Make your views known – politely, pertinently but firmly
Many people find it difficult to complain about music in public places. However, if you say nothing, shops and restaurants will have no idea how widespread or deeply felt dislike of piped music is, nor how much business they are probably losing. Here are some suggestions for positive ways to make your views and feelings clear.
If music has been introduced recently, emphasise how much you have enjoyed shopping/eating in the past without the music. Ask why they have changed their policy.
At times the music may be switched off in a shop where it is usually played. Whatever the reason (the system might be broken or someone might have forgotten to turn it on) tell the staff how much more pleasant the atmosphere is without the music. Ask them if it is a new policy.
At the check-out don’t just complain ill-temperedly about the music. Instead ask a general question, such as “Who chooses your music for you?” “Are you enjoying the music?” etc. It’s amazing how often assistants will start complaining about it, too. They have to listen to it all day long – a point often overlooked. Sales assistants are a captive audience, unlike shoppers.
Unless you are being served by the manager of a small business, it’s unlikely that the person dealing with you will have any control over the playing of music. They usually say it is a “management decision”. It is far better to write to the Chief Executive Officer.
When you write in to protest, companies will often tell you that no-one else has ever complained about the music. This is strange and is almost always untrue, as revealed by the fact that they usually send out a standard letter. To avoid getting this standard letter, try to ask a question, point out research or provide personal experience (see the Pipedown website) so that they have to think about their response to you as an individual. For example, if you are unable to enjoy a meal in a noisy restaurant because of a hearing problem such as presbycusis, point this out and ask if they have a quiet area to enjoy a meal in their restaurant. Ask them what research they have done to show that their customers want music as they shop or eat. They will often ignore this last question either because they have done no independent research, or reply inanely or irrelevantly as they rely on research from the music industry. Often they don’t realise that the ‘research’ they are quoting is supplied by the music industry; they think that, if something is on the internet, it must be accurate. If they ignore your question, write back and ask politely why they haven’t answered you.
If you are booking a meal or hotel room, ask in advance if they play piped music. This helps emphasise the fact that background music is not universally loved. If they say they play it, ask how loud it is. If you find it a problem because of a hearing difficulty or health issue, make sure they know that this is the reason.
All members of Pipedown receive, as part of their membership, a wide range of comment cards which quote surveys showing how many people really hate piped music. These can be left in shops and other places to express your views and demonstrate you are not a lone crank.
Finally, please make a point of praising businesses that don’t play music! Enough e-mails to the Chief Executive might dissuade yet another business from taking out a music licence.
(With many thanks to Dorothy Lewis)