/ Shopping

What do shops have to say about piped music?


We’ve had more than 1,300 comments about background music in shops, making it our third most commented post of all time. So what do the most complained about shops have to say about it?

Three shops have been mentioned more than the others – the Co-operative, Marks & Spencer and B&Q. These stores were the ones you felt were the noisiest of all others (thanks to Dorothy for counting the complaints!). Ceanothus, who’s a member of The Co-op, told us:

‘I used to shop in my local Co-op regularly. No longer. Music is at a very high volume – so loud that transactions can’t be heard at the tills.’

Sue commented on her local M&S:

‘They have started secreting small hi-fi systems around the clothing department, usually at floor level somewhere, which drives me away from what I was going to look at – and eventually out of the store in frustration. I can’t think straight and I certainly can’t enjoy a pleasant, relaxing retail therapy session – quite the opposite!’

Shops on piped music

We took your comments to these three retailers to hear what they had to say in defense of piped music. A spokesperson for The Co-operative Food told us:

‘The music played within our stores is there to act as a pleasant background noise to contribute to the atmosphere, whilst not interfering with conversation within the store. We do take all feedback and observations seriously.’

M&S said its music was reviewed regularly:

‘Our in-store playlist is provided centrally and is designed to appeal to a broad customer base. We review and refresh this on a regular basis and take any customer feedback on board.’

B&Q encourages customers to speak to the store manager about volume levels:

‘The volume on our sound systems is set by our engineers upon installation, but we do allow levels to be changed locally by a member of the team if necessary. We also provide our stores with guidelines on industry best practice to ensure volume levels are acceptable.

‘We would encourage any customers concerned by volume levels to speak to store manager at the time, as they will be best placed to help.’

With all of the stores saying they’ll change noise levels if customers complain, I’d like to hear if such complaints make a difference. And why don’t we put the issue to the vote? Do you like or dislike piped music in shops? Vote in our poll below.

Do you like background music to be played in shops?

No - I don't like background music in shops (49%, 921 Votes)

Yes - I like background music in shops (38%, 705 Votes)

I don't really care to be honest (13%, 245 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,871

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Nigel Grant says:
1 July 2015

I visited http://www.gov.uk today for information about running a business. They have a spoken presentation, with muzac throughout. Thanks, guv.

Really annoying (and moronic) and not a good use of taxpayer’s money.

shirley gerken says:
26 July 2015

If you have hypersensitive hearing (HYPERACUSIS) like me it is sheer hell to go into shops and restaurants. Very low mood music would be acceptable surely to most people.

Gavin Bolus says:
15 March 2022

I don’t care for low-played music. If it must be played, it should be properly audible. Too quiet is almost as bad as too loud.

Pam says:
27 July 2015

We went for a meal in a popular Italian restaurant in Whickham, Newcastle last Thursday . It was only 6 pm as we had young children with us. The food is great, the staff are lovely but the music was so loud we couldn’t talk normally and the children began to shout. We asked for the volume to be turned down and it was, but it gradually crept back up. Worth a visit for the food but make sure you don’t get a table beside a speaker.

Sabine More says:
20 August 2015

I agree with others, this should be raised as a health issue. I believe that it is a form of discrimination as it prevents a large section of the community unable to shop freely because of noise. I have a chronic illness and one of the symptoms is hypersensitivity to noise. So it’s not just annoying to hear the noise it is actually physically painful. I do ask shops to turn music down but the act of doing so is frequently humiliating and often met with disbelief. In addition it is well documented that as you get older you lose the ability to block out background noise, so for those who just ‘block it out’ not everyone has this ability. The fact that people are consciously blocking it out means that they do not really want or need the noise. Shops use music not for customer pleasure but as a method for people to shop/eat quicker and therefore free up parking/tables to increase profits.

I had to go to Leeds recently, just for a two hour meeting. I had time to spare so went in to M&S, only to be confronted by music. Thankfully my local store is still quiet but it looks dated and I fear that when it is refurbished, music will be introduced.

My favourite local pub is now playing music on a regular basis. Fortunately when the owner is away it is usually turned down of switched off.

Now that it is so easy for anyone to play what music they want on their phones etc. I cannot understand why the rest of us have to put up with it.

Because music in shops is broadcast some people will inevitably not like the choice of music or simply want to listen to it whilst shopping – so why do it?. The answer seems to be that company executives are taken in by the bogus “research” claims made by sellers of piped music that it increases sales. It doesn’t. . Another reason sometimes given in banks and waiting rooms is that aids privacy. A moment’s though shows this to be false because if you speak quietly you won’t be heard above the muzak so you have to speak louder because the music.
In my view much of the music is very low quality (musically and the actual sound quality.so is very irritating as well as distracting. After a few minutes I can’t wait to escape. The staff sometimes turn it down if asked, but often they’re powerless to do anything as it’s dictated by “head office”. Many of the staff hate having to listen to it all day (whatever happened to human rights?).
Sometimes I give the staff Pipedown cards (printed cards from Pipedown – see their website – which ask the store to turn off the muzak). They’re almost always amused and say “can I keep this to show to my manager”. Occaisonally they get annoyed (but this is usually a manager).

Greg Holt says:
10 September 2015

I loathe muzak in shops and resent the implicit attempt at brainwashing. It never seems to occur to the management that people like different sorts of music and like to choose when they hear it. I respond by never buying anything in these places.

My doctor’s surgery has recently started relaying a local radio station in the waiting room. When I complained I was told it was to protect confidentiality. This is ludicrous since one now has to shout above the noise level to make oneself heard so confidentiality is compromised. I find it so distressing that I cannot wait in this room and so risk missing appointments and will now not make an appointment unless I am almost “at death’s door”. I have tried writing and complaining verbally but to no avail. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

It is unpleasant to have to be subjected to so called music all the time you are shopping. Most of it is cheap pop type music most people wouldn’t listen to if they had the choice. Some classical would be better if it has to be inflicted on people. I find it gets on your brain, and personally would prefer silence so you can concentrate on what you are doing, and not on trying to avoid the atmosphere of the muzak.

my local Sainsburys in Midsomer Norton has started playing VERY loud Glastonbury level type music .Ive been loyal to that Sainsburys for nearly 14 years but no longer

shrieking Christmas music in Midsomer Norton Sainsburys .Complaining about it has done no good.I will no longer be shopping in Sainsburys after 17 years.

deafening music in Tescos in Midsomer Norton.Ive complained but to no avail.Today 7 1 21,it was like being at Glastonbury.If i played my music at that level ide have the lady downstairs banging on my ceiling.ITS NOT WANTED.It should only be on at Christmas.Ive been shopping at that store for 14 years i wont be doing so anymore.

i no longer shop in Tescos in Midsomer Norton the music in there is just a DEAFENING Glastonbury type roar

the music in Midsomer Norton Tescos is DEAFENING,like Glastonbury.Complaining has done no good.they have lost a customer of 14 years.

It sounds like you are running out of shopping options, Simon. Have you complained to your local environmental health service? Could you get up a petition from local residents to demand a reduction in volume?