Culturally Smart Business Decisions

...where prices are low and decibels high.

…where prices are low and dB high.

I don’t know a hell of a lot about Japan Home Centre. It’s a good place to buy cheap bleach or Drano, I’ll give it that. I did find out, in looking into my grievance with the chain, that despite the name, Japan Home Centre has no relation to the country of Japan. A Hong Kong firm, it started out as ‘International Housewares’ in 1991, selling HK$10 knick knacks before going on to specialise in housewares. A quick google search shows that Japan Home Centre stores are scattered around Asia in places like the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Macau and even New Zealand. Hong Kong’s the sweet spot though, with a branch on just about every corner. When your toilet just wont flush, it’s nice to know help is nearby. In 2012, the Japan Home Centre group approached a branding agency called ‘CBA Asia’ to do something about the word ‘Japan’ in the store’s name. Apparently, research had been indicating that it was hindering the growth of the retailer in Asia in view of resonant political issues such as the ‘Daioyutai Islands’ consumer boycott. 2012 was a touchy year for China and Japan in the long history of the disputed islands. Here’s some of the highlights that had the CEO’s at Japan Home Centre going into public relations meltdown:

August 14, 2012: Hong Kong activists reach the disputed islands by sea for the first time since 1996, with seven activists disembarking onto the island.

August 19, 2012: Ten Japanese activists swim ashore and raise Japanese flags on the island chain.

September 10, 2012: Japan’s government says it has decided to purchase the disputed islands from a private Japanese owner in an effort, Tokyo claims, aimed at diffusing territorial tensions.

September 14, 2012: Six Chinese surveillance ships sail into waters around the Diaoyu Islands to assert China’s territorial claims and for “law enforcement”, leaving after seven hours.

September 15, 2012: The biggest anti-Japanese protests since China and Japan normalised diplomatic relations in 1972 are held in cities across China. The Japanese embassy in Beijing is besieged by thousands of protesters throwing rocks, eggs and bottles.

September 16, 2012: Anti-Japanese protests break out in dozens of mainland cities for a second day. In some cities peaceful protests turn violent as protesters clash with policemen, attack Japanese made cars and smash up Japanese restaurants.

September 17, 2012: Some major Japanese firms such as Toyota and Honda temporarily shut factories and offices across China.

September 18, 2012: Two Japanese activists land on the Diaoyu Islands while widespread anti-Japanese protests have been held across China at the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria.

Japan Home Centre public relations officers feared the disputed island issue would lead to a decline in sales of shower curtains, hand-held toilet pumps and replacement mop heads.

Japan Home Centre public relations officers feared the disputed islands issue would lead to a direct decline in the sale of shower curtains, hand-held toilet pumps and replacement mop heads.

The hilarious race for the disputed islands is on

The SS Japan Home Centre makes a bold dash for the disputed islands

So, with the dispute red hot, CBA Asia was called in to clean up Japan Home Centre’s image so that racists could still shop there. CBA Asia claim in their ‘manifesto’ to specialise in ‘brands with soul that can inspire our daily lives’ and in generating an ’emotional connection between brands and consumers’. Holy shit, they sound great! According to CBA Asia’s website, the masterstroke in rebuilding Japan Home Centre’s image was to design a new symbol representing 2 hands gathered into the ‘reconstitution of a roof’ and to shorten the name ‘Japan Home Centre’ to JHC. The new branding was deployed at the end of summer in 2013 and everybody went home happy…funnily enough there are plenty of branches around Hong Kong still sporting the full ‘Japan’ label. Maybe the head honchos at Japan Home Centre hit the panic button too soon and didn’t give the Daioyutai Islands dispute the couple of weeks it needed to cool down, for people to forget all about it and to go back to buying this summer’s new arrivals in rice cookery. Who knows.

CBA Asia...sweeping your troubles under the rug since 1983.

CBA Asia…sweeping your troubles under the rug since 1983.

