Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mr Shiraishi of the Co-op

Almost all university shops in Japan are run by the same organisation, the University Co-op. It seems a well run chain, they always have clever little offers and sales on. One of their things is to have comment cards on which the students can make inquiries to the shops' staff about products they want sold etc.. The replies, together with the initial requests, are posted on a little message boad.

Anyway, the message board at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (Tokyo Noko Daigaku) has become a bit of a phenomenon. A member of staff called Shiraishi san, who was given the job of replying to the messages, struck up a bizarre dialogue with the students. They began to ask a series of weird and wonderful questions, which had nothing to do with the shop's product lines, and he replied punctiliously in a very polite, apparently guileless way to every one of their inquiries. He always stayed in the role of the shop assistant and became an excellent foil for the students' wit, and vice versa. The best way to explain it is with examples:

Q. Please sell a cow
A. Thankyou for your request. There was an office meeting today and we immediately concluded that we cannot keep cows in the shop. I am sorry.

Q. Don't you sell love?
A. It seems love is not an object to be sold. If it is sold anywhere, there is a strong possibility of it being some kind of trap. Please be careful.

Q. Breathing capacity 1800 cc :-)
A. It seems slightly inadequate for a grown up man. Try to breathe deeply daily. You may want to make sure that the air in your room is clean. Currently, Sharp's Aeon air filter is 19,800 yen.

Q. Please give yourself to me Mr Shiraishi.
A. I discussed this with my family. They said they couldn't give me away yet. The phraseology made me slightly uneasy but I am relieved. Thankyou for your understanding and cooperation.

Q. One hundred iron swords (by Hero)
A. I hope I understand correctly that you want the above mentioned products. Unfortunately, we can't sell you even one sword. It might break the weapons law. It would be better to give up hope of the purchase.

As I say, it became a bit of a phenomenon. First, the students started reporting their questions and Mr Shiraishi's sage answers on the internet. This was picked up by a publisher and has become a best selling book.


kozappa said...

I found the book rather funny. Though not as much as some people claimed.

Anonymous said...

I remember there were similar interactionsfound in the message board at the my university's University Co-op, though I think Mr. Shiraishi is doing a very good job in answering those weird questions.