Monday, September 14, 2009
One of my recommendations when visiting a maid cafe for the first time is to make sure you get their points card. Even if you never go back there again, the card makes for a nice souvenir and some of the cards have good artwork on them.
However, if you do plan on revisiting a specific cafe, you may want to make it the one with the better points system. So far, the cards I've seen break down into two categories - point per visit (@Home) and point per yen spent (pretty much everyone else). Most of the points per yen cards give you one point per 1000 yen, though Popopure, Little TGV and the Maid Club gift shop are 1 per 500 yen. But, generally you get two points if it's a "rain day" or if there's some kind of event taking place then. Unfortunately, with a cafe like Pinafore, it seems like you have to spend more per point as you get closer to filling up the card, since they give out points arbitrarily.
The question then becomes "who has the best card?" That's not an easy question to answer (since the glib response is "none of them"). Nagomi gives you a free drink if you fill the card, but that comes to roughly $400 to get a $10 drink. Pinafore gives you a free maid photo, which for me took about $100 to fill the card. Popopure is a lot better; 10 points gives you a small poster and a dessert, 20 points is a drink and a maid photo, and 50 points is the cafe's anime DVD. With Mononope, 40 points gives you a free maid photo, and every card you fill up lops 100 yen off the cover price per visit.
(Maid Club, a maid-themed souvenir shop.)
In contrast, @Home has what at first glance looks to be the best system. It's 1 point per visit. At 5 points, you go from a bronze card to silver. This reduces the cover from 700 yen to 600 per visit. At 50 points, you get the gold card, a free maid photo, and it looks like each photo will be with 2 maids of your choice instead of just 1. Plus, the cover drops to 500 yen. Then there's the Crystal card at 200 points, Platinum at 500 points and Black at 2000 points, with the variety of perks going up at each level. Black is supposedly a mythical level and the perks aren't listed on the website. (I can see why it's mythical - even if you only go during the last half of the month, that's 1000 visits, and a minimum of $8000 US. If you spread it out, it's going to take 3-5 years. You get this card only if you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like maids. Or, if you're trying to show off.)
The only upside to the @Home system, given that the cover price is what kills you, is that it doesn't matter what you buy when you get inside. Available during the summer, shaved ice at Hana is 450 yen, while one of the other desserts is the same price. 500 yen for a maid photo. So, once you get to silver level, it's about $10.50-$11 for per point per visit if all you're trying to do is level up. Fortunately, if you go during the last half of the month, it's 2 points per visit.
In terms of getting stuff in return for becoming a frequent visitor to any given cafe, Popopure and @Home have the better cards. On the other hand, you're not getting any bargains here and it's just cheaper to pay the few dollars to buy the present directly if you're being budget conscious (if you're being really tight-fisted, then you won't go to a maid cafe in the first place).
But, if the idea is that you want a place where you can sit down, eat a dessert, and kill an hour staring at women in maid dresses, then picking the place with the best points card is a plus factor, if you only want to frequent one cafe. In this case, pick a place without a cover charge, like Popopure.
Granted, I've only visited a fraction of the 30-plus cafes that I have addresses for, but as of today, I have to say that @Home is the one I'm most focused on. I'll probably stop at the Gold card, unless I can start turning Maid Runner into a for-profit review site. Then again, @Home only gives 1 point per visit during the first half of the month, and 2 points in the second half, so right now, I'm not trying to fill up any of the cards I have.