What the heck are “lady’s” discounts?

What the heck are “lady’s discounts? Many women in Japan have already been served a “lady’s lunch” (free coffee and dessert);  been to “ladies day” at the movies (almost half price); and went to Kyoto on a discounted package strictly for “ladies”. Foreigners realize they’re cashing in, but they still find it shocking that a business would offer a lower price to one gender and not the other. Some Japanese, even the guys, seem to think discounts for “ladies” are perfectly normal. But isn’t it sex discrimination?

No, of course – at least I think so.  Women in Japan have been benefiting from a marketing strategy referred to as “ladies’ plan”  (レディスプァン)which came into vogue as a marketing tool about 25 years ago. Ladies’ plans are effective because Japanese women tend to be price sensitive as well as sophisticated about what constitutes good value. Women are more likely than men to respond to sales and discounts, particularly those tailored to their specific needs.

In other cases, men are clearly getting the short end of the stick. The Brise Verte restaurant in the Prince Park Tower Hotel in Tokyo, for example, has a special “ladies lunch” in the month of July priced at 4000 JPN. The menu states that men can have the same lunch, but only if they fork out and additional 500 JPN. And “ladies day” at the movies seems like a particularly egregious (はなはだしい – extremely bad or shocking in an obvious way) example, not only because the offer is so widespread – every Wednesday at many cinemas around the country – but also because the break for babes is so big: Women pay just 1000 JPN for a seat that sets a man back 1800 JPN.

So, why the heck don’t the guys complain? Actually some do, but it hasn’t done much good. There are lively discussions on the Internet about 男性差別 (discrimination against men), largely gripping about movie theaters. And in 2003, a man lodged an official complaint with the city of Kobe over gender-based movie discounts. But the city refused to intervene with theaters on pricing after its gender-equality panel determined that the man hadn’t suffered any damage, and that being denied a discount to the movies doesn’t constitute a violation of his human rights.

That may not be a legally defensible position. It is a basic constitutional right not to be discriminated against on the basic of one’s sex, if there is no rational reason for differentiating between the sexes,” according to Hiroko Hayashi, a professor of law at Fukuoka University. “If a man was willing to file a law suit, there could be grounds for a favorable ruling. But because the discount on most of these ladies plans is just a few hundred yen, it’s hard for men to see the benefit of waging an expensive legal battle.”

In other words, ladies discount is only business strategy as businesses usually do with children. Many Japanese would not recognize “ladies plans” as discrimination, and instead regard them as favorable treatment. But maybe, in some meanings, “by implying that women need protection or special treatment, these discounts perpetuate discrimination and run completely counter to  our efforts to bring about equality of the sexes. Business should think beyond their own profit to the wider social implications of their practices, and find a better way to target female consumers.” – Fukuko Sakamoto, a renowned lawyer who has waged numerous successful sex-discrimination suits said.

Source:  Japan Times (Modified)


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