At the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores in Taiwan, a customer can send a fax, buy underwear, pay utility and cable bills, get stamps, dispatch a package for overnight delivery and, of course, purchase coffee and snacks.
But now, reports my oldest son, Ben, who lives in Taipei and often bikes to work, cyclists can even service their bicycles at many of the convenience stores.
7-Eleven and Merida, a Taiwan-based bicycle maker, have teamed up to install bicycle “health stations” in 500 of the nearly 4,500 7-Eleven stores around the island nation. The “health stations” provide cyclists with air pumps, basic maintenance tools, tire patches and other cycling needs.
“7-Eleven stores are everywhere in Taiwan,” says Wikipedia. “Nearly every corner of a street one can find a 7-Eleven store, and it is very common to see two 7-Eleven stores standing across from each other in a highly populated neighborhood.”
As of Dec. 31, 2006, the last date for which I could find figures, Taiwan was third in the world for the number of 7-Eleven stores — 4,486. Only the United States and Japan had more.
But in the United States, a customer might have to drive a mile or two to find a store. In Taiwan’s cities, a short walk in any direction would turn up a 7-Eleven.
Graham Holland, a Briton who lived and worked in Taipei, during 2004-2005, wrote this on his website, It’s a Frog’s Life in Taiwan:
“From my apartment here in Taipei I can walk from the front entrance and be outside a 7-Eleven in four minutes. From there I can keep on walking and be at another one in one minute. I can carry on walking in the same direction and be at a third one in another four minutes, or I could have turned round from the first store and been at fourth one in as short a time as another four minutes. Not happy with that? … Then it’s just a hop, skip and a jump over the footbridge to the MRT station where there’s a mini-7-Eleven, open during station hours. Now that’s what I mean by ‘everywhere.'”