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

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

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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