/ Shopping

What do shops have to say about piped music?

Sound

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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Comments
Guest
Buddy says:
18 April 2015

As a hearing impaired person piped music in shops and stores discriminates against me and against the 10 million of people of all ages in the country. With music playing through speakers wherever you go in the store or shop there is no escape from it. Hearing aids pick up the loudest noise. so that in effect all you hear its distorted music and you are unable to hear what your friend is saying next to you. You cannot hear staff properly either because the music dominates so much and in effect wipes out their voices.

This discriminates against anyone with any kind of hearing loss who is not a sign language user.

other people on this site just hate the music but at least they can still hear and talk to those around them… for me and other hearing impaired people it in effect cuts us off from people around us in the store or shop..

Imagine what it would be like if you went into a store or shop after dark for late opening in the winter and someone suddenly turned all the lights off. Piped music turns off our ability to hear and talk to others. It discriminates and should be banned on a national basis.

Guest
lizbie says:
18 April 2015

That is very well said, Buddy, and I had not realized that the number was as high. If only a small percentage of those affected by unwanted “music” in shops would write direct to the management of these companies, the shopping experience would surely improve for everyone. After all, those who cannot live without thumping trash for 45 minutes or so,may choose to have it on a personal device, but those with partial hearing cannot choose to have the quiet they need.

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Guest

Like Buddy I too have a hearing impairment and, after complaining to various stores and supermarkets about the unwanted music, have come to the view that they now no longer consider the customer is `always right`. Now I have taken my trade away from the High Street and simply shop on line. Sending things back if they are not to my liking. Let the managers of these shops `enjoy` their music in their empty shops!

Guest
chris says:
26 April 2015

Empty shops will never happen you will always have people going in to shops who hate or dont hate music or dont care and for people who truly hate music just shop on line all companies do it you will get the silance and the products you want.

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Guest

Chris – If I know exactly what I want to buy, I’m happy to shop online. If I don’t, I find it very helpful to inspect goods. With household goods, many look at aesthetics but I focus more on build quality. Often I can spot plastic parts that might break easily, goods that would be difficult to use or keep clean, and numerous other things that might affect my choice. In clothes shops I can inspect the quality of the materials and the quality of the workmanship. I cannot do that online and often the information I want to know is not provided on a website.

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Guest

The shopping malls in Shrewsbury have music so loud that t he acoustics of the building blur it to an indeterminate screech. I never go in if I can avoid it. So that’s a lot of shops off my list.

I am also deeply depressed by the way sounds only just describable as music are creeping into more and more radio programmes. Every trail now has musak and a serious discussion on the meaning of justice was constantly interrupted by some piano plinking – why do they do this and what has it got to do with the programme? It just makes me switch off.

Guest
Sally says:
20 April 2015

Patrick/Andrew, I am getting confused as to where we should be posting comments on this topic. The original conversation still seems to be going strong. My understanding is that you started this new conversation for 3 reasons (I might be wrong!)
1 to introduce the poll
2 so that people could comment on whether or not the advice from shops to turn down the music worked
3 to make it easier for people to find the conversation as the original one had been going on for such a long time.
However, the comments here aren’t limited to whether or not our complaints have made a difference; they are far more general. There have been interesting comments on disability discrimination on both conversations in the past few days. It seems a shame that visitors to one conversation might be missing the posts on the other.

Guest
Buddy says:
20 April 2015

The original conversation was not hard to find doing a search in a normal search engine. It came straight up with it. But it was hard to find doing a search for piped music in Which?’s own in site search. Which? should keep it going and make it easier to find as it would be a shame to lose all those interesting and well thought out comments. All effort gone to waste.

As a deaf person I feel very strongly about this and think that a conversation with a greater number of comments tells those in charge how important this subject is to many people, especially the deaf or those with health problems made worse by unnecessary noise.

Which? should break with their usual convention and keep the old conversation going.

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Guest

Buddy – If you have a look at the other Conversation you will see that we are discussing the Disability Discrimination Act. We need people with hearing problems, like yourself, to push for action. Companies and other organisations can tell the rest of us that many like the music, but it would be very foolish to ignore those who have genuine disabilities.

Much of the discussion so far has focused on personal preferences, polls and people wanting to persuade companies of what could improve their sales. Supporting the disabled and those employees who are obliged to listen to music all day and every day is far more important. In fact discussing polls is just detracting from the more important issues.

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Guest

Hi Sally and Buddy – the original Conversation (and as with all Conversations) will go on as long as you’d like them too! These can run in parallel.

