(webbed from the Community Archives on March 1, 2001)

From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle <>
Date: Mon Jan 29, 2001 4:07am
Subject: Hello Community. Isetan Credit Card Case

Hello Community. Something else that might warrant recording on The Community Website, if and when I can ever get around to updating it (sorry). This is a private email forwarded and anonymized with the permission of the author. Any comments?

Arudou Debito, One Community Coordinator.

I have another story to tell you, this happened last week when my friend was here. I went to Isetan department store in Shinjuku to buy food. I like shopping here, because they have a great selection, plus VERY fresh seafood. My friend and his wife wanted to eat seafood nabe and sushi over the next couple days. So I picked out some really nice fish, crab, clams, etc. The total was about Y15,000 and I was going to charge the transaction on my Isetan credit card that I have had for 7+ years. Well the transaction was declined nonetheless and I had to put the charge onto another card. I asked the clerk why, computer trouble?, black strip on the card bad?, etc... She replied that my card was canceled and I need to call a special number. Not was I embarrassed in front of my friend, but also the locals behind me were watching with the eagle eye. So I whipped out my JCB Gold card and paid for the transaction to save face.

I don't know if you know or not, but Isetan has a "foreign customer service". They help with tax rebates and booking concert tickets. They always have great staff working there. I know they are underpaid, because when I go back I never see the same staff twice.

So, back to my story, my friend that was with me at the time, wanted to go get a massage near my house, so I sent him on his way and I went to the "foreign customer service" located on the 7F of Isetan. I walked in and there was a pretty Japanese girl working from behind the counter. She asked me, "how are you?" in perfect English and I replied not so good and I had her attention. I told her about the transaction in the basement buying the seafood. She took my card and ran off for 25 mins. When she return, she told me that my card was canceled because they sent me a flyer/statement in the mail and it was returned from the Post Office. They assumed that I left the country.

When I checked the address they had on file, it was my address from 2+ years ago. I asked them how could this be, since I have credit statements with my current address on them from the months before. Dave, when I first started this account 7+ years ago, I knew something was weird, they asked for copy of business card, gaijin card, passport and a copy of my wife's passport, etc. So this time I asked to speak with the credit manager about this situation that was happening today.

Another 25 mins later, some 50-ish guy shows up (insertion from a follow-up email: "His name is <> Hڛ (Akimoto Toshiaki). Please feel free to use this on The Community.") he assumes that I don't speak Japanese. So I played along for about <3 mins, until he kept on saying, "why am I here" to the pretty Japanese girl working there when I first arrived. So I asked his basic questions in Japanese, to cut to the chase;

1.) Do you know why I am here talking to you?
a - You haven't paid your bill, I think??? (Customer service staff explained to him, again)

2.) Why was my card canceled?
a - We thought you left the country, because mail we sent you was return to us and you may have pending charges.

3.) Do you have proof of this return mail?
a - No.

4.) Canceling cards because of return mail is normal practice for all your customers?
a - We will call customers first, however, since you are not Japanese, we assumed you went home.

5.) Did you know I changed my address with you 2 card renewals ago?
a - no, we have no record, we thought you went home. (later that day sent proof of change by fax)

6.) Do you discriminate?
a - Isetan Credit Company never discriminates.

7.) Do you have 2 set of rules for Japanese cardholders and non-Japanese cardholders.
a - Some, but Isetan Credit Company never discriminates.

8.) How often do Japanese and non-Japanese card holders have to renew?
a - Japanese, every 5 years. non-Japanese, every 1 year.

9.) Can non-Japanese cardholders use their card for cashing?
a - Never.

10.) What ID is required for Japanese for opening an account?
a - none, just a phone and a valid application

11.) Do Japanese require coming to the store to renew their card?
a - Never, is automatic.

12.) How often is credit limits reviewed for Japanese card holders?"
a - Every six months

13.) How about non-Japanese?
a - never


So he responds with his questions to me;

I-1.) If you want real Isetan Card, please complete Japanese application, but you will be required to read the terms of the contract to us out loud so we know you understand the agreement.

my-answer) Is this required by Japanese? What if you had a blind Japanese, or deaf Japanese, or both, the same applies?

his-answer) If they are Japanese, we assume they understand the agreement. However, Isetan Credit Company never discriminates.

So I cut him short, I know this is not going anywhere... So I ask him again, does "Isetan Credit Company discriminate?" And he replies, again as "Never"...

