Shopping Q and A
Q: When shopping, can I negotiate the price?
A: In general, price negotiation is not allowed.
Japan does not have the custom of shoppers negotiating prices when shopping. There are some cases where negotiating is acceptable, such as at special areas like antique markets or when paying bulk amounts of money at high volume electronics retailers.
Q: How do I handle tax exemption procedures?
A: The method differs from store to store.
First, the stores which provide tax exemptions are major department stores and stores that have the words TAX FREE written on the storefront. Many small shops do not allow tax free sales, so it is a good idea to ask if products are tax free. Also, you should be aware that even at major department stores, food products are not eligible for tax exemption. The eligible price is a total purchase of 10,001 yen and up. If you buy one item worth 5001 yen and one worth 5000 yen, the total is at least 10,001 yen, so it is eligible for tax exemption. The tax exemption amount is the consumption tax amount, which is 8%. There are 2 tax exemption methods: (1) deducting 8% at the time of purchase (for each one product equaling 10,001 or higher) and (2) after purchasing, take all the receipts to the tax exemption counter, complete the exemption procedure, receive the taxed portion in cash, and use the receipt as the tax exempt amount. Most department stores use method (2). Whichever method you use, a passport is required, so make sure to have it with you.
Q: What is “wrapping service”?
A: This is a service for wrapping the products you have purchased (usually free).
If you tell the clerk that your purchases are gifts when purchasing them, the clerk will wrap them with decorative wrapping paper and a ribbon or sticker. This is great because it increases the impact of a present. Most shops offer this service free of charge, but some shops offer free and paid wrapping services or only paid wrapping (some shops that handle daily products do not offer the service at all).
Q: What should I do if I want to try on clothes?
A: You should first tell a clerk before trying them on.
It is proper custom to notify a clerk before trying on clothes. Especially when using a dressing room, it is against etiquette to take products into the dressing room without notifying a clerk. Also, wearing shoes is ok in some dressing rooms, but not ok in others, so it is best to pay attention to the type of dressing room. Some stores provide face covers (simple bag that slips over the face) in their dressing rooms. Women should wear these face covers when pulling on clothing over the face so as not to smear make up.
Q: When are the bargain sales?
A: A lot of stores start bargains in early January for the winter season and around early July for the summer season.
Major bargain sales start in January (at the start of the New Year) and July. The specific schedules are different for each store and can change depending on the yearly weather as well. A lot of stores announce sales in advance, so it is good to check their websites when a bargain season approaches. Bargain sales are generally held for about a month, and prices gradually drop as time passes. It is best to show up early if you want popular items, and come later if you are looking for really low prices. Also, though it is not a bargain sale per se, the “fuku-bukuro” grab bag tradition in which assorted goods are collected in big bags and sold at low prices is a very popular event. These grab bags are sold on “the first sales day” (the first business day of the year, usually either January 1 or 2). Some stores have lines of customers waiting all night.
Q: What do you recommend as a souvenir from Japan?
A: How about the award winning products from the souvenir contest sponsored by the Japan Tourism Agency?
The “Attractive Souvenirs of Japan Contest” sponsored by the Japan Tourism Agency awards souvenirs especially attractive to foreign travelers. Novel and creative products based in Japanese culture, materials, and technology are awarded in the categories of Japanese Foods, Japanese Craftsmen, Ecology, and Cool Japan. Award winning products are available at places such as souvenir shops in airports.