10 Extra Conveniences at Convenience Stores in Taiwan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first came to Taiwan in 2009, I felt somewhat secure about being able to find basic necessities when I noticed all the 7-11’s here. In fact, there are a LOT of 7-11’s here.  In fact, Taiwan was the highest density of convenience stores in the world. In addition to 7-11, there are three other chains:  Hi-Life, OK, and Family Mart.

Now just to give you an idea of how many stores there are, a bus ride from downtown to the bus stop near my apartment takes about 20 minutes. Looking out the windows during that bus ride, I counted 23 convenience stores. They’re almost everywhere!

On my first morning waking up in Taiwan, I only had to walk half a block from the room I was staying to an OK convenience store on the corner, where I got one of the standards we expect from a convenience store–a nice cup of coffee. As that was all I had money for at the time — I was changing my money over later that day, I didn’t really notice anything too different about what the store carried compared to convenience stores in the US, with the main difference being things were in a language I didn’t understand. However, in Taiwan, some things are in English as well as Chinese.

Now that I’ve been in Taiwan for five years, I am amazed at what can be accomplished at a convenience store. Even when I think I’ve heard just about everything, someone will tell me about another thing that can be done at one of these stores. So I thought it would be fun to give you a list of ten things that make Taiwan convenience stores REALLY convenient. In addition, almost all of them are open 24 hours.

  1. When I wanted to get tickets for this year’s Shen Yun performance in Taiwan (Chinese traditional dance)  in March, I went to our local convenience store (on the same block that we live). I used their electronic kiosk system called IBON to access the theater seating chart, typed in the two seats I wanted, and printed the seat numbers. I took it to the clerk and paid for the seats. She then printed the tickets and handed them to me in an envelope, all set for the night of the performance. I’ve also purchased train tickets that way.
  2. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you park a car on the street in Taiwan, their are traffic people who go around with an electronic gizmo that allows them to put in the license plate and print a ticket with the parking fee printed on it. Since parking is paid by the half hour, the ticket might be replaced later by a larger fee if you are there for a longer period of time. When you get back to your car, you take the slip from the windshield and treat it as a bill, which can be paid — AT ANY CONVENIENCE STORE.
  3. Utility bills (electricity, gas, water), as well as bills for cell phones and internet can be paid at any convenience store, as long as you pay before the due date. If you are late, you have to go directly to the utility office to pay. It only takes one time of forgetting to pay attention to due dates.  haha.
  4. Convenience stores are a collection spot for dead batteries. You save up batteries and just take them with you when you go to the convenience store.
  5. Most convenience stores have ATMs. You may not think that’s such a big deal. But ATMs in Taiwan are something else again. Not only can you withdraw funds and check your balance. You can pay people if you have their bank account numbers. Now before you get all crazy, you can’t take money FROM people, but you can deposit money INTO their accounts. So, for example, when we go to pay our utility bills, we can also use the ATM to transfer money from our account to our landlord’s account and pay the rent. And you get a receipt. I’ve had people transfer money to me that way, too. It’s pretty awesome!
  6. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor Chinese New Year, it’s customary to bring gifts when you go to people’s homes. The convenience stores provide a wide variety of such gifts. In addition, you can order meals for the Chinese New Year holiday (and Moon Festival as well). You order and pay in advance. Then you come in the day of your reservation and pick up your food. For Mother’s Day, you can do something similar with cakes. Pre-order and then pick up that weekend. (SEE NOTE BELOW!)
  7. Dry Cleaning. I kid you not. Take your laundry to your local convenience store, and return a day or two later and pick up your clean clothes.
  8. If you order something from an online vendor or an online auction, you can have it delivered to your local 7-11. You don’t have to do any money transaction online–you pay when you pick up your item at 7-11.
  9. Many convenience stores can provide photocopy service, as well as faxes and photo development.
  10. Top off your Easy Pay Card. (I will do a post about this card in my next Taiwan post, but there is a link for those who don’t want to wait.)

There you have it! Real convenience. However, you have to go to an actual lottery outlet to buy lottery tickets, but since I don’t buy lottery tickets at convenience stores in the US, I don’t notice that lack of opportunity. I have not taken advantage of all the services listed above, but I may try a few more in the next year. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Taiwanese convenience stores. One last peek: here is a YouTube video about 7-11 in Taiwan.