So I broke it down to him, why Isetan Credit Company never discriminates:

Cancel Customer Card, because flyer/statement was returned via mail:
Japanese - Ask questions first by calling customer.
non-Japanese - Cancel card, assume returned home.

Japanese - Cashing anytime
non-Japanese - Never.

Renew Card:
Japanese - Every 5 years
non-Japanese - Every 1 year, plus store visit.

Credit review limits:
Japanese - Every 6 months
non-Japanese - Never

"Real" Isetan Credit Card:
Japanese - Complete application
non-Japanese - Read app term in front of staff


Dave, I plan to follow through with this 100%. The thing is, I like the store, but the credit company is a separate company altogether. I'll keep you posted about updates.

Sincerely, AB in Tokyo

From: "D.Walsh" <>
Date: Mon Jan 29, 2001 6:34am
Subject: Re: [Community-J] Hello Community. Isetan Credit Card Case

Whoever you are, I want to encourage you to pursue Isetan on its obvious discriminatory policies.

> Dave, I plan to follow through with this 100%. The thing is, I like the
> store, but the credit company is a separate company altogether.

Don't ever fall into that trap -- the store and credit company are separate. If the store wants your business and does not want to beperceived as discriminatory, believe me, they DO have sufficient influence over the credit card company. I know that from my own experience.

> I'll keep you
> posted about updates.
> Sincerely, AB in Tokyo

I hope to hear updates on this. That is, at least partly, why The Community is here, I believe.

From: "Wes" <>
Date: Mon Feb 5, 2001 2:06am
Subject: Re: Hello Community. Isetan Credit Card Case

I have sent Isetan a formal letter to them requesting a response from Akimoto Toshiaki. If I don't receive a response by Feb 13th, will send a certified letter to Hatakeyama Yasuo (President of Isetan
Credit) asking for the same.



I'm quite familiar with the store trying to distance themselves from the credit department. I had a similar incident happen about 5 years ago with Mitsubishi Bank. I had over Y6m in my account and they wouldn't give me a Visa card, because I didn't speak/read Japanese and plus I was a foreigner. The manager of the credit department (managed by DC Card) had a office-lady call me at work to tell me this in English. She broke out in tears at the end of our conversation, telling me the policy is not fair.

The next day I went to my branch in Nishi-Shinkjuku, asked to speak to the manager. I showed him the decline letter and asked if his branch supports DC Card discriminatory actions. He responded, "Well that's DC Cards choice, nothing we can do." I told him that I have 6m in this bank, and there's something I can do! So I closed my account on the spot. And I also requested the Branch Manager to process the closing and not the teller! That felt real good, because the manager didn't know how to close a account and had to be shown every step by the teller.

Now, I had a new problem. I have 6m Yen in my pockets and no bank account. So I went to the Fuji Bank near my office. I sat down, slapped the money on the counter, and asked the teller if they discriminate against foreigners and explained my story of what happened at Mitsubishi Bank. The teller and the foreign relationships manager ensured that this wouldn't happen at their bank. So I opened the account, applied for a Fuji Bank Visa. Everything was fine up to the point I received a declined letter from Fuji Bank about the Visa card. I took the letter to the foreign relationships manager the next day to show him, he called Fuji credit and was told it was declined, because they couldn't verify my company's name through 104-directory assistance. So the manager verified the information on my business card with what they verified and it was incorrect. When the manager hung-up the phone, he told me that I would have my card within 2 weeks. And a week later, the card arrived with a 30man shopping and 10man cashing. So the point to this story, as you touched on your thread reply, even though they are separate companies, they can influence them in credit decisions.

Since I have started my relationship with Fuji Bank, it's been pretty good! They have given me a loan on my house, without a co-signer and no permanent residence. They upgraded my Visa card to Gold about 2 years ago with Y3m shopping. Maybe I got lucky, not sure, however, it seems that branches have their own internal unwritten rules when dealing with non-Japanese.

As promised before, I will fight this one with Isetan to prove a point, plus to heal a wound that Mitsubishi Bank / DC Card delivered to me some years ago.

Ben (AB in Tokyo)

From: "Wes" <>
Date: Tue Feb 13, 2001 1:41pm
Subject: Re: Hello Community. Isetan Credit Card Case

As promised, I have not received a reply from Isetan by today. I have composed the letter briefly, but will put my final touches on it in the morning. The letter will go certified. I hope I have the energy that Dave has to complete this task.

Regards, Ben