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Radio Industry Unfair?
May 1946 Radio-Craft

May 1946 Radio-Craft

May 1946 Radio Craft Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Craft, published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

To some extent, I agree with the readers of Radio-Craft magazine who wrote to editor Hugo Gernsback complaining about the lack of opportunity available to radio servicemen returning from the battlefield at the end of World War II. As noted in this editorial entitled, "Radio Industry Unfair?," many are people who sold or took leave from their established electronics service and/or stores in answer to their country's call to go abroad to fight for the free world. However, Radio-Craft was, throughout 1945, filled with advertisements by electronics manufacturers promising jobs and opportunities and anticipated demand for representation by service shops and sales outlets. Evidently, it did not turn out to be so, at least to the degree predicted. Gernsback does have a good point, though, that if the letters submitted to him are an indication of the quality (lack thereof, actually) of those sent to companies and banks in search of assistance in opening a business, then it is no wonder so many failed to receive positive responses.

Here is the November 1945 article entitled, "Licensing Problems and the Serviceman," referred to in the editorial.

Radio Industry Unfair?

By Hugo Gernsback

Facts in the case of Ex-Serviceman vs. Radio Manufacturer

For a number of months now, Radio-Craft has been receiving an increasing number of communications from ex-servicemen who write bitter letters  indicting the radio industry - from manufacturer to distributer on down - accusing it of unfair practices in shutting out servicemen from sharing in the radio business, to which they believe themselves rightfully entitled.

Many servicemen state that they sold their own radio business, then went into the service, only to return and find that they are now shut off from their former and other supply sources. Some state that upon returning home, they opened a new store, or a new establishment, and since then have fought a losing battle to secure representation for some radio set or some radio supplies.

They wrathfully contend that they meet with no success and that the usual answer is: "We are extremely sorry, but we have no open territory at the present time, and cannot open new accounts now."

Naturally, the men cannot be blamed for voicing their extreme annoyance at all this. Many state that they are the holder of a Silver Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, and similar decorations, and they feel that the radio industry has let them down badly. They usually end up by stating: "What really did we fight the war for?"

Frequently the letters become extremely caustic, as has been attested by, a number which have been printed in Radio-Craft's "Communications" section.

It is not a simple matter to dispose of these letters with a blanket answer, because most cases differ and no single answer could possibly cover all of the different ones.

Unfortunately, many of the ex-servicemen who write these wrathful letters are not quite fair themselves. In the first place; many of the writers never had a radio set agency before they went to war, and they, therefore, do not understand the requirements of most radio manufacturers.

There is first the matter of credit. Radio set manufacturers give agencies or dealerships only to those who are financially responsible, because the radio manufacturers do not do a cash business. That means that the customer is usually billed on, say 30 or 60 days' credit, as the case may be. If the store proprietor has no financial rating, the manufacturers naturally will not be inclined to extend credit. That is true in every line.

The ex-serviceman appreciates the fact that just because he served his country, and served it well, it does not follow that this entitles him to a financial credit if he has no established credit.

We believe this to be elementary, but it is often lost sight of. We know as a fact that many ex-servicemen, who had been in the business before, and who had a credit standing previously, find little difficulty in re-establishing themselves with their old suppliers. It is when a new man, who had no previous credit standing, comes along that the difficulty begins.

Not so long ago we investigated a deserving ex-serviceman who had written in to us in a similar vein as that pointed out above. He, too, bemoaned the fact that he could not get an agency. We ascertained that this man did not have a regular store, but was a radio serviceman. He owned a tiny establishment and was strictly in the repair business before the war. He had never handled radio sets before: His location was also against him because he was in a residential section where there are no stores. For this reason the radio manufacturer could not grant a dealership to him:. This man's credit standing, however, was favorably known, and the set manufacturer suggested to him that if he could open a new store somewhere near or in a business section, where there would be a chance of selling quantities of sets, they would be interested in granting a dealership. From this it will be seen how difficult it is to judge such cases. No two are alike.

