It looks like we've got all the power -- who knew?

May 13, 2007|By SUSAN REIMER

A RECENT NEWSPAPER STORY revealed that there is something in the marketing business called "the wife test."

Apparently, if the husband takes the initiative in purchasing anything for the home short of lawn and garbage bags, and she doesn't like it, it doesn't stay.

The story made specific reference to compact fluorescent lights, particularly unattractive energy-saving alternatives to the light bulb. They aren't big sellers in this country because women don't like them, global warming notwithstanding.

Whatever women think of CFLs, we must certainly be gratified to hear that there is a "wife test" out there and, apparently, products fail when they don't pass it.

I can't believe I didn't know about this before, although I can understand why the "wife test" has been kept under wraps. If I had known I had this kind of veto power, you can bet I'd have abused it by now.

I can think of all kinds of things that would have to go, starting with one or two of my husband's friends, although I would probably start small, with things like shoes. My husband has a closet full of items that couldn't manage a passing grade on a "wife test."

It is an axiom of economics that women control the purse strings in this country, even if they don't earn what a man earns for doing the same job. We choose everything from the house and the family car to his underwear. But the "wife test" is something else altogether.

We make the purchases for the family because he'd never get around to it or he doesn't have to use it or he doesn't have an opinion. I chose the new couch because he didn't think there was anything wrong with the old one. But this is a default mode. We are filling a power vacuum.

The "wife test" suggests we are the power. If we don't like it, back it goes. Or into the closet.

In the words of our president, we are the deciders. I love this idea.

I don't know why I didn't recognize the existence of the "wife test" long ago. There were certainly plenty of clues.

When we combined households and began weeding out the duplication, it was my husband' s stuff that went. Even his knight's helmet ice bucket and his Indian head statue went, and it wasn't like I had nicer ones I thought we should keep.

They didn't pass the "wife test."

And when it is bulk trash pick-up week, it is me urging him to stop clinging sentimentally to all the "stuff" in his garage.

(He has asked me why it is always his stuff that we need to let go of and not mine. I don't really have an answer for that.)

Anyway, I am going to apply the "wife test" all over the house, because if corporate marketers can't find an antidote for it, it must be pretty powerful.

And I know right where I will start: the bright orange pants -- not his size -- that he brought home from work because they were free.

They wouldn't pass any wife's test.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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