For almost all of 2019, a lone 7-Eleven franchisee in Higashi-Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, made national headlines after it challenged the corporate policy of staying open 24 hours a day. Citing lack of staff as the reason, the owner Mitoshi Matsumoto took it upon himself to close overnight.
In response, on Dec 31, 2019, the company ended their contract with Matsumoto claiming that they had received complaints about the way he treated customers. Normally, this would mean the shop would close, but Matsumoto surprised everyone by continuing to run the store for a few weeks after.
After speaking with the owner, he told us he would not accept the termination of the contract until a court ruled on it. So, he kept the store running with a skeleton crew and without any 7-Eleven amenities like an official cash register, ATM, or prepaid cards, until all of the stock was sold off.
Afterward, the store stood vacant for most of 2020, with a sign in the window that read: “Closed due to legal battle, and COVID-19.”
The head office apparently was growing impatient and issued an ultimatum to Matsumoto that if he did not surrender ownership of the store by 29 March, they would build another “temporary” shop in the parking lot of the existing one.
The courts attempted to intervene, fearing the situation might escalate, but Matsumoto said he would never give up because it would appear as if 7-Eleven was in the right. So a few days later, on April 1, construction began on a 7-Eleven in the parking lot of another 7-Eleven.
▼ The 7-Eleven on Jan 4, 2020
▼ The 7-Eleven on April 2, 2021
One of the benefits of this store is that it has a relatively spacious parking lot, big enough to accommodate another building. In fact, it was reported that some of the supposed conflicts between Matsumoto and customers was over misuse of the ample parking.
This land itself is rented from a third party by 7-Eleven, whereas the old building is still technically owned by Matsumoto, until the courts or he decides otherwise. This means that the company had to pay rent on an unusable lot for over a year now, but also has the right to use the space outside of the store however they see fit.
▼ Construction wall of the new 7-Eleven in front of the old 7-Eleven
In the past, Matsumoto’s outspoken nature tended to cast him in an unfavorable light in the Japanese media. However, this recent development seems to have swayed public opinion slightly in his favor.
“I still think this is the owner’s fault, but 7-Eleven is really making themselves look bad here.”
“This is why I can’t use 7-Eleven.”
“I don’t feel good about this.”
“The company is paying for the land, so they should be able to use it.”
“This owner is kind of a jerk, isn’t he?”
“I stopped trusting 7-Eleven after they constantly lied about their packaging.”
“I think both sides are wrong here.”
“7-Eleven collect the highest royalties from franchise holders out of any conveniences store chain. They make it hard for them to operate.”
“What the hell is going on there?”
Matsumoto was interviewed by NHK on the day construction began and told them he strongly disapproved of the construction, but said he had to focus on his ongoing legal battle and couldn’t do anything about it.
▼ Paper sign: ”Seven headquarters, please stop the improper use of force!”
Local residents have mixed feelings about the situation. Many find this new development bizarre and a nuisance, but some are happy they can finally have an operating convenience store in the area again.
The new structure is expected to be complete by the end of April, and we’ll be sure to check it out when it opens. Because regardless of who is right or wrong in this situation, it is definitely going to be weird.
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