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Why combini reji is not a piece of cake

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Why combini reji is not a piece of cake

Have you ever wondered how such a small shop like a convenience store can carry out that volume of businesses?

Giang Tran Binh

Giang Tran Binh

Published on 20 Aug 2020, 12:00

Reji (レジ), a term allocated with a cashier working at supermarkets, department or convenience stores (combini), is one of the most common part-time jobs for foreigners and abroad students who stay in Japan. With reasonable wage (often 790-850¥ per hour) and favourable terms of contract, anyone at a conversational level of Japanese can be a combini reji.

However, as a part-time employee of Seven Eleven for more than a year, I could guarantee that the job's not quite pleasant as it seems.

1. A combini reji deals with more than just payees

Sounds strange isn’t it? But that’s the way it is.

Why combini reji is not a piece of cake

To customers, convenience stores are more than a retail shop. There might be people who enter Seven Eleven asking for directions, beg Family Mart staffs to call them a taxi, or descend money into changes at Lawson.

A reji is ought to be prepared for every situation, and be well trained to know which actions he can take and which he can’t.

Under certain circumstances, a reji’s supposed to stay calm and make rightful decisions when it comes to robbery, which usually occurs at small retail shops.

Once when I was working late at night alongside another Japanese staff, I'd welcome an old couple who wanted their flashlight repaired. I could tell that the flashlight has an important role because the old couple had to resort to asking combini staffs to fix it, as they couldn't find any electric shop open at night.

Nonetheless, I was going to refuse them since fixing devices wasn't my job, but then the other staff came in. He asked the couple to wait, then he went to grab new batteries at the store, recharged the flashlight and, after a few twists and turns, had it smoothly worked at the delighted faces of the old couple. Of course they had to pay for the batteries, but the whole problem-solving service was undoubtedly awesome!

2. Every combini reji must be a hard learner

There are more tasks for a combini reji than you thought.

Beside an extremely wide range of tangible products to memorize, a reji must be instructed to cater for printing jobs, money transaction and billing services.

There are even practices such as postal shipments, concert tickets trades, lucky draws and magazine orders, which must be conducted in a very accurate and systematic manner. A reji is expected to learn by heart all the tobacco brands or payment types corresponding to certain cards, as well as all the deep fried foods and oden.

When oden season comes, the owner sticks a note of oden types and their spelled names near the cash register for foreign reji to identify each!
When oden season comes, the owner sticks a note of oden types and their spelled names near the cash register for foreign reji to identify each!

In his or her breaks when there are few customers, a reji must fulfill internal jobs such as refilling cigarettes and utensils, rearranging the messed up product shelves or even cleaning the toilet. Obviously, becoming a combini reji requires a lot of efforts in learning and improvising!

3. Mistakes are unavoidable

There would be cases when a newbie reji stands alone for the first time without the aid of an experienced staff, and the queue standing in front of him/her is stressfully long.

The reji is under a pressure to make it quick and neat. This situation often leads to very severe mistakes in counting and inputting money.

Some common accidents also include dropping food on the floor, scanning a product more than once and overheating a bento with microwave. There is only one way to perfectly conquer these, and that’s practice, practice and practice.

Double-check the money if you're uncertain. Customers may wait, but you won't have to pay!
Double-check the money if you're uncertain. Customers may wait, but you won't have to pay!

The biggest mistake I've ever made in those months of doing reji is when I carried out the payment procedure for an electricity bill of a lady.

In addition to the bill, she also bought a small pack of salad. Firstly, I scanned the bill, then I went on to scan the salad in the same receipt. My first mistake was to scan the salad twice. Because I had already printed the receipt with the salad in it, I had to cancel the previous payment and did everything over again.

However, one thing I didn't know at that time was that a household usage bill cannot be scanned twice!

The following consequences were like a nightmare, as my boss had to contact with the electricity company to revise the wrongly processed bill. The accident was so severe that in several weeks I didn't have the guts to look at my infuriated boss straightly.

But is combini reji this tough a part-time job? The answer is all up to you

Despite the mentioned points, being a reji can be a very fun job as you have a chance to witness everything you need to know about Japanese people: how often they smoke, which chocolate brands they like and which JCB cards are most common.

That is to say, there would be loyal customers who'll actually warm up your shift with their daily smiles and sympathize with your struggles, even encourage you to relaxedly re-do an incorrect bill.

You might have to meet the requirement of an almighty cashier, but note that you’re standing very close to Japanese lifestyles.

That’s a plus if you’re a true Japan-holic!

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