No, I haven’t been caught doing anything illicit in a long time, except for that night a few weeks back involving the midget circus and the broomsticks.
But it’s nice to know that after nearly a year and a half in Japan, I can still milk my students for juicy tidbits of information. One lovely lady, who is a clothing boutique shop owner, the kind that sells $400 sweaters, provided some interesting information on the nature of stealing here.
It comes down to this: Japan is not only a great country to lose something, because you’ll get it back, but also to shoplift, because the first question the security guard asks you – even if the item has been rudely tucked into your waistband – is, “Did you pay for that?”
If you answer something to the effect of, “Oops, I forgot,” you march back to the cash register, slap down your plastic, tag the receipt and off you go, new item in hand.
This means that as long as you’re willing to lie, which shouldn’t be much of a moral dilemma if you’re willing to steal, you can attempt to pay for just about nothing here.
I’m curious to see if this is true. I mean, I don’t doubt the word of my student, but of all the cultural differences between Japan and America, this ranks fairly high on the WTF list. Taking the word of the suspected criminal at face-value sounds so… naive, but what if what we see as the suspected criminal is seen by the mall security as being higher on the social scale, and therefore must be given the benefit of the doubt?
So here’s the proposal: Since I would never condone stealing, if you’ve ever tried to shoplift, five-finger discount, lift, extended borrow, misappropriate, shrinkage, or whatever your favorite euphemism is, in Japann leave a comment on this entry and let me know how the experience went.