Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Japan has weird fees and pricing systems

Hey guys! I'm back!

I wanted to talk about something that I remembered while doing some online shopping for a friend today. My friend, who recently moved to Japan to teach, asked me to find him the best deal for a WIMAX router (essentially a portable wireless router). I look through the (almost intentionally) convoluted fee structure and eventually find the 'joining fee'. Take a look at this:

Check out this page:

Just over half way down you'll see the following in the small print:


Essentially it says:

"In relation to the contract, there's a mandatory joining fee of 3,000JPY. The joining fee is payable the month after the monthly billing period"

In other words, they want you pay a one-off $30 fee for absolutely nothing. What is it meant to cover? In this case it's WIMAX so there's no telephone line to connect at your home etc. The only thing they need to do is send the router to you (if you buy online) otherwise you can get it in-store but likelihood is they'll still charge you. 

Also this seems to be a permanent contract as they charge you to leave!

If you cancel your contract:
- within the first 13 months they'll charge you 19,000JPY ($190)
- between 14th and 25th month = 14,000JPY ($140)
- Anytime after the 26th month = 9000JPY ($9000)

So let's get this straight. You have to pay $30 for the privilege of paying for their services, and then you have to pay AT LEAST $90 to stop paying for their services (best case scenario!). 

Let's be clear, I'm not bashing on UQ because all the carriers do this. It's a cartel in the sense that they all agree to charge stupid fees so that consumers have literally no choice. 



When I left Japan following my year abroad, I was slapped with a 9500JPY fee for closing my AU account. I was pretty naive at the time and didn't know about all the fees. They offered me an 'all-inclusive' plan for only 2000JPY per month (having paid 3000JPY 'rental fee' for one of their very old models). I also had to pay 2500JPY 'joining fee'.

Funny thing is that my monthly bill was consistently 5000JPY or higher. At the time it was a plan where calls were not included. It worked out at something like 40p per 30 seconds - that's what you'd expect from a sexy time chat hotline, come on!


I went out to get my haircut, as you do, and just went to the first place which looked relatively OK. The first thing to point out is that Japan hair salons generally seems to operate on a tiered system - you can pay less for a less experienced stylist or you can pay extra to get one of the more experienced stylists. This means that the fee scale may go something like:

- 1500JPY - "no idea what I'm doing"
- 1800JPY - "I mow the lawn at home"
- 2100JPY - "I can just about get it symmetrical"
- 2500JPY - "Yes, I actually do know what I'm doing"

The more interesting thing, though, is that they force rope you into 'joining' as a member so that they can charge you... YOU GUESSED IT... 


They do this by giving you your own little membership card (it's literally a piece of card rather than anything which swipes) which has loyalty blobs on the back a-la 'buy 9 cups of coffee and we'll give you the 10th free!'. 

They either (A) feel so insecure about their services that they feel the need to lock you in to coming back or (B) that industry is also a cartel whereby everybody colludes in charging these fees. 


Getting access to the gym was quite odd. Essentially the one I went to divided the day into morning, afternoon, and evening (up until around 9pm).

You would then buy a month worth of pass but it was only valid for one of the 3 slots. They also CLOSED the gym entirely for 1 or 2 hours at a time so that they could clean - what the hell! Just clean it incrementally while people at working out!

So I ended up paying over the odds for the privilege of going to the gym within a specified 3-hour timeframe. If I missed that slot, then too bad, I'd have to wait for the next day.


Drinking out at bars is very expensive in Japan. Anything other than a nama-biru (beer from the tap) was exorbitantly priced. I wasn't complaining about that because you can use see the menu before you order anything and all the prices are clearly listed - if you order it at that price, you can't say you weren't warned.

Tsukemono - picked/salted vegetables 

What I take issue with is when they give you tsukemono (essentially a tiny tray of pickled/salted vegetables which don't taste nice at all) and then CHARGE you for it! If you visit at a more traditional bar (like the one I frequented when I did my internship in Shizuoka) where people are seated on stools at the bar, you will usually be given a tab to pay before you leave rather than paying drink by drink. This is customary but it's also a smart way to make sure you spend a lot because by the time you get to your 5th or 6th drink, you likely can't remember what day of the week it is!

I only found out later that this is like an optional seating charge. You can politely decline tsukemono by waving your hand and saying 'kekkou desu' (I'm OK, thanks).


Some of the odd fee structures and charges that you might come across in Japan.

Have you experienced the same or other weird fees while in Japan?

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