Monday, October 22, 2007
If you've done much shopping in Japan, you'll soon learn that the Japanese are wild about the concept of bonus points. I'm not sure where this started but the first bonus point system of any great utility that I encountered was through electronics seller Yodobashi camera. When you make a purchase, you can sign up for a gold plastic card and they will add points each time you buy something. At some time of your choosing, you can use those points to buy something else.
The Yodobashi system translates directly back to store credit and is relatively straightforward. You get 10% of your purchase back in points and each point is worth 1 yen in store credit. If you buy one big ticket item at Yodobashi, say a refrigerator for 50,000 yen, you'll get 5,000 yen worth of store credit to spend on something else. You can use the points at any time to pay in part for any item if you don't have enough to cover the cost of the entire item. The only thing you can't do is get cash back.
While most of the time such point systems tend to come along with higher overall price tags at the merchant, that isn't necessarily the case in Tokyo. While Yodobashi isn't always the cheapest place for everything, it is cheaper for some things so you can often get those points for purchases you'd make at their shop anyway.
In what I'm pretty sure is a move to compete with shops like Yodobashi which offer such points, Amazon Japan started offering them with purchases about a year ago. The screen shot above shows an order my husband and I made today for a USB headset which we're getting nearly for free because of points we accumulated via Amazon Japan. Since we were buying these items from them anyway, this is a rather nice little bonus. Amazon America does not offer a similar system nor do they offer the free shipping for all Amazon store items that Amazon Japan does. This makes the level of service via Amazon Japan rather significantly better than that in the U.S.
I'm not sure if any place in the U.S. consistently offers a point system which accumulates store credit in this way. When I lived there, most of my experiences with point systems were at fast food places like Subway or frozen yogurt places which stamped a card and gave you a free serving when you filled it up. I must say that I like the system Amazon Japan and Yodobashi use quite a bit better than the "buy 10, get 1 free" bonus system.