Customers wonder if the chain is now selling “air” as a new rice ball filling.

With Japanese convenience store chains offering a lot of similar goods, like sandwiches, bentos, curry breads and rice balls, competition between them is fierce, making customer satisfaction a top priority to ensure repeat business.

However, 7-Eleven has recently come under fire for a string of complaints from dissatisfied customers, who’ve voiced their concerns over deceptive packaging–not once, not twice, but three times–and now there’s a fourth complaint, this time concerning the chain’s rice balls.

The issue came to light after photos began showing something strange with the chain’s “Shio Musubi” (“Salt Onigiri“), which usually comes with salted rice and no filling.

▼ Photo after photo revealed there was a mysterious hole in the centre of the rice balls.

Close-up photos showed this wasn’t a joke where people were sticking their fingers into the rice ball to create a hole, as the rice inside was clearly undamaged.

Instead, the holes appear to be so well-defined it’s as if they’ve been purposely moulded around a spherical object during the production process.

The empty hole inside the salted rice ball became a topic on social media, with people heading out to buy them to see if the rumours were true.

“When you think the cavity inside 7-Eleven’s salted rice balls is a rumour, but it’s really there.”

As it turns out, this wasn’t a recently discovered problem either, with photos from October showing the mysterious cavity within.

▼ And June…

This photo, which dates all the way back to 2018, shows even customers back then weren’t happy about their holey onigiri, with this person saying:

“[Please share]
When I ate this salted rice ball at a certain 7-Eleven in Shizuoka the day before yesterday, there was a hollow cavity inside…this means there’s less of a portion…”

However, this photo, also from 2018, shows a construction that looks as if the onigiri is made by sandwiching two halves together during the production process.

If that’s the case, then a simple explanation might be that it’s easier and possibly more cost-effective to make all the chain’s rice balls on the same production line. While the ones with fillings would have ingredients inserted into the hole, the salted rice ball with no filling would then be left with an unfilled cavity.

However, leaving an empty hole inside your rice balls for customers to unwittingly discover isn’t a good look, especially when Japanese people don’t make them this way at home, and your competitors don’t take part in the practice either.

People were quick to voice their concerns online, saying:

“So does this mean they’re filling their rice balls with air now?”
“I’ve stopped going there because of incidents like this.”
“I’m finding it harder and harder to defend 7-Eleven now.”

“It’s been a long time since I stopped buying food at 7-Eleven.”
“I wonder why the company doesn’t address it even though it’s been talked about so much on social media?”

It’s true that the convenience store chain hasn’t addressed the hole in their salted rice balls, which is odd, given that so many have noticed it over such an extended period of time. Of course, the company may think it’s a topic that doesn’t need discussion from their end, seeing as the weight of the package appears to be as advertised, making the problem purely a cosmetic one.

Still, with the convenience store chain now gaining a reputation for deceptive packaging practices, they’d do well to acknowledge, explain and even apologise for this cosmetic issue, as well as the others they’ve been called out for in recent months. Because when customers lose faith in your brand, there are plenty of other places they can go to get their rice balls, especially now that Family Mart has a new Famichiki burger in store to tempt them.

Source: Hachima Kiko 
Top image: Pakutaso
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