Then once more, we must come back to what we said editorially in our November issue - the approach of the ex-serviceman to the manufacturer.

In that issue we stated that no manufacturer will pay any attention to handwritten letters on blank sheets of paper, It is a serious reflection on the ex-serviceman who has not sufficient pride to get up a good letterhead and at least keep up appearances. We find that many of the letters which arrive here - and among these are the most bitter - are badly composed and are rarely on a decent letterhead. No one, therefore, could be surprised that radio manufacturers or their distributors pay scant attention to such un-businesslike communications.

Some of the writers seem to have an idea that Radio-Craft will always defend the radio manufacturer no matter what he does. That, of course, is not based upon facts.

Unfortunately, it IS true that a number of radio manufacturers today have so much business that they can be choosy. They usually are understaffed, and if some minor clerk gets a letter which he does not consider of sufficient importance, it may go unanswered.

On the other hand, it must also be admitted that deserving ex-servicemen, who have a satisfactory rating, have also been turned down. Here the fault does not lie with the ex-serviceman, but with the manufacturer. Unfortunately, too, there are a number of unpatriotic radio manufacturers in business, and they deserve severe censure. However, it must be said that if the case of the ex-serviceman is intelligently put before a higher official of a radio manufacturer the ex-serviceman usually will get what he was after.

Just writing one letter does not turn the scales of success, A personal call may be necessary. There is also the telephone. If the ex-serviceman uses his ingenuity and his resourcefulness and can get the attention of a manager or assistant manager, we feel certain that his cause will, in most cases, get the attention that it deserves.

The ex-serviceman must understand that thousands are fighting for the same thing that he is, and it is often quite impossible for an official to know who is an ex-serviceman and who is not. It is up to him to use sufficient pressure and resourcefulness to make himself heard.

All of this, however, is only half of the story. What good is it to the ex-serviceman to obtain a dealership or an agency on paper if he cannot get the sets? As this is written at the end of March there is only a single, solitary radio set manufacturer in the U. S. who produces 100,000 units, i.e. (radio sets), per month. It should be remembered that before the war a normal month's production in radio sets ran at least into 1,141,600 units*. From this it will be seen that a mere 100,000 sets, the top production by anyone maker at the present time, is a drop in the ocean. Right now radio sets simply are not being produced in pre-war numbers, let alone to fill post-war expectations.

As we go to press a statement by the president of the largest radio set manufacturer in the country, Philco, reaches us, from which we quote the following passages:

"But it is necessary to report that due to conditions beyond the control of the management of this or any other single company, our production remains at an unsatisfactory level and is much lower than our schedules called for. One of the chief bottlenecks at the present time is the fact that price ceilings on many radio parts and components are such that our suppliers are unable to provide us with more than a fraction of our requirements. A second major drawback has been a series of strikes in suppliers' plants which have also, interrupted the flow of parts and hampered Philco production.

"The solution of these problems depends on the formulation of sound policies at the national level, and it is hoped that progress in this direction will soon be forthcoming."

The statement, signed by John Ballantyne, President, is dated March 12, 1946.

Other radio set manufacturers are in a like position. They have few, if any, sets at the present time. The late steel and other strikes did not make the already bad conditions better. Indeed, they caused further unexpected delays.

Our personal guess is that there will not be an abundance of radio sets in 1946.

We are certain that by the end of this year when the set manufacturers are getting into their full stride, and particularly when the new crop of set manufacturers begin to look for outlets in earnest, that the ex-serviceman, if he is at all deserving, will get his rightful share of the radio business.

The important point that we wish to make here is that the ex-serviceman should make himself thoroughly acquainted with ALL of the conditions prevailing in his industry. He cannot act intelligently until he has gathered all the facts. Believe us, there are many angles to be considered during the present hectic days.

* Nearly 14 million sets per year: In 1941 there were produced 13,700,000 units.

 

 

Posted April 30, 2021

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