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Lamenting the end of 7-Eleven and our 3-year love-hate affair

Updated: 2022-06-02 07:40 ( China Daily )
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A couple of weeks ago, our local 7-Eleven closed down. It was the first store we went to upon arriving in Beijing three years ago. It was familiar, felt like home.

I learned about its fate from the folks at the office. No wonder the shelves were empty. You think the rent is too high? There's a better place around the corner.

The store was brightly lit like a casino. It was just across the road from our apartment. Children would go there after school and run around the candy shelves like it was some kind of Gymboree experience. Then they'd walk back home with their moms waving a lollipop or a new, glossy pencil.

Wikipedia tells me there were 2,582 7-Eleven stores in China, as of 2021. The first location in Guangdong province opened in 1992.

Not to be sentimental about it, but the store was a staple of our Beijing life. You have to love that they're open 24 hours. We've never had to rush down late night for an emergency purchase, but the store was a lifeline when we ran out of eggs, milk or bread. It was there when we needed an umbrella that one day we did not check the weather, or when I needed a pair of stockings to survive one chilly day in winter. When we needed a new nail cutter to replace the rusty one at home, or a bag of hawthorn fruit candies just because I had an intense craving, 7-Eleven came to the rescue.

The counter staff were sometimes efficient, sometimes a disappointment. One of them snarled at me because my mask was hanging from my chin. A trauma I carry with me to this day. Hah!

Another time, the counter clerk entertained a customer behind me. I gave him a look of annoyance. He didn't care, didn't explain why, didn't say duibuqi. I expressed my miff by boycotting the store for days, only to return because I ran out of bread. Because of this cutting-the-line business, my attitude toward the store bordered on disdain.

On its last day, I bought a considerable amount of groceries-200 yuan ($30) worth-only to be told at the counter, after I scanned my Alipay, that they had no bag to put them in. What? I understand it was their last day and things were getting short, but shouldn't I have been given a heads-up? I declined my purchases and asked for a refund. I was on my way to work and couldn't carry bottles and cans and bags on my arms. A smartly dressed gentleman in line behind me spoke to the counter clerk in Chinese. The clerk began to rummage under the counter for a used plastic bag. He found one and put my groceries in. I left relieved that I didn't have to start my day unhappy.

Despite my love-hate relationship with the store, I felt a tinge of sadness to see the storefront and the shelves being dismantled. I peered through the glass to see the store. It was a ghost of its old self. It's a roomy piece of real estate. A bagel shop would do well here.

So long, 7-Eleven. I will miss your bread.

Cristina Pastor. [Photo provided to China Daily]
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