Purr-fect station chief brings passengers back
TOKYO - A money-losing Japanese train company has found the purr-fect pet mascot to draw crowds and bring back business — tabby Tama.
All the 9-year-old female cat does is sit by the entrance of Kishi Station in western Japan, wearing a black uniform cap and posing for photos for the tourists who are now flocking in droves from across the nation.
Tama has been doing such a good job of raising revenue for the troubled Kishikawa train line that she was recently promoted to "super-station-master."
"She never complains, even though passengers touch her all over the place. She is an amazing cat. She has patience and charisma," Wakayama Electric Railway Co. spokeswoman Yoshiko Yamaki told The Associated Press Monday. "She is the perfect station master."
Appointing a cat to turn around fortunes makes cultural sense in Japan, where cats are considered good luck and are believed to bring in business.
People are snatching up novelty goods — postcards, erasers, notebooks and pins — decorated with Tama's photos. There's even a special 1,365 yen ($13) book of photos of Tama called, "Diary of Tama, the Station Master."
The Kishikawa line had been losing $4.9 million a year as passenger numbers fell steadily to as low as about 5,000 a day, or some 1.9 million a year.
After Tama's appointment last year passengers have been gradually returning, recently rising 10 percent to about 2.1 million a year.
In December Tama was rewarded with bonus pay — all in cat food.
I have no doubt the trains run on time at this particular station. The station master comes out and sucks out the souls of any conductor unlucky enough to be late.
It's probably just a sad sign of our times that cats are put into managerial positions. Seeing as they're willing to work for cat food (and the opportunity to further to forces of darkness), more companies are likely to follow suit in catsourcing their labor. If you thought that calling customer service is a nightmare now because of call centers in India, just wait a few months and see what happens when it's staffed by lolcats.
I am sort of curious what the next level of promotion is for Tama. I mean, there's station master and then super station master. What's next? I'm betting it'll be happy lucky super sparkle station master. They'll probably also allocate it one magical transformation per day and the ability to wield a 5-foot long sword.