By Todd Blackhurst
By far, 7-11 in Taiwan is one of the most unique convenience stores in the world. Your home country might have 7-11, or something similar, but it is probably not the same as what we have in Taiwan. I think Taiwan’s 7-11’s are the best in the world.
If you are new to Taiwan, or have lived here for a long time, I hope after reading this article, you’ll be able to do more than just get a cup of coffee and something to snack on. Maybe you’ll even learn something you didn’t know before about 7-11 in Taiwan.
Before I get to the list, first a little bit about Taiwan’s 7-11’s. Currently in Taiwan, there are well over 5,000 7-11 stores. If you were to include all four of the major convenience store brands, (7-11, Family Mart, OK Mart & HI Life) that would bring the grand total of almost 11,000 convenience stores in Taiwan, each of which has a particular niche market. That means there is an average of one convenience store for every 2,300 people across the country, according to Statistics Department. Taiwan has the 2nd highest density of convenience stores in the world, only slightly behind Korea. Statistics also tell us that it takes only 2,200 people in a target area to support opening a new 7-11.
In Taiwan, 7-11 is the largest and according to their own research, 95% of the population lives within 500 meters of a 7-11. The Taiwan Uni-President Corporation owns and operates almost all of the 7-11 stores in Taiwan. Uni-President is also the largest food production company in Taiwan as well as all of Asia. Their portfolio also includes Starbucks, Mister Donut and Carrefour in Taiwan. In addition, they have the Uni-President Lions, a professional baseball team in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League. At the end of the article, I’ve got some other interesting facts about 7-11 in Taiwan.
Now, let’s get to the list of some of the great things you can do at 7-11 in Taiwan.
- You can EAT! Anything that they sell, they will also prepare on the spot. Noodles, frozen foods, etc., everything can be heated up or hot water added while you wait and either eaten at 7-11 or put in a lovely little to go carrier for you including the utensils you need to eat. Fresh food is delivered daily. If you go, be sure to browse the refrigerated section, the freezer and also the noodles. There are a seemingly unlimited number of choices which can satisfy a variety of tastes and preferences. 7-11 is constantly adjusting their choices and always adapting to the current trends in drinks and grab and go foods.
- Some 7-11’s even offer Coffee Delivery. Not everyone does and and for each store there is both a limited delivery radius and time they offer this service. Look for the coffee sign in the window or ask the clerk.
- Free Restrooms – look for the sign outside indicating they have restrooms, not all do. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a public restroom in Taiwan, but 7-11 has you covered.
- You can Pay your Bills! Including phone, electric, gas, water, health insurance, income tax, car tax, and any other bill that comes with a bar code. Just present the bill to the clerk and they will ring it up like any other item. Make your payment (in cash) and you are done. No more trips to the gas, phone, electric, cable or any other office.
- Use the ATM to Transfer Money to anyone or any business on the island (this isn’t unique to 7-11, but while you are there, it makes it more convenient). I have found that 7-11 ATM’s are also the most user friendly and best to use when trying to withdraw cash from an overseas account.
- Print Documents – Make photocopies, scan documents and send faxes. Every 7-11 has one of the latest and greatest full featured color laser copiers around. You can duplex, fold and staple, etc. This makes life so convenient because if you normally just print a few pages at a time, you don’t need to invest in a home printer. From your home computer or mobile device, just e-mail a copy of your document to email@example.com and you will in a few seconds receive an email back with a QR code you can scan at the IBON machine to print your document at any 7-11 in the country. If you aren’t sure what to do, just take the e-mail to 7-11 and ask for help from the attendant if you don’t read Chinese. You can also take a USB drive with your documents on them and print them that way. I will say from experience that I have found PDF files print the easiest and retain their formatting better than other documents.
- MAIL & SHIP – Use their express delivery services, just ask the attendant to help you prepare your package and send it across town, the island or the world. They have these handy envelopes that adjust to the size of the item, and even if you don’t speak, read or write Chinese, the attendants are super helpful and will help you fill out the information for the delivery slip. Just make sure you have the sender’s address and the receiver’s address in Chinese for them to see. Most on-item islands will be delivered next day – and you can even send things COD!
- Call a Taxi. Especially in those places where it’s hard to find a cab or maybe it’s late at night or if you don’t feel like standing on the street alone. Ask the attendant to help you use the iBon machine to call a taxi. You can also now use UBER in Taiwan – much easier for the non mandarin speaking expat. However, there are many places on the island where you will not find an UBER driver, so this option at 7-11 is a great help.
- Pay your parking tickets including those you lost. The iBon machine can help you look up tickets you may have lost or misplaced and print out a replacement so you can pay them all at 7-11!
- Recharge your phones voice or data plan. If you have a phone with a pay as you go plan, you can buy your refill cards at the iBon machine. This can be done with all of the major pay as you go services on the island.
- Buy bus, train, plane or THSR tickets. Also at the iBon machine.
- Buy concert or movie tickets using the iBon system.
- Recycle cd’s, batteries and mobile phones, glass bottles, etc. (Just take in a stack or bag and they will help you. You’ll get a store credit!)
- Add cash to your EasyCard, Yoyo card or iCash card – (the best card on the island for convenient access to the Youbike system, bus system and other mobile payments) You can also purchase a new card here.
- Take a nap (you won’t be the first – stay as long as you like, no one will give you a second look if you decide to take a little nap)
- You can buy local specialties 24/7, including banquets delivered directly to your door for that special occasion. Check out their seasonal catalogs which are released prior to every major Chinese holiday.
- Use APPLE & GOOGLE Pay as well as other types of electronic payment forms. 7-11 has been leading the way in cashless payment systems.
- Change your clothes. From fresh underwear to outerwear. Don’t worry if you have an accident or the weather changes and you need to adapt. 7-11 has you covered with a way to fix that wardrobe malfunction.
- 7-11 has mobile chargers you can rent and return at any other 7-11 if you find your device is running low on a charge.
A few more interesting facts about 7-11 you may or may not know.
- 80% of the 7-11 stores are franchised.
- 7-11 has the islands largest electronic database, which allows them to deliver goods and services around the clock, and almost every service is available at every store around the island.
- Not too long ago, they became too convenient. If you have lived in Taiwan for any amount of time at all, you know that breakfast shops in Taiwan are very popular, so some time ago 7-11 decided to try and get in on the breakfast sandwich business. It started offering its own version of a made to order breakfast sandwich. It became so popular, that lines at the check out counters were too long and 7-11 became inconvenient, so they had to discontinue offering the sandwich so they could go back to doing what they do best, being convenient.
- Finally – Did you know that the 7-11 mascot’s name is Open Chan? He’s an extra-terrestrial dog from the planet Open. You can find him hanging out in most 7-11’s.