While I do think it’s strange that a Hong Kong company opted for the word ‘Japan’ in the first place (maybe they wanted to impart a sense of class for their business or to bask in the perceived reflected glory of a much more sophisticated nation…or maybe they just thought Hong Kong Home Centre sounded like some sort of homeless shelter or something), I don’t think it’s really that strange that in 2012 they sought the help of expert branders to steer their image away from controversy. Chinese/ Japanese relations are on a slippery slope at the best of times…might be a good idea to get rid of the ‘Japan’ association, especially if you want to crack on into the big Chinese market as time goes by.

JHC leaders celebrate the sale of their 12 millionth rat trap.

JHC leaders celebrate the sale of their 12 millionth rat trap.

But whatever! I don’t have a problem with any of that. The big business issues of cultural & racial tension based consumer backlash are very ‘adult’ and a bit too high-brow or something for me. I just sit back snickering and tee-heeing at that sort of stuff. I keep imagining the geniuses at CBA Asia sitting around the old think-tank spitballing ideas about how to make ‘Japan Home Centre’ seem…less Japanese…which, to me, is pretty damn funny.

I've got it! Using the word 'Japan' in the name leaves the business with a built in chink in its armour. What we need is to initialise the name and use the same colour scheme. JHC. Those Chinamen won't know a thing. Genius.

I’ve got it! Using the word ‘Japan’ in the name leaves the business with a built in chink in its armour. What we need is to initialise the name, hide ‘Japan’ and use the same colour scheme. JHC! Those stupid Chinamen’ll be none the wiser. Genius.

But it’s not all beer & skittles, dust brooms & cheap saucepans…I’ll tell you something that isn’t funny at all…something so mind bogglingly rage inducing it makes you want to rampage through Japan Home Centre, JHC, or the Culturally Neutral Unit Shifting Centre, or whatever the fuck it’s called, with a huge splintery baseball bat, crashing shelves and smashing glassware and bludgeoning the electrical appliance section into jagged piles of twisted steel…and that’s the hatefully loud, objectionably intrusive, in-store looped PA system hawking policy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just watch this video. I think it goes for about 4 minutes…but you wont even make it through 1.

That’s right…it’s looped hawking BLARING from speakers placed strategically around the shop to FUCK WITH YOUR EARS and make you buy paper plates, sanitary pads and a thousand other things you didn’t go in there for. It’s a relentless shopping experience. Every time I go into ‘JHC’ I’m like a lab rat that doesn’t know where to stand. I go over here and KA-SMASH, I’m being assaulted by some stupid moron yelling at me about half priced plastic spoons…I run away…but right into the teeth of another hidden speaker screaming at me about toothpicks. There’s nowhere to stand that doesn’t make my ears bleed. The decibels coming out of the speakers are almost visible. The air is rupturing all around me…being raped over and over again…tongue lashed by that horrible piercing voice and it never stops…it wont ever stop while the shop is open. For the love of god…turn it off…I’m already in your store…I’m already innnnnnn!! Stop hustling me…stop hawking at me, I’m already shopping…I’m already shopping!!

It looks peaceful inside...but it's not...

It looks peaceful inside…but it’s not…there’s speakers mounted on every wall and in ever corner like snipers, ready to take out your ears with extreme prejudice

Staggering out of the pan section of Japan Home Centre and into the fire

Staggering out of the pan section of Japan Home Centre and into the fire…’for the love of god make it stop’…

Let’s take a look at the Japan Home Centre end of quarter business report card. Zero out of 10 for your flash in the pan knee jerk culturally neutral re-branding that you didn’t even fully go through with because the Daioyutai Islands issue disappeared from the news after 2 seconds, saving you the need to have to bother to change the signage on all your branches. Zero out of 10 for you and your marketing people who came up with this boorish, blunt, typically Hong Kong sales strategy rubbish: WELCOME TO JHC WHERE WE BEAT YOU REPETITIVELY OVER THE HEAD AND STAB YOUR EARS GOOD AND HARD AND HUSTLE YOU OVER & OVER & OVER AGAIN WHILE YOU’RE SHOPPING WITH LOOPED SUPER LOUD HAWKING THAT YOU CAN’T HIDE OR ESCAPE FROM ABOUT PRODUCTS YOU DID NOT COME FOR AND HAVE NO INTENTION OF BUYING. And while I’m at it, a big fat zero for your association with flimflam artists,  CBA Asia,  and their stupid inanities about emotional bonds between brands and consumers. That’s a grand total of zero. Keep up the good work.

