Marks and Spencer, which last year dropped piped music in its stores (thanks to Pipedowners’ protests) except at Christmas, is this year planning to drop it over the festive season also. And ASDA is extending its Quiet Days to every Tuesday morning from December 15th. Such moves come as evidence mounts of the stress that department store staff suffer from endlessly repeated Christmas muzac. Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, warns people to take special care when encountering Christmas music because ‘it bypasses our rationality’.
That Christmas music stresses staff even more than customers is hardly news. For years Pipedowners have been pointing out the problem. It is one of the themes of our booket Whose Choice is it Anyway? Other shops should all now emulate M&S’s and ASDA’s sane example.
Write to Sean Clarke, the head of ASDA, congratulating him and urging him to extend this policy throughout the week. ASDA’s replies to emails suggest that it is open to reasoned arguments. email@example.com
‘The omnipresent curse of annoying muzak’ is the fourth most commonly hated aspect of hotels today, reports The Good Hotel Guide in its just published 2018 edition. (Poor Wifi reception, dim lighting in bedrooms and ‘captive’ coat hangers were the first three most hated things in modern hotels.) The Good Hotel Guide, one of the few such guides to remain wholly independent and impartial, gives full details about the piped music – or lack of – in each hotel reviewed.
All ASDA supermarkets turned off their muzac and reduced other acoustic and visual disturbances to a minimum for an hour last Tuesday to allow people with autism to shop in peace. This is a real advance: a major chain at last recognising the impact excessive noise can have on its customers. ASDA needs to expand the scheme to having well-advertised quiet hours every day of the year, however. Autism sufferers are of course especially vulnerable but they are not the only shoppers harmed by piped music. The 15% of the population with hearing problems are also badly affected, as are people with many other problems, from hyperacusis and tinnitus to ME. It is high time supermarkets woke up to this problem.
Email ASDA’s CEO Sean Clarke to press him to extend the scheme and make it a permanent feature of the chain, not a one-off. firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, keep protesting to the Co-op which is finally showing signs of listening to its customers. Email the Co-op’s CEO Steve Murrells, perhaps also pointing out how well Aldi and Lidl are doing without any music. steve.murrells@co- operative.coop
Wetherspoon, owner and operator of more than 900 pubs in Britain and Ireland, has reported an almost 28 percent jump in annual pretax profit, helping to send shares in the company to a record high. Adding to the cheerful mood, the company said trading had remained strong in recent weeks. “Since the year end, Wetherspoon’s like-for-like sales have continued to be encouraging and have increased by 6.1 percent,” Chairman Tim Martin said.
A vital part of Wetherspoon’s appeal to customers is the (relative) quiet of their pubs, thanks to the lack of piped music in all branches. Other pub chains should take note.
A new survey from New York reveals the effects on human health of noise of all sorts. Noise is now second only to air pollution in its adverse effects on human health. Hypertension and cancer are two of the potentially fatal illnesses that excessive, non-stop music – which triggers a fight-or-flight response – can cause. And, as the report in Harpers Bazaar magazine points out, you can no longer hope to find a refuge in bars, hotels, restaurants or even bookshops, as almost all are filled with piped music!
‘Loud noise correlated with high-stress events that could damage tissue: thunder, animal roars, screams, or war cries,’ says Bart Kosko, Ph.D., a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California and the author of Noise. So, in response to rare but loud threats, we evolved to spurt out adrenalin, cortisol, and other stress hormones—chemicals that jacked up our bodies so we could fight or flee. A constant gush of stress hormones actually restructures the brain, contributing to tumor development, heart disease, respiratory disorders, and more. And of course, our hormonal endocrine systems haven’t had time to learn that car stereos aren’t out to get us. ‘Today we regularly get similar stress-hormone surges from car alarms, ringing phones, police sirens, leaf blowers, jackhammers, and amplified voices.’
The problem is of course global and not confined to the USA.
Carol Caplan has had a Brilliant Idea: handing out Pipedown leaflets to concert goers as they enter or leave a concert hall. As people who appreciate music when freely chosen are among our keenest members, targeting people at such concerts should prove far more fruitful than thrusting leaflets at the general public.
Carol would much appreciate other Pipedowners’ company and support. This should take members very little time but ideally you should live in or near London.
She is also interested in starting a Local Group for Pipedowners living in London, especially those living in the N2, N3, N8, N10, N11, N12, N14,N21, N22 post codes.
Contact her at Pipedown@ossian.me.uk
People living in the USA have long complained about the problems caused by piped music there. Now the Ann Arbor, Michigan group has relaunched itself with a sparkling new website http://quietannarbor.org
Although their intention is to focus on local problems first – understandably, the US being a big place – they are very happy to exchange contacts and ideas with Americans from other states. So do contact them email@example.com
Politics in Britain look to be unusually volatile in the next few months. This very uncertainty give us a chance to alert MPs – plenty of them new to Westminster – to the problems caused by piped music, and also the need for official action to ban it in hospitals. This could come either through a Private Member’s Bill or directly by moves by the Department of Health. Copies of Whose Choice is it Anyway?, highlighting the stress such noise can cause, are available free on request.
If you have a new MP, write to him/her explaining the many grave problems piped music can cause, especially to people affected by presbycusis, tinnitus, misophonia and hyperacusis and also ME and autism. The MP concerned may be totally unaware of any of these problems.
The number of people with a disability that can be worsened or triggered by loud piped music is large and growing. The category includes people suffering from autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, tinnitus, presbycusis, hyperacusis, ME and misophonia as well as general difficulty in hearing. Added together they make up at least 20% of the population. Up to now this sizeable minority has been mostly ignored not only by supermarkets and other retailers but also – far more disgracefully – by those running hospitals, health centres, gyms and public swimming pools. This is despite the requirement to consider the needs of people with such conditions under the Disability Act of 1995 and the Equality Act of 2010.
There are signs that the commercial sector at least is beginning to wake up the problem. Some have been trialling quiet hours and/or quiet days, or even thinking of dropping piped music altogether. (See previous posts.) If you or people you know suffer from any of these, problems, when protesting do mention it, and also the two Acts. Stress that by playing inescapable loud music throughout their premises shops, gyms etc are excluding large groups of people. If it is unacceptable to exclude people on grounds of colour, sexuality, gender, race or religion from public places, it is equally unacceptable, and against the law, to exclude people because of their disabilities mentioned above.