Seriously, lots of expats are lost when it comes to using 7-Eleven stickers

Since 7-Eleven started another round of sticker promotions on July 26, Coconuts thought it was time to finally tackle this deeply fascinating corner of Thai culture — and the fact that most foreigners are completely mystified by it.

So, you go to 7-Eleven (or Tesco, or even Big C) and buy your milk, beer or bread and hand over your money. They give you your change, receipt and…these little buggers.

Once in awhile a shop assistant might look at your confused face and take pity on you, saying, “Look, you can use this one to get a free banana,” but most of the time you’re just lost.

Many foreigners end up with stacks of these in their wallets, purses or homes. I recently threw out hundreds of them from previous campaigns.

When I told this to a Thai friend, she looked at me like I’d just killed a kitten. “Please, save them for me next time!” she said.

Many expats are confused about what, exactly, you can use the stickers for. Are they for discounts on laundry powder or for “free” Rilakkuma tupperware? And how do you know which stickers can be used for what and how much of a discount you get? Are some stickers for free products and some for discounts or are they interchangeable? Lots of expats have no idea.

American teacher Erin Jinks lived in a houseshare with French roommates. She said that everyone was intrigued by the stickers, but didn’t quite know what to do with them. “I don’t know how we earned them. But it never failed. We would collect a bunch after each trip to 7-Eleven and stick them on a sheet. Then, we’d let them sit on the coffee table and expire.”

Dutchman Ben Bogaerts said that he doesn’t know how the stickers work, “but my wife knows how to use them very well.” He explained that there is a whole world of discounts, deals and promotions that most foreigners are not aware of, and the 7-Eleven stickers are just the tip of the iceberg.

His Thai wife, Sukannichapa Chuathue, doesn’t need to collect the stamps from a monetary perspective but finds it fun to collect them to get the “limited edition” items being offered.

Sukannichapa chimed in, jokingly saying, “7-Eleven challenges me every time with the new campaign.”

In their Bangkok home, they have a set of Rilakkuma shelves. These were meticulously saved up for in one of the previous sticker campaigns. When a friend recently complimented Sukannichapa on them, she was proud to say that she’d gotten them through the campaign and her friend was suitably impressed. Ben noted that, after turning in their stickers, “we waited weeks, or even months, before the item arrived at 7-Eleven for us to pick up. Making it even more exciting,” he said.

He also mentioned the psychological aspect of the promotions, “I think it creates a feeling of ‘beating the system’ to collect these stamps, even though you know you’re being led to buy things you would not necessarily buy [to get the stickers], it still feels a bit like victory.

“And I think it also has to do with the Thai sense for bargains and deals. My wife never buys things she really can’t rationalize the need for.”

Anupam Chauhan, an Indian advertising designer, joked that no one ever explained to him how to use the stickers, but if they came in different sizes, he’d like to decorate his office walls with them.

So how do you use 7-Eleven stickers?

In the current promotion, featuring stickers of Sanrio and LINE FRIENDS characters, for every THB50 you spend, you get one sticker that’s worth THB1 — sometimes THB3 if you buy certain items in the store.

These stickers can be used as cash to get discounts off of anything in the store, including booze and smokes.

You can also save the stickers on a little card to collect prizes, including tupperware featuring Hello Kitty and Brown Bear for 69 stamps. For those of you doing the math, that means you need to spend THB3,450 at 7-Eleven to get that plastic box.

Also included in this campaign is: a small table for 269 stamps (7-Eleven expenditure: THB13,450), a stepstool for 179 stamps (7-Eleven expenditure: THB8,950) and, for only 589 stamps (7-Eleven expenditure: THB29,450), you can get a plastic set of three drawers.

All of the items feature Sanrio and LINE FRIENDS characters on them. C’mon, how often do you see these guys hanging out together on a set of plastic drawers?

If you decide to go “limited edition,” you need to collect the required number of stickers on the card, fill in your details, bring it to 7-Eleven and pay THB1 (in cash only, you can’t use a sticker for this) and then wait anywhere from a few weeks to a few months until 7-Eleven contacts you to come pick up your hard-won prize.

Most Thai people love these promotions and many of the staff at Coconuts have already started saving up toward their favorite item in the brochure.

There’s even a sketchy black market for buying the stickers. According to a Sanook story, you could buy 200 stamps for THB100 in one of the previous campaigns. Pretty good deal.

British-French former NGO worker Aliénor Salmon is another expat who doesn’t totally understand how to use the stamps. At least, she doesn’t know how to use them in 7-Eleven. She has, however, come up with her own ingenious use for them. “I used to bribe my assistant to come and pick me up on his motorcycle by paying him with these.”

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