Buraku Liberation News  January 2000 No.112

Major Convenience Store Chain Refused to Make Change for Foreigners.

The Tokyo Alien Eyes, a NGO protecting the human rights of foreign residents in Japan, revealed on its Internet home page in December 1999 that Lawson Inc., a major convenience store chain, instructed its member stores nationwide to refuse making change for foreign customers.

The group criticized Lawson for regarding all the foreigners as criminals and demanded it retract the order.

According to a news report, a Lawson public relations official said the company made a mistake in the wording of the informal notice, which will immediately be revised and the new version sent to the retail stores.

The informal notice, which carried a title referring to the prevention of accidents and incidents, was sent to the managers of all Lawson stores on 10 December 1999. The notice referred to an increasing incidence of foreigners asking for change for large bills, including 10,000, 5,000, 1,000 yen, and then stealing cash while the clerk prepares the transaction.

The document said that a total of more than 1.5 million yen was stolen from seven stores over a two-week period. To avoid such incidents, the notice ordered the stores to firmly decline making change for all foreigners. 

If a foreign customer persists in asking for change, the clerk should call the police without hesitation, the notice added. The purpose of the order was to alert staff to the increasing incidence of theft by people pretending to want change for large bills, Lawson explained.

The Tokyo Alien Eyes said that the notice was a human rights violation because it regarded all foreigners as criminals.

In an effort to let Lawson take proper measures to avoid such discriminatory practices, members of the Tokyo Alien Eyes had a dialogue with Lawson officials in January 2000. Lawson admitted that even though it was an internal notice, they had to admit that the notice invited misunderstanding over foreigners. 

However, Lawson said that they did not have any intention of discriminating against foreign customers in the sense that the Tokyo Alien Eyes pointed out, according to a report which appeared on the home page of the Tokyo Alien Eyes.

A member of the Tokyo Alien Eyes said that they would try to hold another dialogue with Lawson in the near future.

In the wake of this incident, the bulletin board of their web page received a lot of antagonistic messages from anonymous persons, stating, for example, that foreigners are dangerous.

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