When it comes to shopping, Japan is obsessed with the 'Point Card', which they prominently refer to as 'pointo cardo.’ Though this differs greatly from the store exclusive credit cards, or membership cards found in America. Instead, the point card is typically a free incentive program for repeat shoppers. At first, upon hearing of this rewards system, I was gung-ho and elated with point fever. Though my excitement was shunned when I was told that the points did nothing but occasionally allow you to spin a wheel of crappy prizes. Take for instance Kantaro Sushi, a popular keitan (conveyer belt) sushi restaurant. A friend of mine must have spent over a thousand dollars over the course of 18 months and all she has to show for is a handful of unsuccessful spins of the wheel. So naturally, a disillusioned fog clouted my view of the point card. That is until Sunday, March 15th, 2009.
After soaking in an onsen (hot bath spa) and frolicking in a Toys'R'Us, we paid a purposeful visit to Yamada Denki, the Japanese equivalent to Best Buy. But this store comes with an unforgettable catchy jingle. "Yaaaammaaaada dennnKI." Now the reason for this particular visit was simple, I was to secure a carrying case for my word processor and then buy other crap that I wanted but didn't need. Not only did I find a neat dai dai iro (orange) case, but also a cute Minnie Mouse CD wallet for the Mother. Though I was low on cash, I didn't mind dropping $30 on what I found to be useful purchases. Then the cashier asked if I had a point card, my lady friend made a costly error and said no. But then in broken Japanese I quickly asserted "hai," for I had a point card and I was proud of its uselessness. Don’t worry; I shot a dirty gaze towards her for that dumb founded assumption. But it was me who was offensive, for I was ignorant in calling this particular card useless. The cashier asked if I wanted to use this point card on this purchase or just add more points. I had no clue what using the card meant, so I of course said "hell yeah." The next thing I know is that the death screen that usually forecasts how much more money is being ripped from your wallet read 0.00. The cashier handed me the goods along with my receipt. I was done. Finito. Complete. And whatever other words there are that mean finished. "Holy crap, what just happened?" I felt like a winner, the retail industry had for once in my life got on their knees and kissed my hand. It felt good. But...it didn't last long, for greed manifested a heavy cloud of selfishness. I looked at my point card and realized that each point equaled one yen, and I still had 4265 yen ($42) to play with. Then I couldn't even allow myself to enjoy the free gifts thinking, "Well I did buy an expensive camera here, so of course I deserve these points." But sadly, I was hooked more than anything, "What expensive stuff can I buy now?" It's funny how "free" trumps everything. And I wouldn't have it any other way. That's why when I purchased a few donuts an hour later; I made sure to become a proud Mister Donuts point card carrier.