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My in-laws, who were our hosts in the outlying city of Sagamihara, were eager to see their son’s purchase, so he opened the box for them to see the next morning. But when he tried to demonstrate the player, it wouldn’t work. We peered inside. It had no innards! My husband used the time until the Odakyu would open at 10:00 to practice for the rare opportunity in that country to wax indignant. But at a minute to 10:00 he was pre-empted by the store ringing us.
My mother-in-law took the call, and had to hold the receiver away from her ear against the barrage of Japanese honorifics. Odakyu’s vice president was on his way over with a new disk player.
A taxi pulled up 50 minutes later and spilled out the vice president and a junior employee who was laden with packages and a clipboard. In the entrance hall, the two men bowed vigorously. The younger man was still bobbing as he read from a log that recorded the progress of their efforts to rectify their mistake, beginning at 4:32 p.m. the day before, when the salesclerk alerted the store’s security guards to stop my husband at the door. When that didn’t work, the clerk turned to his supervisor, who turned to his supervisor, until a SWAT team leading all the way to the vice president was in place to work on the only clues, a name and an American Express card number. Remembering that the customer had asked him about using the disk player in the U.S., the clerk called 32 hotels in and around Tokyo to ask if a Mr. Kitasei was registered. When that turned up nothing, the Odakyu commandeered a staff member to stay until 9:00 p.m. to call American Express headquarters in New York. American Express gave him our New York telephone number. It was after 11 when he reached my parents, who were staying at our apartment. My mother gave him my in-laws’ telephone number.
The younger man looked up from his clipboard and gave us, in addition to the new $280 disk player, a set of towels, a box of cakes, and a Chopin disk. Three minutes after this exhausted pair had arrived, they were climbing back into the waiting cab. The vice president suddenly dashed back. He had forgotten to apologize for my husband having to wait while the alesman had rewritten the charge slip, but he hoped we understood that it had been the young man’s first day.