Are some of these bentos worth the price? Some seem so expensive!

Bento-ing from: San Jose › California
Joined: 22 Apr 2009
User offline. Last seen 8 years 27 weeks ago.

Hello there everyone.
As I am kind of shopping around (more like drooling & wanting more bento stuff) before I start college, I've been looking at multiple different sites for mainly bento box sets (primarily Jlist & Ebay, but I personally look more on Ebay).

For the most part I've had my eye on the cute bentos (I have a thing for cute japanese things & characters) but they just seem so expensive. Say over $30 for the run of the mill set with a box, utensils, bag, and maybe another box or drink bottle. I feel a majority of these have tacked on import prices because they are "Japanese" or "from japan".

I absolutely adore some of the sets though, from a Hansel and Gretel themed set that would cost about $40 to a strawberry set for about the same price.

I know that I should just stick to the stuff I can get for $1.50 at Ichiban Kan and Daiso in the SF bay area, but these cute sets tempt me!

So do you think they are worth the high prices? Do you know the truth behind it?

Also, should I just consider investing in something a little more heavy duty / not plastic?

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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 47 weeks ago.
Re: Are some of these bentos worth the price? Some seem so ...

Hi xx_remix

Outside of the Walmart scale bulk sales world of commerce - of which I know very little - this is how I understand how sales for moderately priced items work.

Manufacturer makes a product for X amount.

Distributor takes items and 'sells' them to shops for double X amount (2X)

Shop 'buys' items from distributor and sells them for double this.

When things are sold overseas there's usually another link in the chain, especially as the transport costs can be more than the original unit cost.
In this way a box made in China with a unit cost of 100 yen ($1.20) will go to an agency/distributor who will sell it for 200yen, they may send it overseas to a distributor in Japan.
The Japanese distributor gets the item for 400yen.
A shop takes it for 800yen
The shop sells it for 1,600yen

Many of the nicer boxes sold in Japanese stores do indeed cost around 1,600yen - as seen in the next link

Cheaper boxes with a unit price of 50yen may be sold for 800yen.
Why a box might cost 100yen to manufacture rather than 50yen or less will depend on the quality of the materials as well as things like design and the process used as well as how many are originally made (making 100,000 costs less per unit than making 10,000)

Frankly, I don't understand the business model for boxes sold for 100yen. Most of the middlemen are removed and sometimes surplus boxes from the regular business model which would be destroyed/returned to manufacturer are sold this way instead.

If the question is how does a 1,600yen box (currently $19) become $30, one only needs to look at packing and delivery charges as well as the admin costs associated with selling and distributing something in another country. It's only natural that a US based seller would sell that $19 box for $30 which includes passing on the costs of receiving and then sending on that box to you.

So the reality is that the $30 box may only be twice as good as the Daiso $1.50 box (although, occasionally, they may have surplus stock boxes of the same quality).

Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 6 weeks 3 days ago.
Re: Are some of these bentos worth the price? Some seem so ...

Well, that's a difficult question to answer, because "worth" of a food container really depends on the buyer. I mean, you can buy a whole china set for 4 at Ikea for $20 or something, and it's quite nice and serviceable stuff. On the other hand you could spend hundreds putting together a service for 4 from Wedgewood or (my personal favorite, though I can't afford a full set from them) Villeroy and Boch. You're paying for design, for quality, and so on. You could say the same about a t-shirt from Wal-mart vs. one from Polo or something.

A box that sells for 100 to 300 yen at a 100-yen shop in Japan is quite serviceable and practical. Some even have cute designs on them. They are all made cheaply in China, and you can tell the quality difference when you compare them to more expensive boxes, which are usually made in Japan. On the other hand, a plastic box is a plastic box. (Wooden or stainless steel boxes are more expensive, but there you are paying for the material cost, craftsmanship and so on. Is a $100 magawappa wooden box worth it? Probably not for many people, but it is for some.)

There's another factor - when I look at bento boxes and accessories being sold outside of Japan, I always look at what the boxes are sold for within Japan. If say, a box is being sold for 1000 yen (currently around US$11.70) in Japan, and an overseas seller is selling it for $15-18 or so - maybe up to 2x the price at the most - I consider that to be a fair price, since there is some more effort and bother when dealing with customers in another country (which is why most Japanese sellers don't do it), not to mention the pretty bad currency exchange rates at the moment. E.g. the small "Gel Cooma" box is retailed by the manufacturers themselves for 1260 yen here, about $14, and Casa Bento sells it for $16.05 here; that's quite fair to me. If on the other hand, a box that is sold for 100 yen retail in a 100-yen shop in Japan is being sold for $6 and more, there's something awry there. I notice that some ebay sellers do this. Always, always shop around!

The bottom line I think is, that a bento box should make you happy to use it. You can do bentos with practical, inexpensive boxes, even Tupperware and so on; Lock and Lock is usually quite cheap and serviceable and well made. On the other hand, if you think that using a very cute and more expensive box will make lunchtime that much more nice, then it probably is worth it.


The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

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