I wanted to bring the shop responses to you, but also add the poll and promote the issue. However, there’s no reason why you can’t keep talking on both. Thanks 🙂

Guest
bill says:
20 April 2015

you have deaf people and people with learning difficulties in all countries and you go to other countries where more shops play music then here. if it affected people at all caused grief we would have a world of silence in shops bars restaurants and shopping centres also we would have world wide petitions about it but we don’t. its just this country where people want to have it all there way or no way for just a 20-30min shopping.

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Guest
lizbie says:
23 April 2015

I don’t know what your knowledge of the rest of the world is like – I can tell you that in the U.S. the customer is always right, and complaints result in action. In France, “background” music is rare since people actually enjoy the civilized aspects of shopping. It is in fact only in the UK that one is subjected to loud pop just about everywhere.

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Guest
Sally says:
24 April 2015

Campaigning against unnecessary background music in public places is certainly not limited to this country, Bill. There are noise abatement groups worldwide and these often include a section against muzak. Germany even has its own version of Pipedown http://www.pipedown.de/

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Guest

Hi Lizbie, thanks for your comments, but please be polite when you disagree with someone. Read our community guidelines for more: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

Guest
Catherine Nugent says:
20 April 2015

The places I find most problematic with loud background “headbanging” music are areas that I frequent a lot, ie cafe’s/ restaurants *Saturday) treat. The main areas mentioned in Quiet Edinburgh are Museum/Castle type of café’s. I like to go in, sit down and people watch. Another area that has increased loud head banging blary music is Charity shops. You used be able to go in and have a chat with person behind counter who was often a bit of a character who played classical music or Elvis. Older people are still behind the counter, but music is modern, head banging type. I no longer go in or stay as long. Almost all cafés Café Nero, Costa, Starbucks etc have loud blary music, but most of their customer base are young students etc.. Recently Lidl have taken to playing music, the one in Leith Walk had quiet background music which was fine. The one in South Bridge had young people’s blary music, again a Student area.

I have mentioned about music levels to some café staff, and as there has been no response, much as I may like a particular café, I have left and not returned. It does give one the opportunity to try other places. Sadly, it is becoming more and more difficult to find a café, in Edinburgh, in particular which does not have loud, blary, “head banging” modern music. I recently visited the new Rabbies café in Waterloo Place. It had lovely Scottish scenery or 2 large screens. Food was ok. Sadly, background music was loud, blary and modern, which did not even sound Scottish, and therefore, not complementing calm, tranquil Scottish scenes on screens. Yes, I do accept that Rabbies is renowned young persons coach touring company and perhaps that was what was being reflected. So much more can be achieve by peace/calm/tranquillity. If there must be background music, keep it low, in the background, barely audible. Keep it easy listening, classical in nature. I have been in cafe’s where groups of people and individuals are meeting for a chat, catch up and generally listening to each other. This sort of contact should not be discouraged or drowned out by loud music. If that café/store etc wants to do something different than everyone else. Turn down/off loud head banging music, radio etc. You may find that you have got more customers who are willing to come in, stay longer and even buy things. These customers will then be able to pass on their experience to others and , hey presto, more happy/satisfied customers who will keep coming back and bring in their friends, and pass the word on of this fantastic place, I’ve just found.

The other areas that have come to the fore recently are Hospitals Inpatient Wards and Outpatient settings, where there is loud music or a day time TV on, particularly distressing if you are going for an Outpatient Cardiac apt. Having loud blary music emanating from a local radios station on in hospital wards, where there are particularly frail elderly people can be quite distressing and upsetting. If you must have music at least have it appropriate to the age group of the ward, I can feel my heart racing as soon as I hear modern “head banging music” and you have no control over it. In a restaurant/shop etc you can walk out. If you are recovering from an operation, or you are a frail elderly person, you cannot walk out of hospital

I thought an Entertainments licence was required to play music to the public.

Many thanks for allowing me the opportunity to express my views on a very important issue to us all. Please, please, keep Edinburgh quiet, so that all may experience peace, calm, tranquillity and spread the word accordingly. It is great for locals to have their say for a change. If locals have a problem with cafes, shops, stores etc having loud, blary head-banging music, how do we thing tourists feel!

Thanks for listening.

