The winter is coming (although in Osaka, the weather at the end of October is still like this, see screenshot below).
With winter comes colds, swine flu, bird flu, MERS, Ebola, Bubonic plague and God knows what. This prompts many people to stock up on Vicks VapoRub, Strepsils, vitamin-c tablets, tissues and if in Japan, surgical masks.
And I’m no different, I also head to the nearest pharmacy. See photo below of a small selection of their product lines.
However, even though I will empty the surgical mask section completely and buy some peach flavoured lip gloss to kiss my husband’s man flu better, I will not buy any tissues. Instead, I’ll go and hang around outside the Apple store. Why? -To get my husband’s man flu tissues for free.
You see, in Japan, many companies use tissue packets for advertising and thus, most crowded places have people offering pedestrians packets of tissues. The packets often themselves function as adverts but sometimes they come with a flyer promoting something.
I’ve never seen freebie tissues anywhere other than Japan. In Europe I’ve experienced being given a free promotional pen, although with the current austerity measures even these are as hard to come by as sunshine in Manchester.
Other than pens, I think the most common freebies in Europe are tasters of small quantities a new yoghurt flavor, crisps or potato salad in a supermarket, the function of which is of course to get the people to buy these products, and when it comes to crisps, I’m a sucker for these types of promotional methods (i.e. I will empty the crisp shelf).
But the aim of the freebie tissues in Japan is not for you to buy more tissues. If anything, the aim is for you never to buy tissues so that (in desperation whilst your husband has the man flu or you the standard version of the same) you would be more willing to accept the promotional tissue.
Surprisingly perhaps, some people do decline the offer of tissues. They walk past the person offering the tissues with no eye contact and maybe even hiss ‘Get a proper job’ or ‘Piss off’.
I don’t have a problem with this type of advertising. Maybe because I can’t read Japanese and thus the tissues for me are really just free tissues. Or maybe because I used to work in a call centre and can sympathize with the poor marketing people standing outside the Apple store competing for the attention of people who have just bought a new electrical gadget and are preoccupied thinking what they will eat for the rest of the month having handed over their paycheck to the Apple store cashier.
My advice to the tissue guy/gals is to relocate outside a pharmacy for better ‘business’.
As a student I worked in a call centre in Brighton, UK. It wasn’t a great job, in fact, I hated it, and only lasted for about 3 weeks. I can’t really remember much about the actual work other than most of the people I rang were quite rude (I don’t blame them) and thus the whole 3 weeks blends into one 3-week long abusive phone call. Except that there was one phone call that I do and will remember.
It was a sunny September afternoon and we had just returned back to our desks after having had lunch in the canteen. Mobile phones didn’t used to have internet connection like they do now, so we weren’t updated with the latest news in real time. I sat down and made my first call after lunch.
Me: Hello. My name is X. I am calling on behalf of the American Life Insurance Company.
Person at the other end the phone: Is this a joke?
Me: Erm…No. I’m just ringing to have a quick chat about life insurance. Would you have a moment at all?
Them: You have to get off the phone. Have you not heard what’s happened?
Me: No. What’ happened?
Them: It’s all over the news. An aeroplane has just crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York and another plane tried to hit the Pentagon.