100 yen shops and the concept of value


Posted by jamie | Posted in Shopping | Posted on 25-03-2009

value : relative worth, merit, or importance

In the world of 100 yen stores around every corner, it’s important that we take a moment to reiterate the meaning of value and to not be fooled into thinking cheaper is better. When I first came to Japan, I believed that 100 yen stores were quite possibly the greatest thing since sliced bread the iPod. How wrong I was. Now, I only purchase items of value.

The hook:

100 yen stores sell a few key items significantly cheaper than regular stores, and they lose money on them. These are designed to hook you in. Then they sell you lots of other items that are both lower in quantity and of a lower quality, and make their profit by selling you lots of them. You go in for a hook (literally), and come out with stationery, plastic bathroom and kitchen trays of all assorted sizes and random snacks. You just got mugged, mate.

Plastic fantastic:

Most 100 yen shop items are plastic, and are designed to be replaced in less than a few months. The amount of plastic trash in landfill sites and incernerators because of cheap and poor quality throw-away goods sold in these stores is simply overwhelming. Plastic also degrades faster than other materials so pretty soon it’ll be looking horrid – but who cares, you can just buy another one right?

If you didn’t know, I also help out with a removals service for foreigners leaving Japan – so I have first hand experience of what gets trashed first. The simple fact is that when it comes to selling stuff when you leave Japan, or even giving it away, no one will take the cheap used plastic stuff because they can just as easily buy their own for the same amount of effort. Real quality items though – those with value – can always be given away or sold easily.

Pay more, but get a greater value:

Having moved house at the weekend, we forgot to bring the little triangle thing you put in the sink to catch food scraps (what is that called?!) and our first thought was the 100 yen shop. However, I made the concious decision to instead buy a nice quality aluminium one from our local NIKKU hobby shop instead, for about 600 yen – 6 times as much as a horrible plastic one from the 100 yen shop! Why did I do this when the obvious frugal choice would have the 100 yen shop? Because it will last longer and will no doubt travel with us next time we move, it looks a lot nicer and matches the shiny new kitchen sink, and when it does eventually outlive it’s lifespan it will be easily recycled as scrap metal. Being frugal doesn’t mean purchasing cheap – it means purchasing value. I wish I had some actual statistic on how much chemicals I just saved from being released into the air when those cheapy plastic things are incinerated, but I don’t.

Please, please, think twice before you make your next 100 yen shop purchase. Is the item really something of value? Will it last more than a few months? Is it just an impulse buy? Does it seem too good to be true?

Comments (18)

It should also be noted that some items in the 100 yen stores can be bought cheaper in the San-A or Jusco store which is invariably nearby. So be careful – things are cheap there but you can sometimes find even cheaper.

Thanks for the comment Dave; indeed an important point that I missed.

Lesson here – stop shopping at the hundred yen store!

Plenty of stuff in a 100-yen shop provides good cost-performance. From clothes hangars to cups and silverware to umbrellas to bento boxes, there’s a ton of stuff that is fundamentally identical in quality to something you’d find at Tokyu hands for ten or more times the price.

Hi nice to meet you.
I’m a Japanese man.

Low price products give us low values, I think.
But I sometimes buy some products at a 100-yen shop. Some products are useful and the others are not good. If you can distinguish good products from bad products, 100-yen shops will give you benefits.

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Don’t feel *too* guilty about your burnable garbage. In many parts of Japan, the incinerators are now designed to extract and recycle the chemicals emitted by burning plastic… hence those huge smokestacks with nothing coming out.

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