Before I went to Thailand I figured all 7-Eleven stores were the same. The ones where I live, in Toronto, stock junk food, soda, magazines and cigarettes and that's about it, so when I got to Bangkok I wondered why there would possibly be any need for one of these stores every block (or more). Boy, was I in for a surprise.
|7-Eleven in Bangkok, from above|
The "everything" store
While not every 7-Eleven in Thailand is created equal, most of them allow you to purchase anything from coffee, beer and junk food, to breakfast, lunch, dinner and makeup. Yes, makeup (not to mention shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper and underwear). So basically, if you decided to take a trip to Thailand, but lost your luggage en route, you could just stop at a 7-Eleven and you'd be fine for at least a few days, if not longer.
What I bought
My boyfriend and I mostly used 7-Eleven stores as a place to stock up on water and beer. We often stayed in places that had a fridge, so we could ensure multiple bottles of each, which was convenient. However, I also bought a notebook (which I still use), face cleanser that cost me 90 bhat (about $3) for two -- one exfoliating wash, one foaming, which I ended up loving and obviously can't find here (they're called Berri Pops if you happen to come across them), snacks and a BB cream that was also about 90 bhat but something I couldn't/wouldn't use because it contained whitening ingredients. Most beauty products in Thailand claim to whiten, but I didn't notice this on first read-through of the products' claims (silly me). Full disclosure: I'm pretty pale and definitely not in need of skin whitening.
The bottom line
In Toronto you can't just go to the corner store or grocery store to buy beer (which you can in some provinces in Canada). There are special stores dedicated to booze and beer here, which is fine, but once you have access to beer anywhere you go (as in, every block), it's hard to be OK with making a separate trip just to get a 6-pack or bottle of wine. Plus, the snacks at the Thai 7-Elevens kick ass -- fun flavours of chips, dehydrated strawberries (pretty yummy) and a much more varied selection of treats than what gets stocked at the stores where I live.
I understand that the prevalence of the 7-Eleven brand means the decline of local culture and a dearth of anything "authentic" but I also get the fact that having access to what you need quickly and whenever you want is important to everyone, Thais and tourists alike.