|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
Department stores living on borrowed time
Shukan Asahi 9/1 By Takeshi Ito
At a certain department store in Tokyo's Ikebukuro area,lifeless background music is often replaced by an inciting rhythm a few minutes before closing time,
It may mean nothing to the just shoppers,but the song signals a clear message to employees - the store was able to achieve the sales target for the day.
While this practice is an extreme one,many department stores are being forced to take every action conceivable to keep their heads above water as the entire industry continues to suffer from an extended business slump.
Shukan Asahi lends an ear to department store employees to see just how bad business really is and how small the chances of recovery are.
At the beginning of the three-page feature,the magazine supplies statistics,
Quoting industry association survey,Shukan Asahi notes that department stores around the country have been registering a combined month-to-month sales loss for more than three years since March 1992.
Under this circumstance,which could only be described as "adversity," department stores are cutting down on their spending in a drastic manner.
According to Shukan Asahi,abolition of overtime payment is "a matter of course" and biannual bonuses are increasingly being based on the performance of respective business sections.
A grouchy women in her 20s working for a major department store reveals to the magazine that she received only a 50,000 yen bonus plus monthly base salary this summer,
"Last summer,I went to Hawaii with the bonus,I can't afford that any more,"she laments.
Salary cuts are only the beginning.
"At our store,three-quarters of lights are customarily switched off 20 minutes after closing time,"reveals a salesman working at a metropolitan store.
"When the lights go down,it's so dark you can't work.
When you have to work overtime,you must ask the janitor to put the lights back on.
The worst crime in our store is for someone who worked overtime to go home without telling the janitor to switch the lights off.
The person who does this can never expect the janitor to do the favor again."
Cost-cutting measures,however have their limits Shukan Asahi informs its readers that department stores in Tokyo are currently increasing the number of unmanned elevators in a desperate attempt to reduce expenditure.
Aggravation of working conditions is causing a growing number of employ-ees to quit.
According to Shukan Asahi,many workers in their 20s and 30s are leaving department stores without securing another job after finding their positions unchallenging,the future gloomy,the salary poor and the working hours long.
"I hear from senior colleagues that marriages between co-workers used to be very frequent in our industry,"offers a 20-year-old woman working in a PR section of a leading department store.
"But you don't find too many of these marriages nowadays.
In offices like ours where the future looks uncer-tain,male co-workers appear unreliable."
Shukan Asahi closes the report with this comment by a male department store employee working in a clothing section:
"I buy all my daily necessities from shirts to neckties to underwear at a discount store in my neighborhood.
I know I'm not supposed to say this,but prices at department stores are too high.
I've never felt like buying them at my store."(TI)