C. Nugent

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Guest

Catherine, my understanding is that hospital treatment areas (including hospital wards) are exempt from having to pay for a music licence. However, they do have to pay for PRS for Music/PPL licences in NHS waiting areas. In Scotland alone the Health Boards are paying thousands of pounds of NHS money on these licences (and this doesn’t include GPs’ waiting rooms). The problem is that the music industry has convinced even the medical profession that background music is relaxing. It is only relaxing if you like the choice of music and actually want to listen to it at that time. Otherwise it can have the opposite effect.

Our local Quiet Edinburgh site http://www.quietedinburgh.co.uk/ is doing its best to highlight muzac-free venues in the Scottish capital. Unfortunately, you are right in saying that many of the “quiet” restaurants are in museums and art galleries. However, we are gradually adding more independent venues thanks to people notifying us. Please let us know if you come across any venues not already on our list.

Finally, I see that muzac-free Primark has just reported an 11% rise in profits. Yet more proof that spending large amounts of money on music licences has nothing to do with improved sales (and, judging by this conversation, might actually have the opposite effect)

Guest
Jacqui says:
22 April 2015

While shopping one evening in Tesco music suddenly started playing loudly. I was at the customer service desk at the time & couldn’t hear what the shop assistant was saying. On turning round I discovered it was being play through a stereo system by the door, operated by the security guard.
Should this happen again I fully intend to complain about it. There’s not much point in having a customer service desk if you can’t hear what they are saying.
Also my elderly mother who is deaf has great difficulty shopping due to the volume of music in shops even with family support. !
Just in case anyone out there thinks we are are being narrow minded I’d just like to add that we both love all kinds of music we do however like to shop in peace.

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Guest

I asked Action on Hearing Loss for any research and other information they have that background music causes significant impairment, and to what proportion, of those with hearing problems. Their initial response was to refer me to their leaflet on the effect of loud noise (>80dB) on causing permanent hearing damage.

Pursuing the original question got this response: “We are planning to explore the accessibility of cafes, bars and restaurants in particular in the near future with our research panel, to analyse the key issues we might campaign on in this area. The impact of background music in these spaces, as well as the need for deaf awareness training and hearing loop systems will be explored.”

So, presumably, no research work known to them linking background music and hearing impairment. To help them with their proposed reseach those who do experience hearing difficulties should contact them direct relating their experiences.

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Guest

That is a disappointing response but we certainly do need people who are suffering to come forward and push for action. Shops etc. are not obliged to pay any attention to whether or not we like music but they should not be ignoring the needs of disabled people or their employees.

I’m not sure how many premises have music so loud that it could cause hearing damage. If that was a problem it could be reported to HSE.

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Guest

I doubt any retail premises would knowingly broadcast music above 80dB!

As for disappointment, it is a bit surprising that Action on Hearing Loss know of no relevant research (I was going to contact Hearing Research UK but find they have merged with Action on Hearing Loss). This may, of course, be because there have not been significant problems reported. Their role is to look after the interests of hearing-impaired people so had they been aware of problems I’d expect them to have followed them up – unless those in contact with me do not know what is going on.

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Guest

I have been in touch with Hearing Link with the same questions. I have had a pleasant but not very helpful reply; suggestions such as asking for the volume to be lowered and writing to the bosses. I have asked if I might quote part of the response, but I have had no reply to that. It seems that the hearing loss organisations are not going to be much help.

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Guest

I am encouraged by that reply, Malcolm. I wrote to Action on Hearing Loss a couple of years ago about access for people with a hearing impairment to restaurants playing loud background music and at that time they said that it was something they hadn’t really studied. The fact that they are now saying they are planning to explore the accessibility of cafes, bars and restaurants in the near future with their research panel sounds promising.

Have you tried writing to the MRC Institute of Hearing Research with your initial inquiry? They might know if any research is going on in this area. I came across a report that low frequency sounds can damage our hearing. http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/09/sounds-you-cant-hear-can-still-hurt-your-ears Don’t know if this is relevant to our argument about non-stop background music!

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Guest

Dorothy, thanks for the lead. I have now contacted them.

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Guest

I wrote to my local Tesco yesterday and complimented them on the lack of piped music. This was via the general customer services contact form on Tesco.com, and I said: “this may come as a suprise to you unless it is a nationwide Tesco policy, but having NO piped music in the store is BRILLIANT!” I hope they spread the word.

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Guest

I contacted Action on Hearing Loss again pointing out the research carried out for them in the past as Dorothy mentioned. The reply was “Our research department and campaigns team are looking to explore these avenues in due course, any new research and campaigns will be loaded onto our website. If you require further information please do not hesitate to contact us again.

