The good, the bad, and the ugly of half-price stickers at Japanese supermarkets

One person’s bargain is another’s burden.

One of the small pleasures in working late in Japan is that when stopping by the supermarket late in the evening for a quick pre-made dinner, you’ll often be greeted with a sticker knocking off anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of the regular price. This is of course because as closing time approaches, the supermarkets need to offload these perishable foods quickly, so at certain times an employee will come out and plaster all the bento with discount stickers.

For customers, it’s a great bit of value at the end of a long and hard day, but as Uncle Ben once told a young Peter Parker: “with great purchasing power, comes great responsibility.” The predictability of these sizable markdowns can sometimes have the power to corrupt people leading to uncivilized behavior.

Such a corruption occurred in a rural supermarket in Japan and has grown into a recurring nightmare for its staff. A 23-year-old part-time employee there explained her grief in detail in a post on the “Trouble Solving Bulletin Board” (Onayami Kaiketsu Keijiban) website. At 6 p.m., she puts 20-percent-off stickers on all the side dishes, such as fried chicken, spring rolls, and potato croquettes which are sold in her section. Then, at some point between 7:00 and 7:45 p.m. she puts half-price stickers on top of the 20-percent ones.

▼ Some items commonly seen in the side-dish section

Image: Pakutaso

In doing this, she always encounters a sub-group of regular customers who will hover around that section of the supermarket, sometimes for up to an hour, waiting for that half-off payday. That’s no problem for her or anyone, as those who want to invest their own personal …continue reading