/ Shopping

Which shops play the most annoying background music?

Fingers in ears

We’ve had lots of requests to cover annoying music in shops, from radio stations in supermarkets to pop hits in tech stores. So we want to know which shops and music irritates you the most.

A bunch of Which? members have been in in touch to tell us how annoying they find it when they’re forced to listen to music in shops.

I must admit, I only ever notice if it’s a song I particularly don’t like – or if it’s too early in November for me to be able to stomach festive pop.

I’ve got particularly fond memories of Gorillaz’s ‘Dare’ coming on in a clothes shop, and all the customers and staff spontaneously dancing along. But, for me, shop music is generally something that usually washes over me. Or does it?

How music in shops affects you

There have been numerous studies that have discovered that the volume, speed and type of music played does have an effect on a shopper’s behaviour.

Unsurprisingly, loud music makes people spend less time in a shop. If you’re in a supermarket, music doesn’t affect how much you buy, but it does mean you make your way through the store more quickly. This means that the supermarket can get customers in and out more quickly, freeing up space in the car park and at tills, without seeing a drop in profits.

Slower music is likely to result in shoppers spending more time in a store, and thus buying more. And classical music is more likely to make people spend more compared to pop.

But if a shop gets the type of music wrong (the latest pop hits for over-25s, or easy listening for under-25s) then customers reportedly think that they’ve spent more time in store than they actually have.

So, with all this research to hand, which shops are getting their music wrong and what is it that’s irritating their customers so much? Are there any particular shops that stand out for you for their poorly-chosen, too-loud music? Or are you a shop worker who’s being driven mad by the same songs being played on a loop?

And do you feel the same about music in restaurants and pubs?

Chris Z says:
17 May 2016

what about good memorable comebacks to the continual excuses staff and businesses make for having it?

My favorite is when they ask if I have found everything I was looking for. My reply is ” Yes, there is something I was looking for. I couldn’t find the off switch for the music in your store.”

It’s interesting that often the cashier feels the same way.

Colin Steeples says:
23 May 2016

Shopping at ASDA when you have to hear the absolutely dire present day pop music drives me out. It is terrible. At least Morrisons seem to play the older better stuff. Why cant they play a bit of light classical music


Delighted to say that, according to the Pipedown website, one of the top three “offenders” in this conversation, M&S, has “listened to customer feedback, and the licence to play music in all our stores has now been cancelled with effect from 1st June 2016”. Many thanks to M&S but also to Which? for highlighting this problem. Let’s hope that the other two top offenders, B&Q and the Co-op, might follow suit.


That’s great Dorothy! Here’s a link to this announcement on the Pipeddown website: http://pipedown.org.uk/marks-and-spencer-stops-its-piped-music/ Well done!


Well this is a turn up for the book. Barely a week ago I was again criticising M&S in the Which? Conversation on a good shopping exprience for not listening to their customers and now . . . Hey Presto! . . . they have come to their senses. Perhaps they couldn’t hear us over the din. Do you think they have been reading this column?

As Dorothy says, now we have to keep the pressure up on B&Q and the Coop. I know for a fact that the staff in neither chain like the music – they tend to be of a more mature demographic, and even Bill the Bodger and his mates who use B&Q for their supplies prefer what they listen to on their tinny radios while messing up your house.


Neither of the M&S stores that I visit has played music except at Christmas. Having encountered ones that do play music, I have been lucky.


We’ve double confirmed this with M&S, they told us:

“We’re focused on putting the customer at the heart of everything we do, this decision is the result of extensive research and feedback from our customers and colleagues”.


Richard M says:
31 May 2016

Brilliant news! Hooray! Joy! At last I can go back to shopping in my favourite clothing store. As I reported here last year, I pointed out the huge Which? Conversation response to M&S (in a real paper letter!), and their reply didn’t even mention Which?! What a difference in attitude; this new CEO seems to be a listener, thank goodness. I will certainly write to congratulate him.

Richard M says:
31 May 2016

Thank you so much for your interest, Patrick. I have been thinking that Which? has gone very quiet on this issue which affects so many consumers, so it’s good to know that you are still there.