They don’t seem very interested. Hope Which? has more success.

I’m still waiting for a reply from MRC.

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Guest

Malcolm – It might be worth looking at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research, though I’m not sure that this engages directly with the public.

Having looked further into the scientific literature I’m beginning to think that there has not been much research to investigate the problems of exposure to music. 🙁

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wavechange – I have contacted MRC but no reply yet.

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Guest

Re Malcolm’s earlier response from Action on Hearing Loss…I now have contact details for a member of staff at Action on Hearing Loss who is in the process of “formulating a survey which we want to use to get café’s and bars to understand the problems background noise has to people with a hearing loss”

I know Which? commenting guidelines don’t let us post personal e-mail addresses but, if you contact me via our Quiet Edinburgh website, I am happy to pass on details to anyone who wants to help Action on Hearing Loss.

Apologies for wandering from shops again, Patrick!

Guest
Tumour says:
3 May 2015

Most shops I go to play background music. It’s like a noise wall that I really don’t go past. I have asked for managers to come to the door to complain. Nothing gets done for me to be allowed to spend anything! I have pain in my head because of tumours which goes on a long time and I want to make the most of my life that I can but everywhere seems to have music noise that drives me away. Most staff have told me they are afraid of losing their job if they complain. What can we do??

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Guest

I have now had a reply from MRC as follows (there seems to be no research):

“There are HSE rules on the maximum allowed duration for various sound levels: see http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/index.htm
The rules are somewhat complicated, but what they reduce to – for continuous sound such as background music in shops – is that an employer needs take action if a daily average of 85 dB(A) (for the actions, see http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/faq.htm). This would be reached with a continuous 85 dB(A) for 8 hours, or 88 dB(A) for 4 hours, or 94 dB(A) for 1 hour (http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/dailyexposure.pdf). These levels are quite a lot. There’s a figure at the bottom of this page that illustrates it: http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/advice.htm

I (MRC spokesman) do not know of any research into the average sound levels that are used in shops, but, personally, I would be very surprised if it reached these levels. However, as far as I can tell, these rules do not apply to members of the public who go to the shops or restaurants, instead they apply to employees only (to quote the HSE website, “The Regulations do not apply to … members of the public exposed to noise from their non-work activities, or making an informed choice to go to noisy places [or] low-level noise that is a nuisance but causes no risk of hearing damage”).

If you wish to know more, I suggest you contact the Health and Safety Executive, as they will be the experts in this area

Second, does it affect the ability to hear? It depends … hearing-impaired people generally do find it harder to understand speech in noise than normal-hearing people, but the effects are largest where the speech level is about the same (or lower than) the level of the noise. If the speech level is a long way above the noise level, the impaired-normal differences are likely to be much, much smaller.”

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Guest

That’s disappointing, Malcolm, but thanks for trying. I rather doubt that music in shops approaches the sound levels that are likely to cause hearing damage. My own investigation of the scientific literature has found numerous references to the beneficial effect of music, even for those who find problems with loud noise.

Apart from loss of high frequency hearing typical of males which I have followed over the years with a signal generator, my hearing is OK, yet since I was in my teens I have found it difficult to have a conversation at social events where others cope well. Likewise, I find it difficult to focus on reading, crosswords and mental arithmetic with music at a comfortable listening level, and trying to concentrate becomes stressful. I am certainly not alone, in being able to concentrate while listening to music. Nevertheless, I have not been able to track down scientific reviews or primary literature about the negative effects of music and my guess is that research has not been carried out, or done but not published.

I did speak to a friend who is a disabilities officer and has had to cope with students with autism, but have not got anything useful to report.

Since we started to discuss music in shops, I have noticed it becoming more common. It’s not loud and I can cope with it, but I do feel sorry for those with serious hearing difficulties, and those staff who have to put up with it all day, every day.

If there are any useful scientific papers it is easy to check for more recent articles that cite the earlier work.

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Guest

Thank you for sharing your reply, Malcolm. Last year I went to a talk at the Edinburgh Science Festival by one of the research staff at the Scottish branch of the Institute of Hearing Research. One of the exercises he gave the audience was to pick out numbers from 1-10 which were read out against what he called “pink noise”. The numbers gradually became louder and the audience had to indicate when they became audible. Afterwards I wrote to him to ask if he ever did this type of experiment with background vocal music, rather than pink noise. I explained that I find vocal music is particularly intrusive when you are trying to have a conversation. It is also intrusive if you are trying to read, for example in a bookshop or in a card shop. I don’t seem to be able to cope with two lots of “vocals” at once.

