Taiwan has a dubious honor: being the place with the highest density of 7-11’s in the world, and the probable winner of the place with the most convenience stores in the world. (I don’t want to get all controversial and say the “country” with the most convenience stores but you get my meaning, right?)
On paper, the density doesn’t sound so much: one store per 2,500 people. But on the street it translates to convenience stores just about everywhere. You don’t have to walk for more than a minute before passing one (unless of course you really need one, then they magically disappear.) There are often stores right next to each other, and sometimes even the same company across the street from each other.
And these stores are amazing. They truly take the concept of convenience to a whole new level. Of course you can buy all manner of pre-packaged foods and things like tissues, magazine and toothpaste. Most even have nice seating and free wi-fi to encourage you to stick around. Since they are so popular they have their own brands of foods and goods that are really good and super cheap. Things like nuts and beef jerky for a fraction of the price of the brand names.
But they go beyond just food. Companies have taken advantage of the access and now you can pay most of your utility bills, cell phone bills, credit card bills, etc at the stores. Even the government has got on board and you can pay your parking fees in the stores. You can also collect packages, book train tickets, buy a SIM card for your phone and other things. They will even help you take care of your garbage! (In Taiwan garbage collection is quite strict and not very convenient so busy people rely on the convenient stores to do it for them.)
I was hanging out with a Taiwanese guy and he was telling me all about how they have taken over in recent years. He said many of the services, such as the free wi-fi, cafe seating and other services have only sprung up over the past few years. But he loves it, and says he goes to one of these stores at least one a day. My American friend needed to deal with some important documents. She headed over to a convenience store and with the help of a local friend was able to take care of everything in a snap.
Of course with such a market saturation there is room for abuse. While 7-11 is the biggest company, there are actually only 5 major companies with stores all over the island. And the government keeps an eye on them. The Fair Trade commission regularly checks in one the convenience stores to make sure there isn’t price gouging or unfair monopolizing going on. They say it’s all clear, with room for expansion even! Or maybe the commissioner doesn’t want to lose the cheap snacks and free wi-fi of his local store.
So if the most convenience stores translate to the most convenient place, then Taiwan wins hands down!
Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker. Doing all three in China
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