Morrisons, the supermarket chain, is introducing a Quiet Hour every Saturday morning. Its 439 UK stores will turn off their piped music, dim lights, avoid using the tannoy and turn down check-out beeps from 09:00 to 10:00. Morrisons is the first major supermarket chain to roll out the scheme to all stores nationwide.
The National Autistic Society called it a ‘step in the right direction’. It is indeed only a step because, although Morrison’s initiative is welcome, one hour per week of quiet shopping is not nearly enough! Nor are the estimated nearly 700,000 people (1% of the nation) with autism the only ones who find piped music deeply upsetting. The 15% of the population with hearing problems – which can include everything from tinnitus, presbycusis and misphonia to moderate deafness – also detest piped music. So of course do many people with perfect hearing.
Other chains are considering following suit. Asda said a number of its supermarkets across the country already worked with local groups to run quiet hours on a regular basis. It added it was working with specialist charity groups to ensure its stores were inclusive for all.
Tesco said it was not planning on rolling out the initiative nationwide, but store managers were welcome to introduce it if they felt it appropriate – as one store in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, did last year. And Sainsbury’s said more than 600 of its stores took part in the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in October last year and will be doing so again this year. In three of its Liverpool-based stores, where staff have received training, parents can request a number of store modifications when they begin their shopping trip, it added.
All such moves should be applauded and the chains concerned urged to extend their Quiet Hours greatly. Write to David Potts, CEO of Morrisons, congratulating him and urging him to extend the scheme to other days/times of the week. firstname.lastname@example.org
A recurrent complaint about otherwise excellent television documentaries is their intrusive, often inappropriate music. (For some reason this is particularly bad on wildlife programmes but it mars many other documentaries too). For years the relevant authorities, especially at the BBC, have shrugged off complaints with bland or irrelevant comments (such as suggesting you use subtitles), leaving frustrated viewers having either to mute the programme or to turn it off .
NB All music, along with other sounds including ‘natural’ noises, is dubbed in later.
Now, news arrives that the Red Button on the remote control can be used to mute the commentary. If it can be used to mute commentaries, it can surely be used to mute music too, something Pipedown has long urged. While this may require further adjustments, it cannot be technically impossible.
Yet the BBC does not want to know! Its management prefers to ignore the fact that many of its viewers are likely to be over 50, and thus annoyed by piped music of any sort.
Complain via the BBC website email@example.com”
Quiet Corners, which lists muzak-free pubs, hotels, restaurants, shops etc has been rejigged by our indefatigable hon webmaster Chris Chinnery. It is now possible to type in your location and see what tranquil places have been suggested (by members) within 10, 25 or 50 miles. At present this revamp is not quite complete but it soon will be. Ultimately it should be possible also to download an app to your mobile. Seehttps://quietcorners.org.uk
The Coop supermarket chain has won the wooden spoon of being voted the worst offender for piped music. Although the chain is not everyone’s choice of shop, it is often the only place that the most vulnerable in society – those who cannot drive for whatever reason, for example – find they have to do their shopping. It is also a chain that loudly proclaims its ethical ideals. So whether or not you shop there regularly, write in protest to its CEO Steve Murrells firstname.lastname@example.org
(NB: Not every branch of the Co-op is controlled by the London HQ. The East Anglia and Midlands branches have some autonomy, so it is wise to check the status of a branch before making a protest.)
The Nationwide Building Society, which until recently prided itself on not having piped music, is now introducing it, doubtless misled by the mendacious propaganda of the piped music industry. Email www.nationwide.co.uk/support/contact-us/make-a-complaint or by post to The Complaints Team, Nationwide Building Society NW 2020, Swindon SN38 1NW As the Nationwide is still converting once pleasant branches to muzac-filled places of torment, it is well worth writing NOW.
Recent reports indicate that several train companies are considering dropping Quiet Carriages on trains, on the grounds that such carriages are difficult and expensive to police and not really very popular. Write in to the heads of the relevant rail companies around the UK and tell them just how wrong they are.
Originally Quiet Carriages were established because of the noise caused by passengers talking non-stop on their mobiles, and by their ring tones. Now, as more and more people use text or email rather than talking to communicate, this particular problem has shrunk but the need for carriages that are quiet overall (with no very loud conversations, for example) grows as the world itself grows ever noisier.
Write also to the newspapers and even to your MP.
Andy Mellors is the top personage at South West Railways, and his email address is email@example.com
For Virgin, which has already stopped having Quiet Carriages in First Class, David Horne is the CE, firstname.lastname@example.org
Other rail CEOs’ e-addresses can be found at https://www.ceoemail.com/index-search.php
‘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 Roger Burnley email@example.com,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. email@example.com
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.