 

NOTE:  In Taiwan, Mother’s Day is celebrated the same day as it is in the US, but Father’s Day is celebrated on August 8. It has to do with the Chinese word for father and the Chinese word for eight.  August 8 = 8/8.  Eight in Chinese is ba.  And ba ba (8/8) is father. I don’t get the tones in Chinese, so if I have this language stuff wrong, someone can correct me in the comments.  😉

 

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24 comments on “10 Extra Conveniences at Convenience Stores in Taiwan

  1. Wow, that’s awesome. 7-11 is almost like a super store there. The parking fee sounds annoying though but good thing it is easy to deal with after the fact. Thanks for sharing, it is fun to read about things like this. 🙂

    • It’s weird because I’ve been thinking about writing that post for a while, and I had a few notes. But then, I discovered new things, and so it became the list of ten — far more than I had originally planned on. Now I have this urge to shadow a worker for a few hours and see what life is like for someone who works in a place that offers that many “conveniences.” Don’t worry, I get crazy ideas all the time, and I eventually stop myself. 😉

    • Someone in Taiwan commented to me (on Facebook) that it’s an insane place to work because of all the different things they have to account for. I guess there’s a downside to everything. But I agree with you — a FEW added conveniences in the US stores would be nice. 🙂

  2. I am so happy I’ve found your blog and just realized you live in Taiwan, a place I may never get to visit…so interesting to see the culture through your eyes. Dry cleaning and battery recycling at 7-11? A whole new meaning to the term “convenience store”. Loved this.

    • That’s what I love about this community–you always discover someone new to share things with. I am enjoying your blog as well. 🙂

      I mentioned this in a couple other comments, but after I posted the piece on convenience stores, I found out that if you want to send a package, you can do that at a convenience store too. Delivery companies then pick up from them. It just keeps getting more “convenient.” 😉

  3. I love Asian convenience stores! That’s the thing I find most fascinating about other cultures, what their shops are like.

    • That’s so true. Shopping in another country is always interesting. I am going to work on a post at some point, regarding my fabric shopping in this country. Might be interesting. 🙂

      I have some catching up to do on your posts. I hope to be back real soon. 🙂

  4. As someone who has never traveled outside the US (except a couple of long-ago trips to Mexico, which doesn’t really count) I found this fascinating. The convenience stores around me are not so convenient… perhaps I’d visit them if the were 🙂 Really, paying bills, dry cleaning and transferring money all in one place while you grab a snack… that IS convenient!

    • It’s amazing to me how long I was here before I got the full extent of how convenient they are. I think it was only during my second year that I found out about battery collection, and I thought that was amazing. The day that I was having trouble buying performance tickets online and then found out I could just go downstairs to the convenience store and get them there — there was a real WOW! After I posted that piece, I found out that you can also take packages to be shipped to a convenience store. Who would have thought?

  5. American Father’s Day coincided (the year I was there) with National take Out The Trash Day in Japan. My students, the wives of rich businessmen thought this was particularly funny. They all had children. Lots of jokes were created with Japanese words plays that I didn’t understand, but when translated to English…. There goes Dad into the recycle bin … 😀

    • Language and culture is so interesting. I think back to how much I’ve learned in my time here. And I still learn things. When I leave Taiwan, I will have many wonderful memories of the people and their culture. I like hearing about your experiences in other cultures, too. Life is so rich!

    • It never felt like I didn’t have a home base. The first two years I was here, my husband was still in the US in our home. When we dismantled everything for the third year, and he then joined me, it was like Taiwan WAS our home base. Now we are just getting ready to change our home base again a year from now. Also, I had been to Taiwan before for a visit–had even visited the university where I now work, so it never felt like just jumping into a totally unknown situation. If that makes sense. 🙂

  6. That was such an awesome, interesting post. I love your posts about Taiwan. I could feel your nervousness at first and then getting a grasp on everything. That’s pretty cool. 😉

    • Thanks! It helped that people were so helpful in getting me acclimated to things. But when it comes to convenience stores, it’s like there’s always something to learn. It’s interesting that some people in Taiwan were surprised at some of the things I had in that post. THEY didn’t know. haha

  7. Wow – the name convenience stores doesn’t do them justice does it? They sound more like a ‘do everything’ kind of store. Fabulous – wish they had them here in the UK. 🙂

    • Yeah, it’s amazing. After I posted that, I realized I had forgotten things. Or rather, there were things I didn’t realize. You can drop off packages for shipment there. And now, they even have their own cell phone cards. It’s just unbelievable.

    • Convenience stores is one of those things that I kept learning more and
      more about. I had to write about it since it was hard to explain
      otherwise. It’s amazing what you can do there. Plus there are all the
      food and drink choices, which we think of with convenience stores, but
      with all these other services, sometimes I forget the normal things you
      can buy there. haha

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