Saturday, April 14, 2007

Can this be true?

Yesterday I was teaching a lesson to a Japanese business man, probably in his late 20s or early 30s. The lesson was about ordering something over the phone and we were doing a roleplay where he was buying a sweater from Land's End.

When we got to the part about giving his credit card information, he appeared to be baffled. I asked him to just make up a credit card number and he said, "1234." Then I said, "Well, credit cards usually have a lot more numbers," and wrote on the whiteboard to show him a long row of numbers resembling most credit cards. He looked surprised to see so many numbers.

Then I asked him for the expiration date and again, the same look of total confusion. It took what seemed like an unbelievable amount of effort and simplification to explain to him the concept of "expiration date." Finally, I said, "Let's look at one of your credit cards as an example."

"I don't have any credit cards," he said.

Curious and wondering if it was just him or if it ran in the family, I asked incredulously, "Really? What about your parents? Do they have any credit cards?"

"No," he said, "cash only."

Even though it might sound a little strange, I had to step back for a moment to take it all in. Is it really possible to live in the 21st century without a credit card?

It's actually not such a bad idea, when you stop to think about it. In America, where banks send a slew of zero-interest credit cards out in the mail to recent high school graduates, and where so many people find themselves in mountains of credit card debt, a "cash-only" society might be a wonderful thing!

Update: From my experience so far, most Japanese I've met have at least one credit card. This student was probably in the minority.


TerryG said...

Well sometimes if you don't have a credit card you are either bankrupt, poor, no credit rating or job or just plain smart. Todays society though is demanding we have a credit card such as staying in a motel or buying online etc. It is a shame although I believe soon in the future we will have a cashless society.

Terry Psychic advice

Naomi said...

Well, in my own experience of the country, I have found that certain people view the low crime rate as making credit cards redundent.

Actually, once when I was small my mother - after I found out about obscene interest on cards - gave me an answer that will live me as to why people have cards. She said, "because it's money RIGHT NOW!"

That's why I only have one, in order to make international purchases online. Even then, it pays to be careful ^^