What is a Claimer?

Posted on by Jin

“Claimer: Case 1″ is one of the latest films that Japan Flix is bringing to you from the land of the rising sun. If you found the title confusing, a little explanation of the term “claimer” and some background history may help you on your way.

The Japanese word “claimer” (originated from the corresponding English word) refers to the customer who excessively, and usually unreasonably, complains. It entered common parlance in the late 90s when an audio recording of an irate complaint handler at Toshiba became viral on the net. In it, the employee called the caller a “claimer” rather than “okyakusama” (or valued customer).

Source: Weekly Diamond

In the States, claimer equivalents range from customers with justifiable problems  - the Verizon math incident or United breaks guitars incident; to the outrageous – blaming McDonald’s for burns due to spilt coffee, suing for lack of warning labels; and to the obviously malicious – requesting the meal free after planting a bug in a soup, marriage cons like in Heartbreakers.

Japan’s claimers are similar in nature. However, complaint handling in Japanese companies severely lack the capabilities and experience of their U.S., counterparts.

Historically, due perhaps to cultural differences , customers rarely complained when they encountered problems with their products and businesses ceded to any complaints that they did receive.

Recently, customers have become far more vocal. They are becoming empowered by  traditional media standing on their side and, more recently, by new media, like blogs and youtube. The media frenzy surrounding the Groupon scandal is the latest example.

Source: Groupon scandal blog

On the other hand, businesses have not changed. They continue to maintain the mentality that the customer is god (お客様は神様). TV and internet coverage of any possibility of wrongdoing can spark boycotts and ruin a business. As a result, complaint handling departments will try their hardest to resolve the issue before the claimer can threaten to take the issue to the media, often times by apologizing and paying compensation. Only in recent years have businesses started to avoid apologizing before the fault has been confirmed.

As a result, customer-business relations have strained at times to fatal levels. In 2004, a fast food store manager killed a claimer by stabbing him to death over ten times with a knife. The claimer had harassed the manager with frivolous complaints about not being served water or a bento box placed on its side. The complaints had escalated to a point that the claimer called the manager repeatedly over the phone and had the manager visit his home to apologize in person.

Shuji Kashiwabara in Claimer: Case 1

Now that you are fully equipped with knowledge of Japanese “claimers,” you are ready to take on the horrific world of the “Claimer” series. Case 1 is about Tsugimura, the supervisor at the complaint handling department of a company selling bottled water. Incessant calls from a claimer identifying himself as Naito lead Tsugimura to madness. But, the real question is, did Tsugimura’s madness stem from dealing with Naito or was Tsugimura mad to begin with? We hope you enjoy!

Claimer: Case 1 | Read Synopsis | Watch Trailer | Buy or Rent on iTunes

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