This was his reply: “What you are experiencing with overlapping conversations and vocal music is what we call ‘informational masking.’ That is, apart from overlapping spectrums (that result in ‘energetic masking’, i.e., energetic vibration in the same parts of the cochlea) there is information content in the noise you are trying to ignore and this makes it hard to follow the information in what you are trying to listen to. We definitely study this kind of noise interferer – we use pink noise (like in the demos at the Science Festival), white noise, and speech-shaped noise, but we also use speech, multi-talker babble, amplitude modulated noises, and all sorts of realistic background sounds.

As a general rule, the more complex the noise is and the more information it contains, the harder it is to understand simultaneous speech and the less benefit people get from making the noise quieter. The worst case scenario, really, is multi-talker babble plus loud vocal music, just as you described. It probably all comes down to having a finite amount of attention that one can allocate. A second (third, or fourth) conversation requires you to pay greater attention so that you can deliberately ignore words that you can clearly hear!”

Perhaps this explains why so many of us find vocal, rather than instrumental, music in shops and restaurants so difficult to tolerate.

Guest
Sally says:
14 May 2015

Dorothy, interesting that they seem to be doing research into the way background noise affects our hearing. Pity they don’t publicise it more in relation to the incessant piped music we have to endure!

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Guest

Thanks very much for sharing that response, Dorothy. I found it very helpful because it explains why I have a slight problem in shops with background vocal music. I actually have very good hearing and can hear low-level speech and other sounds very well over considerable distances. I can also hear well across a very wide cross-sectional area. I thought I just had bad tuning ability because I was unable to screen out the unwanted sounds and my left and right ears were competing against each other to receive all the available sound. It is the mental processing of those conflicting sources that gives rise to the minor discomfort in my case but in an acute or prolonged form would probably induce stress. The “informational masking” described by your IHR correspondent makes a lot of sense. It is not my ears or my sensitivity that is the problem but the overlapping information content that I am struggling to decipher, categorise and either receive or reject as appropriate. I must admit, when listening to harmonic music unaccompanied by voice patterns I have absolutely no discomort and actually find it quite pleasurable even if the type of music would not be my favourite. This might explain the scientific evidence on the beneficial effects of background music reported by Wavechange.

Thank you Malcolm for sharing the reply from the MRC. Not surprisingly, it focusses more on the potential of background music to cause harm to normal-hearing people than on any temporary harmful effect on people already suffering from a hearing disability. People with existing hearing loss could, under the “informational masking” explanation from the IHR, experience substantial aggravation of their hearing disability and this might be exacerbated if using a hearing aid. Such people will not just experience discomfort but suffer from real stress as they try to process the two [or more] streams of information – one essential, the other[s] to be ignored but which cannot be ignored until processed in conflict with the essential sound. There are millions of people with varying degrees of hearing impairment who must genuinely be suffering when forced to unscramble speech from simultaneous singing; in the most sensitive cases the effort must be leading to some anxiety compounding the stress. There does not [yet] appear to be any evidence that retailers are giving any thought to these issues and I doubt if a single risk assessment has ever been produced in connexion with the playing of sing-song in shops.

I feel enormous sympathy for Tumour who tells us above about pain experienced in shops with background music and cannot even go into them because of the effect on him or her. I doubt whether playing only music without vocals would make much difference in his or her case but it shows that disability comes in many forms not always obvious and that if we are to aspire to being a civilised and caring society there is a long way to go, even by those companies are conscientious but possibly not sufficiently well-informed.

Incidentally, while the Health & Safety At Work etc Act and its derivatives might appear to concern only employees, the management of health and safety at work [under various regulations] is supposed to consider all potential hazards including to members of the public invited to be or present on the employer’s premises or at risk from its operations wherever they take place.

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Guest

Dorothy and John, I find it very surprising that no formal research appears to have been done, or at least reported, on what I would have thought was a fundamental problem for people with defective hearing – how to maximise the clarity of hearing when there is background noise – whether music, vocals or anything else. I wonder if those who design hearing aids have anything to contribute?

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Guest

Given the enormous amount of technological and acoustic engineering effort being put into the manufacture of ever more sophisticated noise-cancelling headphones, I feel sure there is a practical solution out there; maybe the will to discover and develop it is lacking.

