• JIJI, Kyodo

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Seven-Eleven Japan Co. on Friday warned a convenience store in Osaka Prefecture that its franchise contract will be terminated unless it improves customer service.

The store in Higashiosaka made headlines in February for halting late-night and early-morning operations over staffing shortages without permission from Seven-Eleven’s franchise headquarters. It has also said it will be closed on New Year’s Day.

A senior company official visited franchise owner Mitoshi Matsumoto to hand him a written notice warning him the contract will be scrapped on Dec. 31 unless improvements are made.

“The demand by the headquarters is one-sided. I cannot accept it,” Matsumoto told reporters. “They are probably discontent with the fact that the store will be closed on Jan. 1.”

According to Seven-Eleven Japan, Matsumoto’s store drew 336 customer complaints over a period of 7½ years ended in October. It also said he shouted at customers many times about how to use its parking area and garbage bins.

“There have been too many complaints against him,” an official said, adding that another reason why it was taking action was because Matsumoto repeatedly posted defamatory comments about Seven-Eleven officials online.

Matsumoto admitted that he has been in a spat with one of the customers. “There are complaints tantamount to harassment from customers. I want (Seven-Eleven) to listen to my side of the story.”

The store shortened its operating hours without company approval because of a labor shortage. Seven-Eleven drew fire by suggesting it would pull his franchising rights over the matter.

Seven-Eleven is planning to allow 50 corporate-owned stores in Tokyo to close New Year’s Day. Franchise-owned stores are not included in the plan.

That spat led to accelerated talks across the convenience store industry to reconsider policies on round-the-clock operations.

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