Big (only) in Japan? Tape as proof of purchase

May 5th, 2010 by Daniel Morales

The tape on the handle of this bag keeps it closed and proves its been paid for.

The tape on the handle of this bag keeps it closed and proves it’s been paid for.

While Japanese government is keen to promote its green policies, the country does go through a lot of shopping bags. If you buy boxes of sweets as souvenirs, generally the company will ask how many bags you would like, enabling you to deliver the goods to multiple individuals still bagged. Order a set meal to go, or even just a coffee to go, at a fast food restaurant, and you might find yourself with a bag containing another bag which holds your beverage. Purchase a single item at a convenience store, and you will be offered a bag. Some people collect brand-name bags for reuse as posh purses.

One exception to this bag-centric culture is tape. Japanese stores use tape to seal the bag, either by binding the handles or taping the top of the bag shut. While the tape does help prevent the bag from reopening, it also serves as a useful proof of purchase.

Good to go: This yogurt has been paid for.

Taped and good-to-go yogurt

When you purchase a single item at a convenience store in Japan, you may be offered a bag, but depending on the item, the clerk may ask, “Is just tape OK?” If you decline a bag, the staff will instead adhere a small piece of tape to the product to signal that you have followed the laws of capitalism and provided the proper amount of currency in exchange for the item.

You can do your part by asking for tape. If you have space in your backpack or handbag, practice using the phrase “Sono mama de ii desu” (“It’s fine like that.”) Alternatives would be “Tape/shiiru de ii desu” (Just tape/a sticker is fine”). Each time you use one of these phrases, you’ll be avoiding excess use of plastic. On the other hand, the bags are reusable as trash bags. That is, if you live in a municipality that doesn’t have special bags that are used to throw out different types of trash.

Do they use tape as proof of purchase where you live? Do you know of any other interesting receipt replacements? Let us know.

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5 Responses

  1. In the U.S. the large retail stores that sell large boxed items will place tape on the box to prove it was purchased. This only applies to items that won’t fit into a bag.

  2. Even after more than 10 years in Japan, I find the practice annoying. But it is not just the tape per se. It is that they do not put the receipt in the bag, but rather hand it to you with your change, anticipating that you are likely a woman with a purse who dutifully keeps and records each purchase in a family budget notebook… but I am a man and just want to leave with the assurance that if I somehow must reexamine the receipt I will be able to find it… and want to keep it together with the purchase in question. Just stick it in the bag? If only it were not taped shut…

  3. The only American place I can recall that uses tape/stickers as proof of purchase is Dillards. Every little yellow sticker they have has a little scany bar on it, so when you purchase the item, the cashier scans that code, attaching it to your purchase in the computer. It is meant to keep people from shoplifting something and then trying to return it without receipt.

    Other than that, not sure I’ve ever seen it. Then again, I don’t do an incredible amount of purchasing of items in stores on the same… financial-requirement level as Dillards.

  4. I’ve had them put tape on large items too, like a bag of rice, case of soda, or larger items pretty much at any store I’ve shopped in the U.S.

    I like the tape in Japan, it makes sense. Of course, I can see someone stealing a roll of the tape and just using it to steal more things.

    As far as handing the receipt to you with your change… where do you put your change? “you are likely a woman with a purse who dutifully keeps and records each purchase in a family budget notebook”. Why are you making that sexist assumption? They are simply handing you your change and receipt. Stick it in your pocket like every other MAN! I do that, and I have the “assurance that if I somehow must reexamine the receipt I will be able to find it”. It’s in my pocket. Right next to my body. If I REALLY need to re-examine it, I can reach in and, WOW, there it is!

  5. Same taping in Hong Kong. Especially now more popular as the government introduced a minimum charge on shopping bags and so people carry items with only tape on.

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