“He started asking me these questions: ‘Are you here by yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?'” Ms Qin said.
“He kind of stood there persistently asking questions. I was just sitting there and he was standing in front of me so I couldn’t get up.
“It was pretty confronting.”
Ms Qin said she recognised the man’s methods after a similar run-in outside Sydney’s Town Hall station and believed ‘pick-up artists’ were common in the CBD area.
Another customer, Claire, said she had been approached a “couple of years back” in the store.
“He spoke really closely to me and it was like he had a script of questions to ask, but floundered when I asked him questions,” Claire said.
“He continued to follow me for a while and it took me time to shake him off with a fake phone call.
“I just wanted to get away.”
A book lover, Claire said the encounter ruined her experience of the bookstore that day.
“It was annoying to have such a haven like Kinokuniya invaded … I left the store feeling uncomfortable,” she said.
On Friday afternoon, Kinokuniya apologised to customers via social media, saying they had found out about the dating coaches’ actions “much to our dismay”.
Kinokuniya managing director Kawai Yusuke said his company had learnt they were targets after receiving online feedback.
Staff had also noticed that some customers were being pressured into “interactions that seemed forced”.
“[The ‘pick-up artists’] come into the store as a small group,” Mr Yusuke said. “[T]hen they separate and interrupt people who are browsing in the store trying to engage them in conversations which it seems are being monitored by their trainers.”
Damien Diecke, head of School of Attraction in Sydney, said it was common for dating coaches to take their clients on practice runs.
There was always a risk something could go wrong, Mr Diecke said.
“It’s always a dangerous area to try and teach men to talk to women, you’ve got to be pretty careful to not be harassing people,” he said. “Blocking them physically, keeping on forcing them [from] getting away. You just can’t be doing that.”
Mr Diecke’s school was not involved in the Kinokuniya incident.
“We don’t go into stores as part of our coaching process. We’re not trying to create situations where we’re hurting businesses,” he said.
There are several dating coaches in Sydney, who promise to teach their mostly male clients how to seduce attractive women and develop social skills.
Janek Drevikovsky is an intern journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.