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Wildly Strict Rules Confound Uniqlo US Staffers

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A Uniqlo store in New York. Photo by Brian Harkin for <a href="http://ny.racked.com/archives/2013/07/11/uniqlo_will_open_in_brooklyn_and_staten_island.php">Racked NY</a>.
A Uniqlo store in New York. Photo by Brian Harkin for Racked NY.

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The world of Uniqlo is a bit strange. The Japanese retailer has experimented with robot sales associates and clothing vending machines. They have a hairstyle website and a recipe app. They have plans to take over the world with their remarkably low-priced denim, Heattech innerwear and quirky T-shirts. But strangest of all might be the retailer's ultra-strict sales associate training program, as detailed recently on the Huffington Post.

Whispers about Uniqlo's stringent strategies began swirling when the chain began examining locations for a store in Los Angeles. At the time, it was said that prospective managers would need to take a six-month trip to Japan to be schooled in the ways of Uniqlo. As HuffPo explains, even hourly sales associates must complete an intensive—though not six-months-long intensive—training program before hitting the sales floor.

They're taught posture, dress code, and that they must smile. In the U.S., workers must dress in all black. On day one, they must memorize the "Six Standard Phrases" to be used constantly with customers ("Thank you for waiting" and "Hi, my name is Bill, I'm here to help you.").

Not least, they must pass the folding test, which ensures that each employee is able to fold and stack clothes following Uniqlo's stringent guidelines. Every piece must be folded against one's body and stacked as straight as possible. Stacks receive a letter grade, A through D.

In addition, staffers said that they had to remember strange behavioral items, such as returning credit cards to customers with two hands, and were tasked with continuously maintaining Uniqlo's exacting standards of organization and cleanliness. "If there's a shirt sitting by itself on this table and I walk past it, it's a big deal," said one. "You're held accountable."
· Inside Uniqlo, The Japanese Company With Designs On Dressing The World [HuffPo]
· Uniqlo Explains Why They've Been Dodging the Midwest [Racked]
· Uniqlo Confirms Five New US Store Openings This Spring [Racked]