Every year I have a tussle with Tesco when they start playing Christmas music instore. I ask if they are going to play it all the time, and they say we have to, head office tell us to. When I contact head office, they say it’s up to the manager. This dialogue has replayed in different ways every year. This year I decided to ask them some questions. It took two goes on their email contact service due to a character limit of 1000. Below I quote my original query and their reply.
It’s quite ironic to see a reply of this nature just as they have announced joining the yellow lanyard scheme (which Customer Services refer to in their reply).
The tl;dr version of both is this.
- I find the music played instore at Christmas distressing. Does it have to be on all the time?
- You know some of your staff hate it. What care do you have for their wellbeing?
- You know some disabled peope are triggered by noise. What consideration do you have for them?
The answer I got was basically:
- we don’t care about our customers (“We do not need customer approval to play Christmas songs in store”)
- we particularly don’t care about disabled people (“if you do have an issue with the music, or the levels of the music, then this can be raised in store, and this will be changed based on the stores discretion”. Every store manager I have ever spoken to says they have no discretion.)
- we don’t care about our employees either (“Should staff members have any issues with the music, then , as with our customers, this will be taken into consideration, based on each store.” - I have spoken to a number of staff members over the years, including this year, who hate it, but who can clearly do nothing about it.)
- so stuff you (politely).
What the answer actually says looks quite reasonable. But it is uniformly contradicted by what store managers have told me over the years, that they have no discretion. It also fails to answer the questions I ask about the reasons for the music being played (because it’s Christmas time???) and fails to answer why it has to be played every minute the store is open.
Later edit: and the attitude is contradicted by Tesco Scotland, who have taken a step in the right direction: https://pipedown.org.uk/tesco-extends-its-quiet-hours/
Here’s the full version of my message. (The one Tesco got was slightly different, as I had to trim it further to fit within the character limit, and I did not keep a record of the trimmed version.)
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I discovered today that it is once again the time of year when you inflict on your customers the annual mental torture known as "Christmas" "music".
I am sure that some of your customers appreciate it, and probably a large majority don't care either way. But for a minority, myself included, the experience is, as I described it above, torture.
During the summer I was unfortunate to enter the store when there was some kind of charity event on involving three days of dance music. I had to leave rapidly, and the duty manager, to do her credit, came out to speak to me about the experience. She said she had worked in stores which had a regular stimulus free time weekly, which for me would be a great boon.
I know I will not change your policy on this - I have tried each Christmas for several years and had dismissive, inaccurate or unbending responses. But would you please answer some questions. These follow in the next email.
Follows last email
1) What evidence do you have that your customers so enjoy the music that they need it for 3 weeks continuously; and, do you any evidence at all that having the music on helps your bottom line?
2) Does it have to be so relentless? Does it have to be on every hour of every day for the whole of the next 3 weeks?
3) How do you discharge your duty of care to your employees? Maybe some enjoy it or just zone it out. But for some it is torture having to listen to that noise for 8 hours on end. Uncontrolled sound is a major factor in causing mental stress. Do you have any care for reducing the stress on your entire shop floor workforce?
4) How do you discharge your duties under the Disability Discrimination Act? I do not have a mental disability, just a pronounced and physical aversion to this kind of noise. But many people with autism and related conditions are triggered by extraneous sounds. What steps have you taken to make your stores as welcoming to them as to other people?
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And here is their reply:
Thank you for contacting me, I hope you are well.
I was very sorry to hear about your concerns over the Christmas music being played in store.
We do not need customer approval to play Christmas songs in store, just as we do not require customer approval to play music throughout the rest of the year. Is this something that affects you throughout the year?
This music is played, because it is the run up to Christmas, and not because it has any sort of affect on our bottom line. As with most retail stores, we will play festive music during the festive period. Should staff members have any issues with the music, then , as with our customers, this will be taken into consideration, based on each store.
I am not sure why you would raise the Disability Discrimination act, as this is irrelevant. As with all of our customers, if you do have an issue with the music, or the levels of the music, then this can be raised in store, and this will be changed based on the stores discretion. We simply do not have the foresight to predict when disabled customers will visit the store, so changes will be made on an as needed basis.
In various stores, we have arranged quiet hours, for people with these exact difficulties, as we realise that with some disabilities, this can have a huge impact on them, so we do try to accommodate these issues where we can. We also have a sunflower lanyard available, for people with invisible disabilities, so that colleagues can be made aware of any issues that may be present.
If you do experience any issues with the music being played in store, I would advise that you raise this with management in store, as they will be able to help make your store experience better.