Why Buying an iPhone in Japan Requires Writing Your Name on the Box

Why Buying an iPhone in Japan Requires Writing Your Name on the Box Japan

The practice of “writing one’s name on the box” when purchasing an iPhone from Japanese telecommunications company DoCoMo, has been attracting a lot of attention. This was implemented to prevent resale, but this name is written with an oil-based pen. DoCoMo has instructed customers to write their names on the boxes of special-priced handsets sold after June 3 in order to prevent resale.

I purchased an “iPhone SE” at a special price. Since the price was very low, the sales staff informed me that I was required to write my name on the box to prevent resale. I have heard about this and agreed to do so, but honestly I did not feel comfortable writing my name on the box of the device, even though it was a product I was purchasing. It was not like an elementary school student writing his name on his textbook.

In fact, when an oil-based magic marker pen was placed in front of me, I felt as if I was going to write my name with it. The writing itself takes only a few seconds, but when I look back at the iPhone SE box with my name written on it, I feel an indescribable sense of discomfort, almost like I’ve done it. I have purchased several cellphones in the past, but this is the first time I have had such an experience.

Many people would feel uncomfortable if they were asked to write their names on the box with an oil-based magic marker pen just for the reason of “resale prevention”, even though the price of a several hundred-thousand-yen wristwatches is half of the price on sale. The same thing is being done in the sale of cellphones.

Effect of putting a name on the box

Frankly speaking, it is difficult to say that labeling a handset box is an effective method to prevent resale. Oil-based markers can be erased with alcohol, and the process is relatively hassle-free. I have also heard of countermeasures against resale, such as using a puncher to make a hole or scissors to cut into the terminal box, but in this case, it may be treated as damaging the accessories of the terminal. The box, which is a packing material, is also an accessory of the handset, and is a great product according to the viewpoint. 

Many people are sensitive not only to scratches and stains on the handset, but also to stains and crushing of the box. For stores, it could be a problem to deal with damaged handset boxes just because of resale measures.

Therefore, DOCOMO’s resale countermeasure is to have the purchaser put his/her name on the box of the handset. If the store were to take this action, it could lead to unexpected trouble in the form of damage without consent. The store, rather than the buyer, is taking the form of “the user wrote his/her name on the box”.

In addition, iPhones and Pixels are often purchased at relatively high prices even without the box, perhaps because they are in demand overseas. Even though the purchase price is reduced from the price with the box, it is still possible to resell the handset without the box if it is a special-priced handset with an excessive discount. Therefore, we believe that resale will continue to be as rampant as before, as damage to the box will not significantly affect the purchase price.

The fundamentals need to be reviewed

Many people, including myself, may feel uncomfortable with the point of writing names on the boxes of handsets to prevent resale. I believe that the majority of people who purchase special-priced handsets are general users who do not intend to resell them. It is a problem that a large number of handsets are monopolized by a few people who aim to resell them and are not distributed to general users. However, we feel that inconveniencing the general public in order to solve this problem is not a good idea from the consumer’s point of view.

In recent years, flea market applications such as Mercari have been used as a way to let go of devices that are no longer in use. While the ability to easily and anonymously trade goods is an advantage, the presence of a name makes it more difficult to list items for sale. If an item is listed with personal information such as names, store stamps, or other information about one’s living area, in the worst-case scenario, it could lead to the identification of personal information, which would undermine anonymity.

While I think the excessive resellers have a problem, I also feel that the carriers who make the environment conducive to resale also have a problem. It is ridiculous to be able to purchase a brand-new iPhone at less than half the price of an Apple Store while purchasing it without a contract. I have my doubts about carriers who create such a situation and then call it “resale prevention”.

For more information on why IPhone can be bought at a lower price, please refer to the following article.