TOKYO (TR) – A word of warning to commuters on the Tokyo Metro subway system.
A 57-year-old woman working as a cleaner on the underground lines in Japan’s capital has been caught spending money from an IC card a passenger accidentally threw in the trash.
The card in question had around 3,100 yen remaining on it, which the woman spent on herself. Procedures on the Metro lines require cleaners to pass on anything of value found in the trash to their office.
IC cards in Japan include the names, addresses and phone numbers of their holders, meaning that the card — and the money on it — could have been returned easily.
“We apologise that this improper act has occurred,” a public relations official at ToMe, as the Tokyo Metro company is known in Japan, told Jiji Press (Jan. 30). “We aim to re-examine the way that we train our employees.”
Over the past two years, similar incidents have surfaced in which a total of three staff members embezzled cash from IC cards on the Metro’s Hibiya Line.
Staff have been using cash on the missing card to buy cookies and other snacks for their lunch breaks. Convenience stores in Japan allow for purchases using IC cards for trains.
Many salarymen, kept on strict budgets by their wives, will charge their cards for train fares and use the money to buy treats that exceed the lunch money they are given by their spouses.
The cleaning staff said they thought the cards had been thrown away and so were OK to use.
Japanese society is known for its honesty. That, however, may change as the society becomes ever more stratified between the haves and the have-nots.
One in six Japanese were said to be living in relative poverty in 2013, the highest rate on record, according to Nippon.com.