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Guest

Malcolm, I’m not sure there is much they can do at the moment. My second question to the academic at the Institute of Hearing Research was about recruitment. I had only recently come across this condition (whereby, because of the aging ear, older people hear the lower registers more loudly and so are particularly affected by the “thudding” beats of background pop music). This was his response:

“loudness recruitment is a real problem. It’s what makes building hearing aids so difficult: you can’t just amplify everything because it quickly becomes painful to listen to. You have to use compressors that ensure that quiet sounds are made louder, but loud sounds are not. Then the compressors in turn cause problems with hearing speech in noise. This makes it a bit of an intractable problem at the moment. Until we can address the more fundamental causes of hearing impairment (by regrowing hair cells or remapping the auditory brain, for example), we’re stuck with recruitment!”

I don’t wear a hearing aid but I have been shopping with friends who do and who sometimes have to switch off the aid because the music is so loud as to be unbearable. Then they can’t have a conversation with their friends. I honestly don’t think shops have any idea how widespread this problem is.

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Guest

Dorothy, I have found the British Hearing Aid Manufacturers’ Association. Like John says we are so clever with electronics these days maybe they have approached this problem. I’ll see if they have anything to say.

Guest
Dave says:
17 May 2015

Interested to read that you could find only references to the benficial effects of music, wavechange. I have genuinely struggled to find articles suggesting that background music is beneficial, apart from those commissioned by or sonsored by the music industry. The only impartial research I have come across is that which comes with a proviso that to be beneficial the music has to be self-selected. More than one article states that surgeons claim they work better to a background of piped music. However, this is music they have chosen. It might not be what the rest of the operating team wants!

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Guest

Sorry Dave. I should have said that I only noticed scientific articles on the beneficial effects of music. I did not look at the context. I don’t think this means that there are no negative effect, just that they either have not been studied or reported.

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

I have the top of the range Bose noise cancelling headphones but unfortunately they can’t keep out the rubbish music from stores like B&Q .

Guest
Dax says:
12 May 2015

I think that the clothes chains aimed at young customers such as Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch and Superdry, could well have music levels at or above 85 decibels.

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Guest

That might explain why many of the customers going in those shops seem to be wearing hoodies. Or is it the other way round?

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Guest

I visited IKEA once about ten years ago, I think, and decided owing to the awful music being played at a very high volume that I would never go again. Last week I went again with my partner just for the trip, intending to stay in the car. I was then informed that there was no music being played, so I went in and had rather a pleasant couple of hours. I wrote to IKEA asking if I had just been lucky that day or if the policy had changed. I had a cheery telephone message thanking me for my feedback. Head office had got in touch with Cardiff to learn what was ‘wrong’ and found the volume control that day had not worked. But I was assured that things were now back to normal and that most people ‘just love’ the music.

Guest
Sally says:
21 May 2015

Always amazes me how ingrained this perception is. Hopefully the Which? conversations have illustrated that a large proportion of us don’t ‘just love’ the music.

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Guest

If you include people who don’t mind piped music the poll showed 48% against, 52% for or don’t mind. But I think if you want a poll it needs to be a much larger and more representative group. However I don’t think this is an issue that a poll would solve; it is down to discussing views with individual shops or groups – if there is no H&S problem then it is their commercial decision.

Guest
Dave says:
22 May 2015

You could re-phrase that, Malcolm, and say that 60% either dislike background music in shops or are indifferent to it, and only 40% like it. I agree with you that this should be a commercial decision and, as such, we can’t really interfere with it. However, I can’t help wondering just how informed this decision usually is. When you ask companies what research they have done as to whether or not their customers like background music they often admit that they have done no research at all. Those who do mention research often quote statistics produced by the music industry. In view of the fact that some of the most successful businesses don’t play music, I still have to be convinced that there is a sound commercial basis for playing it.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Dave, exactly! I took it that those who didn’t mind had no objection to it. I was just pointing out the closeness of this particular poll. At present information from experts has either not been presented or is not available. I have tried to get some facts and recently have emailed the hearing aids manufacturers association to see if they can add anything to the discussion; no response to date. So presently it does just come down to commercial decisions by the perpetrators

Guest
Dax says:
24 May 2015

I doubt that the poll is very accurate as it certainly does not reflect the comments here. I assume there is nothing to stop people voting more than once.

I can’t help but think of the number of people who comment here, and of organisations like Pipedown and The Noise Pollution Clearing House. There seems to be no organisation of people demanding that Primark, Waitrose and Wetherspoons start playing pop music all day.

In my own experience most customers and most shop workers don’t seem to like it.

