and relaxing. The main room with tables was full when we arrived, so we sat in the side room, with the low tables and floor cushions.
 Nagisa Cafe Hachinohe City ナギサカフェ 八戸市
 Nagisa Cafe Hachinohe City ナギサカフェ 八戸市
 Nagisa Cafe Hachinohe City ナギサカフェ 八戸市
We had the "Nagisa Gohan" (なぎさごはん 1100yen: salad, soup, 3 small side dishes, rice, and choice of main dish--we went for the chicken katsu (cutlet) with white sauce) and "Nagisa Curry" (なぎさカレー 1100yen: green curry and rice, soup, salad, and 2 small side dishes). And of course I needed something sweet, so I added a "Sweets Set" (choice of one of the daily desserts, 300yen with a meal instead of the regular price of 500yen) and went for the "Gobou Gateau Chocolat" (ごぼうのガトーショコラ). Everything was delicious and we are definitely planning on going back again the next time we are in Hachinohe.
Nagisa Gohan Nagisa Cafe Hachinohe City なぎさごはん ナギサカフェ 八戸市
 Nagisa Curry Nagisa Cafe Hachinohe City なぎさカレー ナギサカフェ 八戸市
 Sweets Set Gobou Gateau Chocolat Nagisa Cafe Hachinohe City スイーツセット ごぼうのガトーショコラ ナギサカフェ 八戸市
After lunch we went to the Hachinohe City Museum of Art. The parking lot was full, so we parked a couple of blocks away at the Sakurano Department Store. The exhibit was just as amazing as we had expected it to be and we ended up buying two photo books: one from the exhibit "ねこ" ("Neko," or "Cats" in English) and another book of cats, "ねこ歩き" ("Neko Aruki," or "Go with cats" in English).
Hachinohe City Musem of Art Special Exhibit Neko by Iwago Mitsuaki 八戸市美術館 特別展「ねこ 岩合光昭写真展」
 Hachinohe City Musem of Art Special Exhibit Neko by Iwago Mitsuaki 八戸市美術館 特別展「ねこ 岩合光昭写真展」
 Photo Books Neko and Neko Aruki (Go with cats) by Iwago Mitsuaki 岩合光昭写真集 ねこ ねこ歩き
After the exhibit, we went shopping at the Kaneiri book store (カネイリ) and the Sakurano Department Store (さくら野百貨店八戸店). It just so happened that there was a Valentine's Day chocolate fair, "Marche du Chocolat!" going on at Sakurano, so naturally I had to check it out. And it was a good thing we went because I found the chocolates with a box design by Aya Kato that I had wanted but couldn't find online.

In fact, I found out that there were multiple box and chocolate designs, so I ended up buying three different boxes--which ended up costing over 7000yen ($75 CAD). @_@ Expensive, but the tins (I opted for the metal tins instead of the regular paper boxes, hence the cost) are gorgeous, and even the paper bag was lovely, so totally worth the price! (I haven't opened the boxes yet so I only have pictures of the boxes, but you can see pictures of the chocolates at the AYAKATO website.)
 Hanamahoro Saganoaya 2015 Bag Design 花まほろ 嵯峨乃彩 紙袋
Hanamahoro Saganoaya 2015 花まほろ 嵯峨乃彩
 Hanamahoro Saganoaya 2015 花まほろ 嵯峨乃彩Hanamahoro Saganoaya 2015 花まほろ 嵯峨乃彩
Since we spent so much on books and chocolate, we probably had about 5hours worth of free parking, so we decided to walk a bit more around Hachinohe. We stopped by the Hachinohe tourism center, Hachinohe Portal Museum "hacchi" and checked out the free photo exhibit "Gyojin" about Hachinohe fishermen (fishers? fisher people?) by Tatsuki, Masaru on the first floor (田附勝写真展「魚人(ぎょじん)」).
Hachinohe Portal Museum Hacchi 八戸ポータルミュージアムはっち
 Hachinohe Portal Museum Hacchi 八戸ポータルミュージアムはっち
 Tatsuki Masaru Gyojin Photography Exhibit Hachinohe Portal Museum Hacchi  田附 勝写真展 魚人(ぎょじん) 八戸ポータルミュージアムはっち
 Tatsuki Masaru Gyojin Photography Exhibit Hachinohe Portal Museum Hacchi  田附 勝写真展 魚人(ぎょじん) 八戸ポータルミュージアムはっち
 Tatsuki Masaru Gyojin Photography Exhibit Hachinohe Portal Museum Hacchi  田附 勝写真展 魚人(ぎょじん) 八戸ポータルミュージアムはっち
After all the walking and shopping, we were rather thirsty, so we stopped at a coffee shop called (Kousai) Coffee Minami (香彩珈琲 みな実 三日町中央店) . My husband ordered the "Handmade Waffle Set" (手作りワッフルセット 540yen: waffle and choice of coffee or tea, hot/iced) while I went for the "Cocoa Float" (ココアフロート 680yen: ice cocoa with ice cream and a waffle on top!).  Yummy!
Minami Coffee Shop Cafe Hachinohe 香彩珈琲 みな実 三日町中央店
 Minami Coffee Shop Cafe Hachinohe 香彩珈琲 みな実 三日町中央店
 Minami Coffee Shop Cafe Hachinohe 香彩珈琲 みな実 三日町中央店
 Handmade Waffle Set Minami Coffee Shop Cafe Hachinohe 手作りワッフルセット 香彩珈琲 みな実 三日町中央店
 Cocoa Float Minami Coffee Shop Cafe Hachinohe ココアフロート 香彩珈琲 みな実 三日町中央店
That was the end of our time in Hachinohe, but not the end of our date! On the way back to Towada from Hachinohe, we stopped by a big shopping mall, Shimoda Jusco (Aeon Mall Shimoda). After walking around for a bit, we managed to clear enough space in our stomachs for dinner, so we had pasta at a chain Italian restaurant, Cappricciosa. (Pappardelle with mushrooms and ground meat in a red wine spicy tomato sauce パッパルデッレ キノコと挽き肉、赤ワインのスパイシートマトソース 1220yen, and seafood spaghetti pescatore 漁師風スパゲティ ペスカトーレ 990yen)
Cappricciosa Shimoda Jusco カプリチョーザ イオンモール下田ジャスコ
 Cappricciosa Shimoda Jusco カプリチョーザ イオンモール下田ジャスコ
 Cappricciosa Shimoda Jusco カプリチョーザ イオンモール下田ジャスコ
When we got home, we also tried out some sakura (cherry blossom) wine (咲くらのわいん "Sakura no Wine") that we had picked up from Kaldi, an import store in Shimoda  Jusco. Usually when I try to drink wine, just a single sip overwhelms me with the taste of "alcohol!" But the alcohol content in this was actually just 5% (the same as beer) so I was able to have about three sips. Obviously I don't know anything about what makes a good wine, but since I was able to drink more of the sakura wine than I have of almost any other wine, I must say I thought it was pretty good. Plus the packaging/design is really lovely.
Sakura no Wine cherry blossom wine 咲くらのわいん
 Sakura no Wine cherry blossom wine 咲くらのわいん
 Sakura no Wine cherry blossom wine 咲くらのわいん
All in all, a lovely day out!