Vol. 21: American-Style Show Windows in New York

Walking around in the vicinity of Times Square in New York after 8.00 p.m., I noticed that the interiors of the banks and offices seen through their front windows were still lit up. Americans have a reputation for leaving their offices promptly at the end of the day and not staying behind to work after hours. I thought first of all that this reputation didnft have any basis in reality after all, but, looking into the buildings, there was no sign a person anywhere. I asked the president of a branch office of a Japanese trading company what was going on, and he replied that there were many buildings in New York where the lights were left on all night in order to cut back on the costs involved in employing security guards. This seemed to make sense: after all, a burglar would find it hard to ply his trade with lights shining on him, and the costs of security guards could thus be dispensed with. I thought this was a really good idea and that the way of cutting down on costs in the United States, the land of rationality, differed subtly from that employed in Japan. The brightly lit windows also proved effective for advertising purposes at night. One sometimes sees colored lights and neon lights being used for decorative effect, creating the impression of an enormous show window. I couldnft help wondering whether the recent recovery of Americafs economic fortunes has not been due partially to this kind of conceptual transformation.

I might mention also that many American factories are raising their operational efficiency by employing an early shift and a late shift system. The early shift finishes work at 3.00 p.m., meaning that manual workers, instead of doing overtime, use their remaining free time to take on side jobs. The Japanese have a reputation for working too hard, but one wonders whether the Americans work any less hard once these side jobs are taken into consideration.

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