~ The following article is from “Mahjong Kai No 13” ~
Even when customers are trying to be kind, they can cause problems for parlors. However it is difficult for the staff to complain for this very reason. What are the proper manners for both customers and parlors in this situation?
This topic is about manners that apply only at parlors. This is a problem which many parlors have and feel bitter about, but is difficult for them to discuss in person. This topic is the one I have wanted to write about for a long time in order to speak for these parlors.
Informing the Staff of Their “Last Game”
In a parlor, customers must inform the staff of their last game of the day. They have to let the staff know that they are going to stop playing once the current game is over and will not start a new one. This way, the staff can smoothly guide other customers, join them on the table, or divide them between other tables.
As an easy example, let us look at a situation where all the staff members are playing games. When one of the customers suddenly stops playing, the remaining three customers have the following choices:
A: Wait for more customers to come or for a staff member to finish his or her game.
B: Take over one of the staff member’s games if he or she has enough points.
C: Leave the parlor.
A and B can leave the customers unsatisfied, and C simply results in a loss for the parlor. In any case, when a customer stops playing without notice, others will be inconvenienced. In order to avoid this problem, customers have to inform the staff of their last games. If the staff is aware of the upcoming vacancy, they can handle it smoothly. Needless to say, this practice is not for the sake of the parlor, but rather to avoid making customers wait for too long.
I do not know the origin of this custom, but it is easy to see how it makes parlor operation quite smooth. Customers surely appreciate the reduced waiting time.
The Troubling “Probably Last Game”
On the other hand, the declaration of “probably last game” appeared around ten years ago. To be clear, this means that the customer’s current game may or may not be his or her last game of the day. I was astonished at this new kind of habit when I worked at a parlor in Yokohama and heard it for the first time. Since then, this practice has spread throughout the country rather quickly.
The proliferation of this practice is not good at all. Let us take a moment to think about why this “probably last game” declaration is undesirable.
Anyone who thinks about it for a moment will realize that it is very confusing for the parlor’s staff to be told that a customer may stop playing after his or her game, because it means he or she may also continue playing as well. If a customer tells the staff that he or she will stop playing, the staff can think of a plan for the table. If a customer does not tell the staff anything, the staff can assume that all of the customers will continue. But if a customer tells the staff that he or she may stop, the staff need to have several plans for the table.
If the parlor has four or more staff members working, then they can likely handle this problem, but most parlors have just three. The staff often have difficulty handling several customers telling them that they may stop playing. Many parlors face this problem, and here are the solutions that I have seen.
“Please let us know whether you will continue or stop as soon as you decide.”
“Please decide whether you will continue or stop during the East round.”
“Your seat may be taken by a new customer.”
“It would be helpful if you could tell us why you cannot make a decision.”
“Informing staff of ‘PROBABLY last game’ is prohibited.”
What do you think about these? Do you feel like the parlors had to rack their brains for these? I saw the last item of prohibition at a parlor in Suidobashi. I think other parlors would want to do the same thing if they could. However, it is not as easy for those who are not as popular as the parlor in Suidobashi. Parlors want the customers to play many games if it does not inconvenience others, but if they are forced to decide, most customers would choose to stop. Even I was one of the staff members whose stomach turns when having to deal with this problem.
Why Does “Probably Last Game” Happen?
Let us think about why this “probably last game” declaration happens.
1. Customers are not sure that they have enough time to play another game.
2. Customers cannot afford the next game if they lose this game.
3. Customers have to stop playing if someone calls them on the phone.
4. Customers want to put off the decision so that they can stop if they do not feel good at the end of the game or if they do not like the next players.
5. Customers feel happy when they say, “I will play the next game too,” and a female staff member replies, “Oh, thank you very much!”
That is about it. Reasons 1 to 3 are satisfactory. The solution of having a staff member say, “It would be helpful if you could tell us why you cannot make a decision,” as listed above would be applicable to these reasons.
For example, “I will play the next game if this game finishes by X time,” and “I will stop playing if I get 3rd or 4th,” are tangible criteria around which the staff can plan. That is why parlors ask customers to elaborate.
Reason 4 is the embodiment of selfishness, but many customers use it for this reason. Some always say, “This may be my last game,” and continue playing more and more games. Some say, “Every game is probably my last game,” unapologetically when they start playing. These kinds of people often stop playing at the worst possible timing for the parlor. They stop suddenly when the staff members think they will probably continue.
If the staff asks these customers to play just one more game, they refuse to change their minds, saying, “I have told you that I might stop.” Parlors should give them guidance on how to properly notify staff of their last games.
Reason 5 increased recently, and I worry about the intelligence of the people who have this reason. Surely there are better places to get a girl to smile at you. Unless she is working at a parlor for the first time, she will think, “Oh, what an indecisive and annoying man,” even as she gives them a smile and seems to thank their decision to continue playing.
A man who cannot make a decision in less than 30 minutes will never attract girls. This article is written in order to reduce the occurrence of “probably last game,” and I will say a bit more to the people who use it the wrong way.
You are unintentionally and greatly bothering parlors and other customers. You can enjoy mahjong more if you keep taking care of others.
The Way Parlors Handle This Is Also Wrong?
While this article is meant to inform customers, I would also like to say something to parlors. You have to avoid inconveniencing other customers when one customer tries to exercise control over you.
Allow me to make an example of a certain parlor. I went there and a male staff member who appeared to be a manager told me, “Please wait a minute. Two players on this table may finish.”
Around after twenty minutes, the game on that table was over, but nobody left. Then he said, “All of the players have decided to continue, but another player on the table next to this may stop, so please wait a little bit more.” The game on that table was over after 15 minutes. Then a young customer said, “I will play one more. I may stop playing after the next game,” and then another player said, “Then I will play one more too. Sound good?” even if he had already claimed that he would stop playing.
I was astonished that the manager replied with, “Okay, thank you.”
There is no doubt that it was the incorrect response. He should say, “Could you please give way to another player? The other table will have a vacancy.” After all, I was kept waiting for a total of 70 minutes until the game on the first table was over again. The manager avoided talking to me again, likely because he would feel awkward.
I can wait without dissatisfaction since I know the trouble that the staff has to endure, but ordinary people may get upset. Some people may want to leave and come back later if they know that there will not be any tables available soon. The staff need to force the player who has already said that this game may be his or her last to decide.
It is not difficult at all. I just want the staff to know that it is part of their jobs to correct customers who bother others by doing things like saying, “probably last game.”
That is all for this time. I hope your mahjong life will be fulfilling.
Author: Oogai, Hiromi
Profile: Born in 1960 and from Tokyo. With the 101 Kyogi-Renmei. The 22nd and 30th champion. After experiencing as a family-style restaurant manager, he fell in love with the competitive mahjong style and goes into the Pro Mahjong industry.
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Born and living in Japan. I play mahjong once a week at a mahjong parlor. I hope you enjoy mahjong and articles.