• U.S.

Business: Revolt of Mama-San

2 minute read

IF the Japanese workingman is a strike-proof model of corporate dedication, the Japanese worker’s wife is a plant manager’s dream. Not only is she conditioned by custom and culture to accept second place to the company in her husband’s eyes, but she also dutifully fills her home with all those electrical gadgets that are so important to Japan’s economy. Now the faint stirring of Japanese-style Women’s Lib and consumerism threatens to change her buying habits.

Trouble began earlier this year when U.S. manufacturers charged that Japanese electronics firms were “dumping” color television sets on the American market at prices below those at home. Angered by the news, five housewives’ organizations in Japan started a boycott against buying home-built color TV sets. To help spread the word, they held meetings with members of the employees’ social clubs that Japanese firms usually use to promote company loyalty. “Color TV sets cost about $100 to build,” said a spokeswoman, Tsuruko Haruno, “and they are sold to us for four times that amount. It just is too much.”

Color TV manufacturers admit that the traditionally docile housewives are wreaking their vengeance: domestic sales are off 80% from last year. Some makers, like Fuji Electric, have sliced prices by a third to win the women back. A few department stores have tried peddling color sets door-to-door. Meanwhile, 1,500,000 unsold sets lie in warehouses.

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