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Guest

Dax, I agree that the poll probably isn’t accurate but I am pleasantly surprised at the number of respondents who are saying that they dislike music in shops. I always thought that more older people dislike it than younger people (partly because older people hear it more loudly anyway). Older people have been shown to be far less active on social media than younger people. I know so many older people who never use Facebook, let alone Twitter, or who don’t even possess a computer. And yet they hate backgound music is shops and restaurants. Their views are never going to be recorded on internet sites. The fact that so many people are saying here that they dislike background music, or are indifferent, is very encouraging.

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

In fact other polls have come up with similar results. Don’t believe what the people who supply piped music claim from their dodgy “research”. Most people don’t like it and it doesn’t increase sales.

Guest
chris says:
26 May 2015

I know a lot of people who have voted but won’t chat on here because they know they will get gang up on here for liking music in shops and they don’t want to get in arguments. from sites I have put this on and people I work with and know some do like music some don’t mind some don’t like it depending on the type of music to me the poll is correct if you did a whole country survey it would be very close because from older to young people you will have some that like it and some that hate it.people on here won’t like it but a lot of people do like some sort of music in shops and not silence.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

It isn’t a numbers game. Spare a thought for those with hearing problems.

Assuming you have a mobile phone, you can have whatever music you like.

Profile photo of terfar
Guest

Chris, you’re missing the point. This isn’t about whether some like music or not. Think of this as smoking. Second hand smoke is harmful, so it is banned in public. It has nothing to do with democracy because the majority don’t smoke. It is about freedom from being slowly poisoned by secondhand smoke inhalation.

Similarly with ‘piped music’. The fact is that many of us hate it, find it distracting and makes using shops or pubs unpleasant. So as with smoking, if you want to listen to music, keep it personal and listen to your own music wearing ear buds whilst in public. Keep it to yourself in public, play it as loudly as you like in your home or car. Is that asking too much?

Guest
Dave says:
31 May 2015

Puzzled that you think it is a choice between music and silence, chris. Primark doesn’t play music but it is never silent when I go in. Nor is John Lewis. Nor is Wetherspoons. I hear the sound of fellow shoppers in these places, never silence.

Guest
James Leonard says:
1 June 2015

I am deaf and wear hearing aids so any piped music makes it harder to hear what people say. I entirely agree with the letter from Tony Cooper in June’s magazine that finding places to eat where it is possible to hear what anyone is saying can be a real problem, especially if music is being piped in and the ceilings are low. A quiet area would be a great help.

Guest
su says:
1 June 2015

I have walked out of most shops because of the music noise; eg Sainsburys at Newton Stewart and Morrisons in Stranraer both gets lots of grumbles from my friends. In fact I now do 99% of my shopping online (with Asda) as I hate the music so much. Pubs and restaurants are even worse. We have virtually stopped eating out because of it. In some places they will turn it down a bit on request, but not always. I feel so sorry for the people working there. One of them said she had a headache every day from it.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I’ve had a helpful reply from the Hearing Aid Manufacturers’ Association. They don’t have any research work but point out as others have the negative effects of background noise on the hearing of those with aids. My contact has looked at this conversation and shown interest. He says “this is now on my radar and I’ll look to raise with Action on Hearing Loss R&D colleagues when I get the opportunity, “

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Guest

I’m pleased to see that the manufacturers association will be talking to Action on Hearing Loss formerly RNID]. I didn’t get the impression from my earlier attempts to discover AHL’s position on background music in shops etc that it was of much concern to them. I had rather hoped that they would have been following this Conversation with keen interest and it will be good if an approach from HAMA demonstrates the concern that the wider community has for the difficulties experienced by hearing aid users as well as people with partial hearing for whom distracting and conflicting sound sources can be stressful and even painful in some cases.

Guest
Lynda Clark says:
7 June 2015

I am severely deaf and already struggle to hear conversation without the superfluous
mostly awful noise coming from ‘strategically’ placed speakers. I don’t hesitate now, I ask
politely for the music to be turned down. Most comply quite willingly, others, after a while,
start to turn it up again.

Guest
Bill says:
11 June 2015

I don’t see the big deal why a small bunch of people who hate music and who won’t be in the shops long want to fight to take music away from workers and people who want it if you don’t like it just shop online or in shops that don’t play music it’s a free country people have the choice where to shop,I don’t like how people feel they can take control of the country and destroy things for people when they are not forced to they can go else where you have aldi,tesco,sainsburys,Robert dyers John Lewes,plus many other shops that don’t play music there is a variety for people who like music and people who don’t want it.I hope music never ever gets took away but it stays fair for all so some shops will some won’t.

