Beware Beware Ye Who Buy In Bulk

One of the things you have to keep in mind when you go shopping in Japan is that the more you buy the more you pay.

This seems like an obvious thing until you realize I’m talking about bulk purchases. Except for US chains such as Costco, it’s unusual to get a “per item” discount when you buy several of something.

For example, if you buy one beer here in Japan, you pay about $2.50 US. (That’s if you buy real beer and not the other crap.) However, if you buy a six pack, you pay $15 US or, $2.50 per can. If you buy 10 cans you pay $25.00. Etcetera. However, that’s only if you’re lucky.

If you’re not careful, you may discover that you’re paying more per can because the store charges you for the box the six pack and ten pack came in. It may, in fact, be cheaper to buy the cans individually and forgo the convenient box.

I first learned this, as you might imagine, buying pens. I believe I was buying several colors of Signo Uniball pens when I noticed they came in a convenient 10 pack. The 10 pack had a slot for each pen and a snap flap that held them in place. I put the individual pens I’d chosen back and grabbed the 10 pack. As I paid, my red alert signal went off but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. (I was also buying some notebooks which distracted me.) When I got home and studied the receipt, I realized the 10 pack was more expensive per pen than buying each pen separately.

I also almost got caught buying a local craft beer in Nikko. As I looked at the prices, I noticed the six pack was substantially more expensive per can than buying individual cans. (The cardboard must have been very special.)

The odd effect of this is that you never get fooled into thinking you’re saving by buying in bulk. (Wow, I totally saved $50 dollars by buying 200 pens instead of just buying the three I needed.)

The trouble for the stores and manufacturers, though, is that you also spend less. (Well, since I’m not saving anything, I’ll only buy three pens. Well, maybe four.)

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