If there's a convenience store nearby, what's there to worry about? That's what young Japanese people say. And maybe they are right-the stores keep on introducing new services every year, becoming so convenient that they are changing consumer habits in Japan.
One example is the touch screen monitors installed in many stores. Just touch the screen with your finger to reserve a hotel room and order all kinds of things, from concert tickets to airline tickets. In some stores you can touch in your order of CDs, videos, books, even a computer. Or use the monitor to look for a job in the online classified ads.
One chain, Lawson, offers a convenient health diagnosis kit. Press on the screen to order the kit, and it'll be delivered to you. Use the kit to take your own urine and blood samples, send them to the lab, and the results will be delivered to you soon.
Paying a telephone or utility bill at a convenience store is a snap, of course. Today many stores even have an automated teller machine (ATM), so you don't have to go to the bank to find out how much is in your account, or to deposit, withdraw or transfer funds. You can even borrow cash from some of the ATMs.
Another chain, Seven-Eleven, offers online shopping. Use your home computer to go to 7dream.com, and then choose from among approximately 800,000 products. The order will be delivered to the local store, and you can pick up the parcel whenever you wish. Before we had to wait at home when something was going to be delivered, but those days are gone now.
Convenience stores are leading the way in the online shopping industry. A spokeswoman for the am/pm chain, Kawashima Noriko, says, "The basic goal of our stores is to satisfy customers. Perhaps the most important feature of convenience stores in Japan is their willingness to listen to customers and adapt accordingly."
This touch screen monitor at a Seven-Eleven store is for the chain's 7 Navi system. Customers seem to like the digital photo printing service best. In addition to photographs, they can print personalized calendars and adhesive seals
In May 2001, Seven-Eleven launched a service called IY Bank. The automated teller machines (ATMs) give users access to their deposit accounts day and night, every day of the year.