Feb 1, 2019
Every year all parents in my kindergarten have to do a volunteer duty or job. In previous years, I've had fairly straightforward jobs that only take a couple of hours on one day. This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and volunteer for "bell mark" not knowing quite what it entails. I was soon to find out.
Since my eldest started kindy, I started collecting bell marks as directed by the kindy. They are tinchy little sticker like things the size of a fingertip that are on the packaging of select products. You have to cut them from the packaging. The kindy give you a flyer with a list (in images) of all the products that have bell mark. Some of them I remember more easily than others, but I have to admit that I probably throw out more bell mark than I collect. Collecting them is only one very small and easy part of the overall process.
Three times a year my kindy collects the bell mark that parents have saved. They then come to the volunteers. First, we spend a morning separating all the bell mark by product. All the kewpie go into one pile, Meiji into another, all the Nissin into another and so on and so forth. Then, when it applies, the brand bell mark have to be separated further by their value. After that each value and each brand is packaged and sent home with a volunteer. In my kid's kindergarten we each get about three packages of bell mark to count.
I got Koikeya this past week; values of 0.5, 1 and 3 points, another volunteer got the 2, 5 and 6 point bell values. Koikeya is a popular crisp (potato chips) maker. The Koikeya bell mark tend to be the second highest number of bell marks collected each term. And because they have many different values we divide them between two volunteers to count. In my pile, there were only a few of the 0.5 and 3 point bell mark, but there were 633 of the one point bell marks. First I had to count them, then I had to stick them onto pieces of paper in lines of ten. You have to use glue first, then secure them further with sellotape.
The packaging for Koikeya crisps is slippery foil. So the bell mark tend to curl up and are tricky to glue. Because the glue doesn't work very well on that type of material they were foiling up before I could tape them down. Or I'd tape them down halved over. Cue exasperations of profanity. It took over two hours to tape and count the 633 one point bell marks. When that is finished you then have to mark on an envelope how many bell marks you put in and what value they are. Finally, you calculate the overall value of the points of the envelope.
When I have finished counting and tallying the points and putting them in a special envelope, the head or lead volunteers of the Bell Mark team then double check all the envelopes. They have to fill out more paperwork. The kindergarten administration office also look over them. To be honest, after that I am not sure what happens. I don't know if the lead volunteers or the kindy staff then send them back to each individual company that participates. Or do they go to a "Bell mark office" that cashes them in? Hopefully, I never have to find out; if I get landed with bell mark duty again next year I will automatically have to become a lead volunteer as a second year "sempai"!
Until I volunteered for Bell Mark I had absolutely no idea how much work goes into collecting and counting these fidgety little fingertip sized coupons of sorts. And worst of all, I was surprised to hear how little the kindy get back for all this hard work. Basically one point is worth one yen. So my two hours taping the 633 one point Koikeya bell mark will earn the kindy 633 yen. The 0.5 and 3 point bell marks added up to about 80 yen. If each of the 20 moms' envelopes were worth the same, that's about 14,000 yen. I suppose it's not too bad, but if you can avoid it, I recommend that you don't volunteer to count bell mark for kindy!
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.