Popular drinks and snacks in Japan really do come with different price tags.

Compared to overseas convenience stores, where you know you’ll wind up paying more for products purely for the convenience, Japanese convenience stores, or “konbini” as they’re locally known, seem reasonably priced by comparison.

In fact, our Japanese-language reporter Mariko Ohanabatake doesn’t see anything wrong with shopping for drinks and snacks at her local konbini whenever she feels like it. However, this year, one of Mariko’s New Year’s resolutions is to save more money, so when she came across a magazine article that spoke about convenience store shopping being bad for your back-pocket, she decided to see if there was any truth to the claim.

So Mariko set out to purchase the exact same products at a convenience store and a supermarket to see what the price difference would be. Secretly, she was hoping any difference would be negligible, as she wasn’t ready to give up the bright lights of her local convenience store just yet.

The eight items she decided to purchase at both places were popular snacks and drinks that are widely available, namely:

・ Calbee Potato Chips — Light Salt Flavour
・ Glico Pocky — Chocolate Flavour
・ Morinaga Pino Ice Creams
・ Häagen-Dazs Mini Cup — Vanilla
・ Nissin Foods Cup Noodle — Seafood Flavour
・ Kirin Chu-hi — Hyoketsu Lemon (350 millilitres [11.8 ounces])
・ Coca-Cola (500 millilitres)
・ Oi Ocha Green Tea (500 millilitres)

She decided to shop at her local konbini first, which was a 7-Eleven, one of Japan’s top three convenience store chains. Placing the eight items in her basket, she headed over to the cashier, and actually took notice of the prices for the very first time.

“Pip!” Went the scanner, and Mariko discovered that Pino ice creams cost 140 yen (US$1.21).

“Pip!” Went the scanner again, and her Cup Noodle showed up as 184 yen.

“Pip!” So now Häagen-Dazs is 295 yen?

Looking at the prices, Mariko couldn’t help but feel they were slightly more expensive than she’d expected. And when it came time to pay, she found that the eight items she’d purchased — nine if you count the three-yen charge for the plastic bag — came to…

1,428 yen (US$12.37)!

Hmmm, that was slightly higher than Mariko had imagined, but she decided to put her judgement on hold until after she’d done her supermarket shop. For that, she decided to go to Seiyu, a good mid-range supermarket chain.

As soon as she walked in, Mariko had to stop herself from purchasing all the other items in the store that caught her eye. There were certainly many more temptations here at the supermarket, but she remained focused on the task at hand, purchasing only what she came for.

▼ Potato chips are 78 yen!? That was almost half the price they were at the konbini, where they cost her 147 yen.

Surprisingly, the supermarket didn’t have any 500-millilitre bottles of coke at the store, so Mariko had to purchase a 700-millilitre one, but at 100 yen, it was already cheaper than the smaller bottle at the supermarket, which cost 140 yen.

Heading to the register, she watched the prices appear with each “pip” of the scanner again, and this time the eight items, plus the plastic bag, which brought the items up to nine, cost…

1,021 yen! 

That meant the difference in price between supermarket and convenience store was 407 yen, which was a much bigger saving than she’d expected.

With a saving like this, she could afford to buy another tub of that pricey Häagen-Dazs ice cream, plus some more items, at the supermarket. Mariko now began to wonder how much money she’d wasted at the convenience store over the years, but before descending into a black pit of despair over it all, she remembered one revelation about her supermarket experience that surprised her.

Supermarkets might be cheap, but they’re filled with many temptations!!

Special discounts, seasonal fruits, new products, limited-edition flavours — the supermarket has it all, which means if you go there to buy a few snacks, you may very well walk out with a full basket of things you weren’t expecting to buy, which means you might end up paying more in the long-run.

Still, if you want to save money, and you have the willpower to avoid temptations, the supermarket will be kinder to your bank balance at the end of the day. For Mariko, she says she’ll try and cut down on her convenience store trips in future, but when she has a hankering for some fried chicken or a quick pizza bun, she won’t resist the urge to step into the welcoming lights of her beloved convenience store.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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