Part-time workers at convenience stores and fast-food outlets in Japan have been pulling stunts at work and posting photos of their pranks on twitter, Facebook and blogs. Embarrassed companies are issuing apologies and closing shops to clean up equipment and restock shelves tainted by the so called "baito tero" – "part-timer terrorists."
Most of the prank pics have ended up on twitter which is being referred to by some as the "idiot detector".
The pictures of pranks that occurred in August prompted web searches for previous posts of employee’s at-work pranks. The earliest post – found so far – occurred in March.
The outbreak of stupid acts seems to have coincided with the high school vacations, when students are able to work more hours. Spring break is at the end of March, and the summer break began at the end of July and ended September 1.
A male and a female part-time employee at a branch of the Shirokiya pub chain posted pictures of themselves playing with cabbage in the kitchen of one of the restaurants. One photo shows them with cabbage on their heads. In another picture, the male perp wears a face mask cabbage leaf, with eye holes and mouth cutouts, and he’s smoking. The photos surfaced September 2.
The son of a Lawson convenience store franchisee – and part-time employee at dad’s store – climbed into the store’s ice cream case, lay down, closed the glass doors, took some selfies, and posted the photos on Facebook. Lawson headquarters learned of the photos the same day, immediately cancelled the Kochi City outlet’s franchise agreement, and shuttered the shop.
The part-timer said he was too hot – Japan is experiencing record high temperatures – and he would just cool off in the fridge. Lawson posted an apology on its website.
A male employee at an outlet of the Ministop convenience store chain had a photo taken of him perched on the cash register counter facing customers, leaning back, legs spread, holding the bar code reader on his crotch, and posted the image on twitter.
Ministop discharged the employee and cleaned and disinfected the register, counter, and bar code reader. Ministop explained it’s actions in an apology on it’s website.
Burger King, which returned to Japan in 2007 after withdrawing from a previous effort in Japan in 2001, fired a part-timer who took photos of himself lying on a pile of packaged hamburger buns in the outlet’s kitchen. The part-timer had posted the pictures on twitter on June 24. Burger King Japan apologized on its website, and said all the buns in the outlet were thrown out.
The fridge was the target of another part-time employee, this one at an outlet of the lunch box take out chain Hotto Motto. The employee of an Aichi Prefecture outlet posed for pictures while scrunched on a shelf in the outlet’s refrigerator. The photos were put on twitter, headquarters found out, and an apology was posted on the company website. The employee was immediately fired for "performing an unsuitable act in the store." The refrigerator was disinfected on the same day.
Noodle restaurants haven’t escaped the prank craze. A ramen restaurant chain’s part-time employee was photographed in one of the outlets holding a bag of frozen sausage while chewing on three sausages. The female employee – a high school student – working at a Marugen Ramen restaurant tweeted the photos of herself. Marugen Ramen headquarters was informed of the incident and issued an apology for the "offensive acts" and for causing "anxiety" about it’s products. The store was closed for three days to dispose of the freezer contents and disinfect the freezer.
Bronco Billy is a steak and hamburger chain and a part-timer at one of its Tokyo outlets decided to explore the lower section of the refrigerator in the outlet where he worked, take some photos of only his head sticking out of the doors, and post the pics on twitter. Company HQ found out about the photos and issued an apology on its website. The store was closed for refrigerator disinfection and the employee was fired.
A Pizza Hut part-timer took photos of himself stretching pizza dough across his face, and posted the photos on his twitter feed. Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd., owner of the pizza chain, fired the employee and put up an apology on it’s website. The company said such behavior is unacceptable in the restaurant business. It said the face-dough wasn’t used for any pizza and was disposed of.
Two part-time female employees of a Pizza-la pizza chain in Tokyo snapped photos of themselves sitting in their outlet’s kitchen sink and squeezed inside the outlet’s refrigerator, then posted all the photos on a twitter feed. Pizza-la temporarily closed the shop in order to replace the sink and throw away all the dough and other foods in the refrigerator.
The company also posted an apology and its course of action on it’s website. The company says the employees were reprimanded and it is is strengthening its employee education about food safety.
A university student working part-time at a Yokohama outlet of the Tokyu Store supermarket chain took pictures of fruit in his mouth, and posted the photos on twitter. The worker posed with an orange stuffed almost completely into his mouth, and also a photo of himself clenching an apple in his teeth. The employee said the fruit was taken from the disposal bin. Tokyu posted an apology on it’s website and said the employee was fired immediately. The chain said it is strengthening it’s merchandise management and employee training.
Commentators and editorials are offering advice about curbing the antics.
They point out that employees who post such photos do not reveal their real names, and have stated they believed the posts were unimportant.
Some advice from the media:
Businesses should explain the consequences of unapproved posting of business photos on websites.
Staff should be reminded the posts have a potential global audience.
During job interviews, the use of social networks should be reviewed.
The use of personal smartphones during business hours should be banned.
Including business names in any online posting by employees of the given business should be prohibited.
Employees who violate the new rules should be strongly reprimanded.