So, since you guys know that I’m in Taiwan, I think it’s important to touch on the convenience stores here. Like Japan, Taiwan’s convenience stores are quite well known for their…”convenience”?
Taiwan, despite its fairly small area, has an abundance of convenience store chains. Whether it’s a 7-11, a Family Mart, a Hi-Life, or even an OK Mart, it is hard to literally go a block or two in Taiwan without seeing a store. Obviously, in the rural areas, the saturation is not as dense, but you’d still be surprised to find a random store in the middle of nowhere.
Aside from the incredible amount of convenience stores, bigger chains such as 7-11 offer a plethora of services. In fact, 7-11 offers a dry cleaning service, mail delivery service, bill payment service, and many MANY more. No, I’m not lazy to list them all out, it’s just that there’s actually so many I don’t know what exactly to list.
Honestly, ask any Taiwanese person. They probably can’t survive without their local 7-11. I guess you can say that’s a whole new level of “convenience”.
As posted in the photo above, 7-11 is actually big enough to have its own mascot. Open-chan, the dog with the rainbow head-band is even actually popular enough to have its own merchandise. While you’d think that’s an outrageous marketing idea…like…isn’t 7-11 just a freaking convenience store?…but most people actually buy into this stuff. For example, I myself have an Open-chan pillow and so does my girlfriend. To attest to the variety of available mascot merchandise, there’s even a Nanoblock Open-chan you can get. Jesus.
Back onto the topic of how 7-11 functions like a post office, most online stores offer a shipping option for “ship to a particular 7-11”. This option is actually more miraculous than it sounds. Not only do you not have to sign for the package or wait for it at home, the package will be delivered either same day or within one business day. On top of that, you can have a pay-in-cash option where you don’t have to pay until you can inspect the goods for yourself in-person.
Comparatively, in the US, Amazon charges a premium for “Prime”, which at best offers “free 2-day” shipping on select items. To get same-day or one-day shipping, existing Prime users will have to shell out an additional $5.99+. You probably once thought that was a pretty good deal, eh? Not anymore.
Unlike the pathetic US 7-11s, the 7-11s (and other stores) in Taiwan all offer a variety of imported drinks. Yes, we have a vast majority of the same drinks as the ones you can find at the 7-11s in the US, but the Taiwan 7-11s actually have a large selection of drinks from Japan. In addition, there’s also beer and other alcoholic drinks from several European countries. As reckless as this sounds, I don’t care to list them all because I’m not a big fan of them. Regardless, one can never get used to all the choices available, not to mention that the choices almost always have some variation each season.
Continuing on with my bashing of the US 7-11s, their Taiwan counter parts actually offer food that’s not instant noodles or bland/stale sandwiches. We actually have microwaveable “fresh” food. The variety of these bentos range anywhere from mapo tofu to katsu don. In addition, we also have popcorn chicken or rice triangles. If I seriously ate from 7-11 each meal of the week, I don’t think I would be able to exhaust all the available options
While the bentos aren’t TOO expensive, keep in mind that the portions aren’t too large, the taste isn’t “fabulous”, but when you need something warm and nutritious while being limited on time, you’ll learn to appreciate them. Furthermore, bentos aren’t the only thing that has a wide selection. In addition, there’s also plenty of dessert choices. In the picture above, you can observe 4 types of pudding alone. That should put things in perspective.
Aside from pre-made bentos, there’s also fresh oden to enjoy. 7-11s don’t always have them available, but when they ARE available, it’s actually quite amazing. On a personal note, I love the 7-11 tea eggs. They have been my favorite since I was in kindergarten. If you’re ever in Taiwan, do yourself a favor and eat a couple.
Yeah, every now and then 7-11 always gets a top model to promote some of their stuff. Right now it’s like some girl called “Puff Kuo”. Not my pick, but whatever. I guess that really helps put into perspective of how seriously 7-11 takes their marketing.
Anyways, to wrap things up, you guys can probably tell that a Taiwanese person pretty much only needs a 7-11 to survive. In fact, some 7-11s actually offer showers and ample seating that can easily be used to crash at. Other features such as “Wifly” are also available at many chains.
You might wonder why I’m talking specifically about 7-11. No, I don’t have “favorites”, but undoubtedly 7-11 is the biggest chain. I tend to like Family Mart more purely because I’m sort of a hipster, but they have an even more diversified selection than 7-11. Regardless, the concept of convenience stores in Taiwan are vastly different than that of the US.
So…if any of you guys have a chance to visit a convenience store in Taiwan, be prepared to be amazed!
P.S. In actuality, not all chain stores are as “complex”. Some just offer the product and no additional services (such as those near residential areas), but you’d still be amazed at the products you can find.
P.P.S I apologize for the mediocre photo quality and also a lack of Cryska. Most Taiwanese businesses do not allow you to take photos of their operations. Personally, I think that’s just so people can’t complain or sue as easily, but rules are rules.