Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Convenience Stores

I know it isn't that original or anything, but I wanted to write a bit about convenience stores here in Taiwan. Taiwan has the highest density of convenience stores in the world with one store per 2800 people(Japan is Taiwan's closest competitor with one store per 3000). In practice this means that most city blocks here in Taipei have at least one, and it is not unusual to see two competing stores almost side- by-side. There are five main chains that I see here: 7-11, Family Mart, Hi-Life, OK, and Nikomart. But they are really all about the same; two convenience stores of roughly the same size will carry basically the same products, regardless of the name on the sign.

There are differences between what a Taiwanese convenience store will carry compared to one in the US though. In addition to all the drinks and snacks, you can buy computer games in convenience stores here. They also sell things like usb hubs, mice, magazines that aren't targeted at truck drivers, and fairly expensive bottles of liquor. Oh, and boxer shorts. Now, if you happen to be out and about in the city and suddenly need a new pair of boxers... well, I'd say that is pretty convenient. Selling computer peripherals is pretty convenient as well, especially if you use a computer as much as the Taiwanese seem to. The fact that Taiwan is still primarily a cash-based society has even opened up the opportunity of allowing you to pay your bills at convenience stores.

In short, convenience stores here allow for a lot more possibilities when it comes to 'convenience store runs.' Not only are the ubiquitous beer and cigarette runs accounted for and present -- this isn't just speculation on my part, I have witnessed the execution of a Taiwanese beer run by Taipei high schoolers -- but you also have 'Oh shit! My electric bill is due today' runs, 'Hell! My World of Warcraft game card expired and I'm almost 60' runs, and my personal favorite(though I don't know exactly how common among the natives) 'Damn I need some green tea and dorritos' runs.

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