“How can you stand that music all day?” my wife asked the clerk at our favorite seafood market.
“Oh,” the clark said, “You don”t like The Beach Boys?
That’s not the point, is it? Whether the music is by The Beach Boys, Bill Evans, Bach (unlikely), Bartók (more unlikely) or The Beatles, does a store have the right to impose its taste—or lack of it
Is it legal for a store to force its musical taste—or the lack of it—on customers who shop with it and increase the company’s bottom line? Of course it is. Piping in music is legal, and there are plenty of marketing consultants whose studies claim that nonstop music in stores drives up profits.
Is it good business? Not all stores think so. With feedback from its staff and customers, last summer the British chain Marks & Spencer decided to eliminate background music. It switched off the music at 300 stores.
A spokesman for the chain said,
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.
Reacting, an anti-noise group called Pipedown, issued a statement:
M&S remains the UK’s biggest chain store, a national institution. So this is a great day for all campaigners for freedom from piped music. Millions of customers will be delighted by this news. So will thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people working in M&S who have had to tolerate non-stop music not of their choice all day for years. Now we can shop in peace.
A web search turns up no evidence of a similar movement in the United States. We can all hope.