Guest
Dave says:
14 June 2015

Don’t think this is “a small bunch of people who hate music”, Bill. On the contrary, I think it has been made clear throughout all these “noisy shops/restaurants” conversations that the people complaining are people who love music but hate having it used this way as background noise. Far from a “small bunch”, the Which? poll seems to have balanced out as 48/49% disliking music in shops and only 38/39% liking it. Not everyone has the choices you suggest. If there isn’t a John Lewis available, often the only choices for department stores are House of Fraser and Debenhams, both of which play loud music. Other high street stores, such as M&S and BHS, play background music. In rural areas the only supermarket is often the Co-op, which was one of the top three in the recent “which shops play the most annoying background music?” conversation. Still can’t understand why people who want to listen to music as they shop cant provide it for themselves through personal music players.

Guest
Dax says:
20 June 2015

Bill

I don’t hate pasta, but I like to eat it when I choose, cooked the way I like and the amount I want. I would object to being force fed pasta, I would resent being told I must eat pasta made to a certain recipe with ingredients that I didn’t like and bullied into eating more than I wanted.

It’s a matter of choice, not a question of not liking music. Choice regarding when we listen to music, what kind of music and how loud it is.

People with a hearing impairment have even more serious choices taken away from them; if they can’t hear against the background noise, they are denied the right to have a conversation with their companions. When there is music, people talk louder so the din just escalates.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

Anyway, as has been said before, the ambience of shops is not for the benefit of the staff but for the comfort and sociability of the customers a good number of whom are pained by background music. Turning Bill’s argument around, staff who don’t like quiet shops can get a job elsewhere.

Guest
Sally says:
21 June 2015

Not so easy, John. I have a daughter who works in Morrisons. She likes her colleagues and job but hates the music. Where does she move to? Jobs aren’t falling off trees, whatever impression the govt likes to give. In the same way you say that staff who don’t like quiet shops can get a job elsewhere. Where exactly? Most supermarket job vacancies now are on part-time hours.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

Thank you Sally. I was trying to demonstrate what an objectionable argument is being put up by those shop staff who want to keep the music playing despite the evidence that customers prefer no music and are actually distressed by it

Your daughter’s position shows all the more reason why music should not be played in shops. I feel very sorry for staff who have been forced to put up with this noise all day long. It has become so pervasive across the retail sector that it is now virtually unavoidable in many parts of the country. For many people it is intolerable. However, there is a vocal group of retail employees who oppose moves to curtail ‘background’ music in shops because they happen to like it, whereas the majority of customers don’t. Their response to the campaign is to say that people who don’t like the music should shop elsewhere which in my view is an insult to the providers of their bread & butter. If they can’t stand a quiet retail environment then I think they are in the wrong job but this Conversation is not about what staff want, although it’s interesting to hear their point of view. There are thousands of employees like your daughter who don’t like the music, or might be adversely affected by it, but who have no redress because their managers blindly follow corporate policy. The lack of music never harmed anyone but there is ample evidence that many customers are suffering discomfort and in some cases pain. I don’t know how any decent retail employee from shelf-stacker to company director can condone, let alone support, the continuation of that state of affairs, especially since they can present no credible justification for the policy.

The lack of any suitable alternative jobs in many areas is another reason why the dictatorial imposition of unwanted music is so offensive.

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

I agree that it’s offesnive and insulting to insist on piped music.
The word to descibe staff demanding to keep piped music is : SELFISH. If even one person dislikes the background music they should turn it off. I often ask (politely) for the music to be turned down and 80% of the time the staff will do it (though in some shops such as Boots they can’t).

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

Completely agree. People should have the choice. As I said to the B&Q employee (B&Q music is especially bad) I wouldn’t expect top go into HMV and have a tin of paint shoved up my backside so why do I have to listen to your (very bad) music. He and I had a good laugh and I left on good terms but without buying anything .

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

I agree – most people don’t want to hear music in a shop (or restaurant). Other polls have come up with similar resuts.
But if even one person found it annoying or unpelasant that should be reason enough to get rid of it. Think of it as the equiavent of passive smoking – bad for your health.

Guest
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.

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

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

Guest
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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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.

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Guest

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.

Guest
Rob Lawrence says:
1 September 2015

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).

Guest
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.

Guest

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.