It could be worse I suppose…at least the staff in Japan Home Centre generally leave you the fuck alone, unlike so many other shops in Hong Kong where you’re stalked and eyed suspiciously by salespeople or leered at by dickheads telling you about your fantastic ‘free gift, free gift!’ with every $1000 purchase…but then again, if I was working all day in Japan Home Centre, I’d have no time for stalking customers…I’d be focusing every ounce of my energy on not going completely and utterly bat-shit-insane from having to endure the relentlessly cruel, loud, crude hawking that viciously stabs and snarls at you from every wall.

This post brought to you by Drano...I go through 4 bottles of this stuff a week clearing the decrepit old piping systems in my house.

This post brought to you by Drano…I go through about 4 bottles of this stuff a week clearing the decrepit old piping systems in my house.

This post additionally brought to you by these junked decorative floral arrangements. Opening a new JHC branch is a special occasion and as the crammed rubbish bins indicate...a good time was had

This post additionally brought to you by these junked decorative floral arrangements. The Grand Opening of a new JHC branch is a special occasion and such fertile floral works symbolise the substance and quality that only shopping in a store originally associated with Japan, for some reason, then disassociated with Japan but that still maintains hundreds of ‘Japan’ labeled stores, provides.

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33 Responses to Culturally Smart Business Decisions

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think all the noise and announcements actually ‘work’ on the local HK people. They are like rats in a cage responding to stimulus. In this case, they are eager to race around JHC with every blaring announcement to check out the new load of Darlie (formerly Darkie), toothpaste just in. CHEAP TOO! Get a case!!!!!
    The blaring announcements never cease. Ride the Star Ferry and it’s don’t do this or that in three languages taking the entire time you’re on board. The MTR with the door, the gap, the escalator, the megaphone workers in yellow, and the ‘don’t keep your eyes only on your mobile phone’ announcements which seemed to have stopped recently…obviously because they have worked so well!! Bloody well not! Zombie don’t care. Zombie crushin’ candy!! Weeeeeeee!
    8 Years down and 1 week to go. Do yourselves a favor and plan your escape. I’m starting to come out of the polluted stench and smile again.

  2. Plan your escape?

    *taps nose and nods

  3. HK PTSD says:

    If the announcements work on your average HK person, they do so very slowly and on a subliminal level. But I doubt they work at all. If they did there’d be no eating on mtr trains (instead of the revolting smorgasbord in progress on every train) and everyone could exit stations quickly and efficiently (instead of being stuck behind zombie fuckheads shuffling along staring at their phones blocking normal people).

  4. AA says:

    you must do a post on smart phone behavior. Ive been here 20 years (WTF), but the dummies on the smart phones are the final straw and I just want out.

  5. Chris G says:

    If you are carrying a foiled umbrella lightly tap them on the arm with an umbrella when they get too close, smile and say “Sorry didn’t want you to bump into me”.. They absolutely hate contact with anything that’s been touching the ground. Its not assault as you were worried they would drop the phone.

  6. AA says:

    foiled, or, soiled? You mean dipping it in dog doo, and poking the locals with it?

    I just go in with the shoulder. They bounce off. Who is in the wrong? The dopes with their heads down, playing candy crush.

  7. 15wongnh1 says:

    As a Hongkonger, I think that they’re overreacting, they’re being idiots and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Japan Home Centre. It’s a nice store.

    Also, uh, the older generation think this blog is stupid. The younger generation think this is awesome, hilarious and don’t really get offended because you make some good points.

