I have discovered gold in Taiwan…a cultural phenomenon if you will…a panacea to end all panacea…I have found a place – under one roof- like nowhere else in the world…
I have found a place where you can order concert tickets and pick them up at this place
I have found a place where you can order books (or anything else) and pick them up at this place
I have found a place where you can order food from a restaurant and pick it up at this place
I have found a place where you can pay your utility bills, cell phone bill, credit card bill, or your parking tickets
I have found a place where you can have your photos developed
I have found a place that handles all postal-type services
I have found a place where you can get espresso, cappuccino, and lattes just like Starbucks makes them (using the same machines)
I have found a place where you can refill your subway transit card
I have found a place where you can buy t-shirts, deodorant, all sorts of food and drink – including beer, wine, and sake.
I have found a place, that in a sea of darkness – is the light…
Ladies an Gentlemen – I give you… 7-11
Yes – THAT 7-11. In Taiwan, there are over 4,000 of them, and it seems like 3,998 of them are in Taipei. In fact, I have been in one area where I could see three of them without moving.
But, this is not your USA 7-11…these are clean, well-run and well-oiled machines. The first thing you will notice is they are well-staffed – probably 3-4 employees in a space 1/3 to ¼ the size of a USA 7-11 (Actually, many places in Taipei are like this – very low employee to customer ratios). The door makes a bell noise when opened and everyone – and I mean everyone – is greeted by the staff on the sound of the door with “Huan-Yin-Kuang-Lin” which means “Welcome”.
The next thing you notice is what bright, happy, and clean these places are – eat off the floor clean…Morris Day clean…your high school girlfriend clean (ok, maybe not your high school girlfriend). Even in remote villages, these places are pristine. Once you start to look around, you notice an overwhelming variety of things to buy – from beer, and snacks (some the same as the US, some different) to shirts, drugs, and the obligatory condom collection.
But when I found out they use the same coffee & coffee equipment as the Starbucks in Taipei (and NO I have not been to a Starbucks here – but more on that later) – and then I found out you can pay your bills and get food delivered there, it finally made sense to me to call this a “true” convenience store – and I’m shocked no one has tried this in the USA.
All over Asia, 7-11’s are a true phenomenon…in Thailand, they exist as air-conditioned relief (although I have never been to Thailand). In Singapore, I am unsure about the bill-paying part, but they are equally dense – just not as nice. But as everything in Singapore, they are spotless (In fact, I saw a Singapore employee do what I have NEVER – and I mean NEVER seen a convenience store employee do) – he was going through perishable items and discarding ones that were past their expiration date…wow.
And since they are on just about every corner, they are great places to buy the beer for the BYOB, “would never exist in the USA” food stalls…
Ladies and Gentlemen – Huan-Yin-Kuang-Lin to 7-11, TAIWAN STYLE!