Everyone that has been to Japan and entered a convenience store must have noticed that in addition to the items you can purchase, there are a few services that are most indispensable to everyday life. In this article, I will focus on 5 of the most interesting of them that I found while living in Japan.
This service saved my life over and over again. The copy machine exists in every convenience store, available 24/7. If your stay in Japan is temporary, investing in a printer is not an option, but luckily, you can use a copy machine at any time, without needing someone to assist you. Need to print a photo or document, copy something or even send a fax? You simply need to select the printing/copying options. But here is where it gets interesting: you can print from a vast option of devices, from USB memory sticks and storage cards to wireless devices. But what if you don’t own any of these devices? You can make your own account on the convenience store website (no charges for the handling service) and just upload your documents there. Then simply go to the store and log in to your account at the copy machine and your uploaded documents will show up there. Once you select all the options you need for your desired service, the machine will sum up the total amount of payment, and you can insert the money in a built-in slot. The machine can also print out a receipt if you wish.
Have you ever got in the unpleasant situation of forgetting to withdraw some cash and then realize it’s the weekend and the banks/post office are closed and you have no money for groceries and your fridge is empty? Don’t despair, cause if you are living in Japan, then there is a solution for everything! The ATMs are available in any convenience store, and they are available at any time of day and night. Now, if you have a Japanese bank account, you can usually withdraw at any such store, but if you only own a bank account from overseas, it could be a bit tricky as not all of them accept international credit cards. Also, you have to keep in mind that these ATMs usually charge you a fee for withdrawing, especially if you have a different bank account. The charges differ from your type of bank account to the hour of the withdrawal (usually the charge is lower in the morning and higher in the afternoon). But if you are in an urgent situation, they are a blessing, even if they charge you a few hundred yen more, right?
One of my favorite ones. Notice that I didn’t write “bills paying system”. That’s because you can pay way more than bills at the convenience store’s counters. For example, let’s say you bought something online. You can choose from the payment options the “convenience store payment” and you will receive instructions on how to pay once you get there. You can pay for it with no extra charges (as you would in many cases if you would choose “cash on delivery” option instead). You can pay from online shopping to bus/plane tickets, or any other kind of services, like hotels or vacations abroad. You can also recharge your prepaid cards, or pay your bills. Very convenient, don’t you think?
By far my favorite service. There are so many things you can use them for – buying tickets for games, shows, entrance tickets for theme parks or events, recharging your prepaid phone, confirming your online shopping order and much more. Here is how they work:
I mentioned above that if you chose the “convenience store payment” option, you will be guided on how to pay your bill at the convenience store. The methods vary from one store to another, but the main thing you have to do is go to the loppi machine, choose the option for payment, insert your ID number (provided in the email that confirms your online shopping), and insert your phone number. Now the screen will show you your name, the service you are purchasing and the amount you have to pay. After you verify this information and make sure it’s right, a receipt will be printed from the machine. Now the only thing you have to do is take this piece of paper to the counter within 30 minutes of its issue, and pay it, but don’t worry if you don’t pay it within the allocated time. You can always do the process at the loppi again, at any time. After you pay, you will get another, special receipt at the counter. In some convenience stores, you can just use the QR code from your email by bringing your phone’s screen up to the loppi, and it will print your receipt automatically. Easy!
In the end, I want to tell you about the small details that every convenience store has to offer, that simply make our everyday life better. Just imagine that you had a long hard day, it’s raining and cold, and all that you go back home to is an empty room, and you are hungry but too busy to cook something. You just get into the nearby convenience store, head to the warm rack and grab a hot tea bottle. You may notice that, and as you get in, you will be greeted by the store clerks with “irasshaimase!” (welcome!). Then you get some pre-made food, like lasagna or a hamburger and head towards the counter as you also grab an umbrella on your way. There, the always kind shop assistant will ask you if you want your food heated. If you do, he or she will heat your meal in the microwave behind the counter, and will never fail to add a spoon/fork/chopsticks (it depends on the type of food you are buying) in your shopping bag. If you buy a carton of flavored milk, you will also get a straw. ( Although, if you are a foreigner, they will often ask you which you prefer between a fork and chopsticks, or sometimes just give you a fork without asking.) The food warming is a free service, and so is the plastic cutlery for your food. If it’s raining, they will ask you if you want to use the umbrella you are buying right away. If you do, they will cut the price tag so you can use it immediately. When you leave they will thank you and ask you to come again (and they will do this even if you don’t buy anything). Now you have an umbrella, warm food, and hot tea to make your day better!
These are the 5 services that I think are most interesting in a convenience store. But the most convenient thing about them is that they are available at any time. Whenever you have a stressful day, shopping at a convenience store in Japan might put a smile on your face, so if you ever go to Japan, don’t forget to experience them yourself.