  8. Kim says:

    HK sucks. It really does. I have no idea what’s wrong with this place. People are rude, arrogant, selfish, demanding, lack of empathy, artificial, materialistic, obsess with money …anything you name it. I don’t know why some HKers think they are better than mainlanders when they are clear NOT.

  9. Sarah McCoy says:

    This website is informative and amusing, please don’t stop.

  10. James T says:

    Currently in HK for a one week vacation and I must say….4th day in and I already feel like going back to my country. People here are EXACTLY like what Kim mentioned. Rude, arrogant, lack of empathy and etc. This is probably the worse country I have ever traveled to. I really couldn’t care less if this country has plenty of picturesque sites to visit. This country does not deserve a second visit. Definitely will be my last.

  11. Sarah McCoy says:

    Can I just throw in to the mix, Hong Kong children constantly whining in public?

  12. Chris G says:

    “I really couldn’t care less if this country has plenty of picturesque sites to visit”

    There aren’t any. Not really I cant think of anywhere where the view doesn’t involve looking at high rise apartment or office blocks in the distance. Even the outlying islands. A lot of locals or mainlanders seem convinced they live in some tropical paradise. I guess it depends on what you are used to.I have friends from HK who live in UK,Canada and Australia, all were born in HK but the only time they go back is for CNY to visit family members.

    The HK government are trying to encourage the 2nd generation of these overseas migrants to return to HK with a right to reside .In any other place with this overcrowding the government would be encouraging people to emigrate.They cant because the place wouldn’t be as prosperous without the non stop consumption. Their lives just revolve around buying the latest shit they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know (and wouldn’t like if they did!).I realise its the same in the rest of the developed world but that attitude is rampant here.

  13. Sarah McCoy says:

    Well said Chris. Keep up the good work.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “Their lives just revolve around buying the latest shit they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know (and wouldn’t like if they did!).”
    Could very well be the most succinct and accurate summation of Hong Kongers ever penned.

  15. AAUSA says:

    Can you please do another post? Ive been checking for 2 months! This is the only thing helping me get by.

  16. Excuse Me says:

    Please do a post on how to say “Excuse me” in Cantonese!!

  17. Jojo says:

    The selfishness and lack of empathy is really what gets to me. I live in HK but travel regularly to the Philippines and there couldn’t be a starker contrast between the warmth and friendliness of the filipinos and the materialistic/show off/selfish attitude of people living in Hong Kong – locals and foreigners alike. Not only the locals but many of the foreigners in Hong Kong display this arrogance and obsession with money. They can spend large amount of cash on sport cars and obsess on the latest luxury watch and/or handbag but are unable to even consider a marginal increase to their helpers’ salary..! Maybe it’s the Hong Kong “vibe” getting to them and transforming them into assholes … I dont know.. But this place is probably high on the list of candidates to become the next Atlantis…

  18. Anonymous says:

    JHC instore announcements are in Cantonese… Dudley must be a local since he understands them.

    Jojo, you should read this: http://philippinefailblog.com/

  19. Anonymous says:

    Anon, you must be another Fucktard. This blog is boring, badly written and stupid. Fuck off with your Filipino blog.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Sure, Dudley.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ll repost this link for every fuckhead who try justify this craphole and those fuck knuckles. Suck on this.

    http://hongwrong.com/hong-kong-textbook/

  22. Gweilos suck says:

    Yeah, HK education sucks, everyone agrees.

  23. Skyhigh says:

    Many people in HK struggle to make ends meet, and you yell “fuck my life” because of this stupid “advertisement”. Yea they are annoying, but if you don’t like it then get the fuck out and you have peace. If you need to overreact like this, it seems you’re like a spoiled kid.

