Store freezes refunds as opportunists cash in

Kyodo

A Seiyu Ltd. supermarket here stopped refunding customers for falsely labeled meat products on Sunday after paying some 3.5 times more than the amount it had expected, company officials said Monday.

People who flooded the outlet apparently included some who took advantage of the fact that Seiyu was accepting claims for refunds without receipts, according to the officials.

The supermarket paid back to customers some 49 million yen from Friday to Sunday, far above the 14 million yen it had expected based on estimates of the amount of meat products it sold over the past 12 months, the officials said.

Seiyu originally said it would continue the refund operation until next Sunday.

On Sunday night, the managers of the outlet called police to restore order. Police cars were on standby at the store Monday as some 200 people milled around demanding refunds.

According to the store, dozens of people — mostly individuals in their 20s and 30s with dyed hair — started gathering in the parking lot at around 6 a.m. Monday.

Scuffles with security staffers broke out after the crowd was asked to wait until opening time, and an ambulance was called to the scene after one person was injured in the pushing and shoving.

A 21-year-old male university student who did not give his name said he came because he thought he could obtain money.

“If they’re going to give it, I want as much as I can get,” he said.

The Sapporo outlet and a Seiyu supermarket in Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, had falsely labeled imported meat as domestic, according to Seiyu.

Meat-section managers at the two stores falsely labeled the products to boost their sales figures, as Japanese pork is usually priced higher than the imported variety.

Seiyu was refunding customers who bought pork loin and ox tongue between September last year and September this year at the Motomachi outlet in Sapporo.

It said falsely labeled products at the outlet amounted to 200 kg of pork loin imported from Canada and 80 kg of ox tongue from the United States, with a sales value of about 940,000 yen.

But it planned to pay refunds for all pork loin and ox tongue sold during the period, totaling 14 million yen in sales, as it would be impossible to tell who had bought meat labeled as domestic and who had bought falsely labeled meat, the officials said.

The outlet was closed Monday, normally a business day, because of the prospect of claimants flooding the store again as they did Sunday and making it impossible to serve other customers, they said.

A spokesman at Seiyu headquarters in Tokyo said Monday that there was no serious problem at the Sayama outlet.