Each time I go to Japan, I get more accustomed there and more bold. My language skills usually go along with this, so in recent visits, I do a lot of errands or traveling without help from my wife. I mention this because her family in Kawasaki City live near a 7-11 store, and I frequently go there to pick up food, or drinks like Boss Coffee (or more recently cold Oolong Tea), and that part of Kawasaki doesn’t have a lot of foreigners so I am easy to recognize.
I love 7-11 in Japan (and by extension all convenience stores). They have awesome snacks, 7-11 brand drinks which are delicious and cheap, plus the 7-11 ATMs allow foreign cards to be used, which is immensely helpful. I love getting their packaged sandwiches (especially kareipan or “curry bread”) and the 7-11 brand of natto. When my daughter was younger, she drank 7-11 branded soy milk a lot too just because she loved it. Plus the stores are always very clean and friendly, and will even hold open a door for you.
Anyhow, on this last trip in 2011-2012, I had to buy some nail clippers and some more canned coffee (and snacks for daughter). When I got home, I couldn’t find the nail clippers, so I assumed I had somehow lost them. I went back the next day, and to my surprise, they had saved the nail clippers for me, and as soon as they saw me2 they came over and apologized for not packing them in the bag by accident.
I was pretty surprised by this. It was a ¥350 pair of clippers ($4 in the US):
…but they had gone out of their way to save them and apologize for the mistake. I told them I was really grateful and that their service was awesome.
If this happened in the US, I doubt they would save the clippers for me overnight like this unless the employee was particularly dedicated. The problem in the US isn’t that people are mean or particularly selfish, internationally we tend to enjoy a reputation for being friendly and warm-hearted (or so I get the impression), it’s just that service tends to be inconsistent and depend on the employee.3
Even though sometimes service in Japan can be really contrived or even artificial, it’s nice to have a level of consistency that you can expect even in your neighborhood convenience store.
Between the great service, awesome snacks and friendly ATMs, 7-11 in Japan will continue to be my favorite konbini.
1 Likewise, Denny’s in the US is kind of low-end food, but in Japan is a nice family dining. The contrast would surprise you.
2 My wife teased me about this saying that the only reason they saved my nail clippers is because I go there so often, and am “easy to recognize”. ;-p
3 A Chinese co-worker of mine also once pointed out that in the US, you can definitely get good service, but only if you can afford it. I have to admit he had a good point… which is kind of sobering.