  24. James says:

    Nobody is overreacting here, dipshit. It is what it is, and however stupidly annoying and irritating it can be, it is just yet another facet of this insufferable place and its shockingly frivolous people. It’s actually hilarious if you distance yourself and look at the inconsistencies of it all. On one side you’re being assaulted by some stupid moron stalking you, or yelling at you, then you have the herds of idiots elbowing each other to get a 1% discount on things like toilet paper, then you get parasitical morons stopping in front of you to take a picture of toothpicks in a ridiculously narrow corridor, completely blocking your way… then you get a complete cunt telling you to fuck off to regain your peace when you make fun of this surreal whorehouse.

  25. Skyhigh says:

    Most expats in HK probably live in comparatively big apartments and earn decent money, yet they rant and get mad about these advertisements in a fucking local shop that they visit probably once a year. Sounds like typical first world problem and white whine to me.

    This reminds me of a Facebook comment from an expat kid a while ago. That kid told the cage-home dwellers “Why don’t they live in Lamma Island? It is quiet there and lots of space to enjoy!”

  26. James says:

    You really are a colossal idiot, aren’t you!? It’s not about how people live!!! Doesn’t matter if they live in a cage or a cave, it’s about their fucking manners, DO YOU HEAR??? FUCKING MANNERS!!!!!!! YOU COLOSSAL CUNT!!!!!! Just because people in Hong Kong “don’t make good money” doesn’t mean they have to necessarily be utter assholes every second of their miserable existence! That’s exactly what makes Hong Kong the unbelievable and utter shithole it actually is. There are many countries considered to be third world, or under-developed, where people live in far, FAR worst condition than those insufferable pieces of shit from Hong Kong, and yet they can be A LOT more humane and decent towards each other than fucking hongkongers. By the way, most of those fucking cage-home dwellers actually do enjoy quite a high-end standard of living apart from their choice of living environment. Some of the cage-home dwellers in Hong Kong are quite happy to drive a Porsche at the expense of a better standard of living environment. “Work hard, play hard” is the moto in Hong Kong. So in most cases it is a choice, and not an imposition. What you fucking idiots don’t get is that YOU could change your living environment for the better provided you take some fucking action and actually do something towards actually IMPROVING it! Things like at least improving your manners and being just a bit more humane, decent, cordial and showing a shred of empathy and courtesy towards your fellow humans. Now, when “white whiners” say something, or take the piss out of your pathetic lifestyle, then we are being either racist, or white supremacist, or what the fuck ever. Just go fuck yourself!

  27. Anonymous says:

    You are wasting your time trying to reason with them. They genuinely do not feel any shame or guilt.

  28. Brainless island says:

    Skyhigh has only been outside of HK a couple of times I think.

    In any case, they are as thick as pig shit, unlikely to breed. They and their line with die out. Its evolution.

  29. Skyhigh says:

    C’mon, what’s a fucking advertisement has to do with manners? Many white people in HK whine about everything, crazy rents, crowded places, shitty food, grab-grubbing Asian education (which doesn’t even affect them)…

    Of course people in third world countries are happier, because although they are much poorer, they don’t need to deal with the shitty environment, which this blog has accurately described: take six allotted holiday days a year from a shit job where you’re under the microscope of pitilessly cold and heartless supervisors…work overtime without warning for no extra pay, undergo appraisals by power drunk morons one rung higher on the ladder, ride on dizzyingly overcrowded public transport seven days a week.

    So, it’s not a fucking choice that HK ppl live this way. If you get fucked for your whole life, that’s what you’ll behave. Have the whining white people here actually shown some “empathy and courtesy” towards the fucking hongkongers?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Fuck you Skyhigh.

  31. Brainless island says:

    Wow. Skyhigh wants the whites to save him / her. Too late.

  32. James says:

    Here is my empathy and my courtesy for you, Skyhigh: Go fuck yourself, and your inbred ones also. My empathy towards hongkongers is this: I hope you all burn in hell and choke on your own shit for the rest of your fucking miserable existence.

  33. Cat's Eye says:

    I truly despise living here. Try as I might I cannot ignore the noise pollution, the air pollution or the people pollution.

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