- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

Eyeing an intricate DVD player or clunky home theater speakers? Better check with your spouse first.

The idea of checking with a mate before purchasing a big-ticket item may not be a new idea, but its name, spouse acceptance factor — usually called wife acceptance factor for the greater number of men interested in electronics — is building steam among technology gurus and electronics manufacturers.

Women control 88 percent of electronics purchases, whether they make the purchase or influence what their spouse buys, according to research by the Consumer Electronics Association. Whether an item passes the wife acceptance factor, or WAF, typically depends on price, design and complexity.

Steve Makofsky, a software engineer and self-described techie, said the WAF is growing among his techie cohort.

“I’m hearing it more and more, especially with friends who are married and trying some more of the out-there electronics,” said Mr. Makofsky, of Sammamish, Wash. “It drives what you’re purchasing.”

He felt the ramifications of the WAF when he installed a home theater television in his and his wife’s bedroom.

“I went to turn on the TV and he said, ‘not that remote. We have to boot it up first,’” said his wife, Liz. “You have to be kidding me that we have to boot up the TV in the bedroom.”

The system was removed and they agreed to limit the extensive electronics to his home theater room and office, they said.

“Guys are happy to have monster speakers with wires and big amps all over the place but whoever the guy’s married to isn’t,” said Ray Lepper, president of Home Media, a Richmond company that can creatively install electronics in walls, behind cabinets and even behind artwork.

Media rooms end up with a price tag between $8,000 and $40,000, including the electronic gear, he said.

Scott Stein, a Bethesda technology consultant, and his wife, Meredith, agree on most major purchases before going to the store and have an understanding that they each know how to stick to a budget.

But he recently bought a television without getting the OK.

“For the most part, she was fine with it,” said Mr. Stein, 28. “We had had some discussions about the purchase in the past where she had tried to express some limits on a reasonable amount. I somewhat exceeded the limits.”

The price came out about 30 percent more than what they agreed upon, but it didn’t lead to a fight.

“She appreciates the nicer toys, too,” he said.

Most women like technology, but in a different way that men do, said Michelle Miller, a marketing consultant and partner at Wizard of Ads marketing firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Men like hearing about a product’s speed, size, strength and accessories from salespeople, Ms. Miller said.

“But if you talk about what technology does for [women’s] lives, they love it,” she said, adding that women relate to technology in terms of how it can make their lives better.

Electronics companies are responding by changing the way they design and market their products to correspond with the influence of design-conscious spouses.

Wisdom Audio, a specialty electronics company in Carson City, Nev., touted its Adrenaline Speaker Series, which can be placed inside walls and features paintable grilles, as having a high WAF.

“The Adrenaline series are generally regarded as having the highest WAF of any audiophile-quality speaker in the industry,” a recent company release said.

In early 2005, electronics company Best Buy changed its in-store signs to focus on how a product is used instead of its gadget details to target women, said spokesman Brian Lucas.

“Part of it is getting women into the store more. They will walk through and see a home theater and they might suggest a change,” Mr. Lucas said. “That makes it a lot easier.”

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