Nail Clippers from Tokyo


Nail Clippers from Tokyo

While traveling in Tokyo, I learned a valuable business lesson from a little store in the hotel… all while buying nail clippers.

This was many years ago when my wife and I were vacationing in Tokyo. While I was thinking back on the trip, I realized that one memory stood out.

One evening in our hotel room, my wife tasked me with going downstairs to buy some nail clippers. Seems we hadn’t brought any in our bags (it was allowed back then).

So, there I was, with only the most basic of Japanese language skills… on my own! After making my way downstairs, I found the tiny little in-hotel store. They had all the essentials that a traveler would need: toothpaste, band-aids, aspirin, etc. I couldn’t seem to find the nail clippers.

I walked up to the counter. An older woman sat patiently behind it. We had a short conversation… without words. Finally! My years of pantomime were useful!

She pointed to where the nail clippers were, and I retrieved a nice pink one for my wife.

When I went up to pay, I expected that the woman would just run my card, give me a receipt, and I’d take the clippers and go.

That is not what happened.

After ringing up the bill and giving me the receipt, she carefully took the packaged clippers and wrapped them – very neatly – in a nice paper. She then put this into a small bag, along with some hand-folded paper origami cranes (my wife later told me they were for luck). Then, she folded over the top of the bag and put a small bit of tape on it.

When she handed it to me, I knew enough to bow slightly and say “domo arigatou gozaimasu” and left the store to go back to my room.

It was a short, simple interaction, yet when I think back, there was a lot of meaning to unpack from it.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned that can apply to many businesses:

  • Be kind
  • Know your job
  • Be Helpful
  • Exceed Expectations
  • Have Good Intentions

In the end, it’s these things that people, and your customers, will remember.

The nail clippers were common.

The woman who sold them to me was special.


All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: