Early in this recession-blighted year, says Weekly Playboy (Apr 6), 10,000-odd executives of electronic appliance maker Panasonic received an official notice from headquarters asking them -- or was it an order? -- to purchase at least 100,000 yen worth of company products by July. (For top executives, the amount indicated was 200,000 yen.)
At Fujitsu, it was much the same story -- an email from the president went out to 100,000 employees “appealing” to them to purchase company products. Ditto, more or less, for NEC. Neither specified target amounts, but at a Sanyo Group subsidiary the “request” was bureaucratically precise: department heads were asked to spend at least 300,000 yen, section heads at least 200,000 yen. Rank and file employees also received notices urging them to do their part, without figures being mentioned.
Such is the dismal state of Japan’s once-proud electronics giants. Battered by slumping exports and stagnant domestic demand, they feel compelled to panhandle from their own employees -- with this difference: panhandlers generally, if not always graciously, take no for an answer. Your employer may not.
In a sense, Weekly Playboy observes, it’s an old story. In businesses with strict sales quotas -- insurance, for example -- the tacit understanding has always been that sales people falling short would make good the difference out of their own pockets. The manufacturing industry brought similar pressure to bear on its sales staff -- what you failed to sell, you bought. But the spread of the practice to all sectors of the economy. and to all employees within a given company, is “very exceptional,” says the magazine.
There is nothing in these notices and “requests” that implicitly make compliance compulsory. On the other hand, “we are asked to present the receipts from our purchases,” Weekly Playboy hears from an employee of a mid-size electronic maker. “It could come up in our next performance assessment. When you consider that the ongoing recession might lead to layoffs down the road, it just doesn’t do not to go along. Some people even make a show of buying more than their colleagues."
A certain “Mr Yasuda,” 35, is by no means so gung-ho; all the same, he ended up owning no fewer than seven liquid-crystal TV sets.
He works for a mid-size panel maker. “If liquid-crystal TVs don’t sell,” he says, “it’s not just our company that’ll go belly-up, it’s the whole town. So what can you do? In January, we started hearing rumors of domestic factories shutting down, so the company started a campaign, under the slogan ‘Protect the company and the factories,’ to get employees buying.”
No sooner had Yasuda dutifully ordered a set than the campaign escalated. Appeals to “company spirit” were followed by pleas to “protect domestic manufacturing.” Next came a drive to revive sagging company stock prices. Then the local neighborhood association kicked in with a plea to keep the local economy afloat.
“You had the feeling that if you didn’t buy you’d be ostracized,” explains Yasuda. He bought and bought. What can be worse than ostracism?
“I figured I’d unload the merchandize on Internet auctions,” he tells Weekly Playboy. Good idea, bad timing. “My colleagues got in ahead of me. The market was already saturated. Bidding started at 1 yen. That,” he says, “is when the tears came…”© Japan Today