Ticket Worker Avoids Charging Visitors for 2.5 Years Because a Tourist Shouted at Him Once

A popular tourist attraction in Tokyo lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars because one of its ticket office workers was too scared to ask foreign visitors for an admission fee.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, in the heart of Tokyo, charges fees of ¥200 ($1.80) for adult entry and ¥50 for children. But one attendant, now in his 70s and retired, stopped charging customers for entry in April 2014 after being shouted at by a particularly irate visitor. He continued issuing free tickets until his actions were discovered December 2016.

Located just a short walk from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station—the busiest train station in the world—and a selection of the city’s most impressive skyscrapers, Shinjuku Gyoen is a favored tourist destination.

Its 144 acres and 20,000 trees offer visitors a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of life in the Japanese capital. And thanks to the unnamed employee, the attraction was free for many people for more than 30 months.

According to SoraNews24, the environment ministry—which runs the park—this week estimated that around 160,000 people entered the park without paying, totaling around ¥25 million in lost ticket sales.

The man told investigators he stopped charging visitors after being shouted at by a foreign tourist, making him nervous about interacting with all those who came after. “I don’t speak any other languages,” he explained, “and I got scared when a foreigner began yelling at me a long time ago.”

The tickets themselves clearly displayed the price of admission, meaning the language barrier should not have been too challenging. But not only did the man continue to hand out tickets for free, he also developed an elaborate system to cover his tracks. Each ticket “sold” was logged into the system, creating a damning paper trail illustrating the worker’s generosity.

GettyImages-164678945 People enjoy cherry blossoms in full bloom at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo, Japan on March 23, 2013. Keith Tsuji/Getty Images

Without access to the database, the man had to convince a fellow employee who did have access to cancel every single free sale so there would be no obvious discrepancy between the recorded and real revenue.

Management discovered his system thanks to an anonymous tip-off from another employee, who witnessed him behaving strangely when issuing a ticket to a foreign visitor, The Guardian reported.

The man was punished by docking 10 percent of his salary, the newspaper said, citing Japan’s Sankei Shimbun publication. He then asked to take retirement and offered to give back half of his retirement bonus—around ¥300,000 yen—in an effort to at least partially reimburse the park.

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