Convenience stores in Taiwan are second-to-none in terms of density and quality of service. As compared to what people can normally buy at their local convenience store, Taiwan’s stores offer a far greater variety of services to their customers. One of the things that people miss most about life in Taiwan is its convenience stores.
Convenience stores are everywhere in Taiwan. They can be found on major streets and small alleys, as well as in sports arena, universities, Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations, hospitals, train stations, airports, post office, and office buildings — you name it.
It’s not uncommon to see two convenience stores situated right across the street from, or even next to, each other. Take Taipei’s Main Station, for instance. There are a total of about 10 convenience stores inside the station, including four 7-Eleven convenience stores in the main hall.
According to the statistics provided by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, by the end of May 2016, there were 10,199 convenience stores across the country. That translates to one store for every 2,304 people, which is the highest convenience store density in the world, followed by Japan’s one store for every 2,317 persons.
In addition to various kinds of drinks, snacks, newspaper, magazines, and cigarettes, Taiwan’s convenience stores also offer an array of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, such as lunch box, rice balls, sandwiches, hot dogs, steamed buns, Japanese dumpling soup (關東煮) or Oden (黑輪), tea eggs (茶葉蛋), roasted sweet potato (烤蕃薯), as well as local delicacy gift boxes, fresh fruits, fresh ground coffee, and soft-serve ice cream (霜淇淋).
Customers can also pay their bills at convenient stores, be it utilities, cable TV, Internet, parking, tuition, insurance, and even traffic tickets, taxes, and credit cards. Customers can also send packages, copy and fax documents, buy train tickets, book concert tickets, print photos, drop off their clothes for dry-cleaning, renew their drivers licenses, pick up online orders, borrow library books, and check their blood pressure at convenient stores.
Most convenience stores in Taiwan have an ATM machine and a dining area, and many of them provide free Wi-Fi and many other services, such as child care, door key depositing, trash collection, taxi services, and the redemption of Taiwan Receipt Lottery Winnings (統一發票換獎) for the smallest amount (NT$200 or US$7).
In the run-up to major holidays, such as Lunar New Year Eve, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Moon Festival, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, customers can order a wide variety of ready-to-eat dishes, sticky rice dumplings, moon cakes, and Mother’s or Father’s Day cakes at convenience stores.
People in Taiwan rely on convenience stores, where they can buy food, drinks, and basic household items, as well as take advantage of a wide range of services 24 hours a day. They have become so accustomed to convenient stores, they are like a mobile phone, that is, they cannot think of life without them!