The most popular destination in Thailand is? Phuket? Bangkok? Chang Mai?
No, wrong, nope.
7-ELEVEN. As in the 7-Eleven convenience store.
Yep, but not the 7-Eleven we know and ignore in America. Small, clean, efficient stores that are truly one-stop shops. Milk, eggs, beer, cooking spices, school supplies, booze, batteries, fast food- got ‘em all.
Need to pay your phone bill? Need to pay your cable bill? Yep, head to the 7-Eleven. Utility bills include a bar code, head to 7-Eleven with your Baht for the payment, the bill is “scanned” and you pay the amount due plus Thb 20 to 7-Eleven as the service charge. The 7-Eleven store transmits the funds to the utility/payee.
Why is this done? In Thailand, based on the economic situation of the majority of the people, checking accounts are not common and the vast majority of Thai people don’t have a credit card. 7-Eleven having the bill pay service keeps transactions cash (Baht) based while providing an easy and convenient way to make payments.
Need more talk time for your mobile phone? 7-Eleven is your place- buy a top up card, enter the code from your card into your mobile phone and talk it up! Just like checking accounts and credit cards, most mobile phones are “pay as you play” meaning they run on pre paid usage cards.
There are four 7-Eleven’s within a 5-minute walk from my apartment. There are over 5,000 7-Eleven stores in Thailand.
Why blog about this? The efficiency of 7-Eleven is astounding, the stores meet the needs of the people in terms of selection of merchandise and services- something sorely lacking in America. The 7-Eleven is not the “Americanized” version for Thailand- the 7-Eleven stores are owned and run by the Japanese owners of 7-Eleven, the stores are designed to meet the needs of the country, market and neighborhood they are in- and they are a major part of daily life for the Thai people, the hub of each neighborhood.