Stores' playlists can be torture

The speakers were blaring disc jockey/musician/rapper/producer Fat Boy Slim’s “Funk Soul Brother.” The pulsating sounds of this late 1990s track were so loud, they shook my eardrums and permeated what was left of my brain at that moment. Not only was this a loud presentation of “Funk Soul Brother,” this was the remixed version that seems to go on for eternity with changing speeds… or as long as possible until I find a way to pull the plug on the speakers or hire an Elvis impersonator to shoot the speakers into silence. For those who are not familiar with “Funk Soul Brother,” it’s not exactly “lyric-heavy.” Here’s a sample of “Funk Soul Brother’s” lyrics which pretty much repeat for as long as the film, Titanic (from around that era):
Right about now, the funk soul brother, check it out now
The funk soul brother, right about now
The funk soul brother, check it out now
The funk soul brother, right about now”
Imagine those lyrics combined with the fact that the re-mixed version has a portion towards the end that contains feedback and an LP-record-skipping sound on a part of the track that quickly repeats the same obnoxious beat thus producing a machine gun noise.

One would think that I was describing a night at a dance club. No, I was browsing with Cami in a department store one evening. While I will not disclose the particular department store, I readily admit that right about then, I wanted to bolt from that building as quickly as possible. Really, department store? Did you do your research and discovered that shoppers will be more inspired to buy your overpriced goods because they were listening to “Funk Soul Brother?”

Once the machine guns ceased from the Fat Boy Slim track, that “song” was followed up by the typical holiday classics by the likes of Frank Sinatra. When that happened, Frank never sounded better. Still, I could no longer trust the department store that they would not play anything more offensive. Cami brought up dogs barking or cats meowing to “Jingle Bells.” I was thinking that Alvin and the Chipmunks might end up on the store speakers. If any of those tracks came on at full blast, I believe that the department store would have to be hauled into court for inflicting cruel and unusual punishment upon its customers.

I believe that these places of business are engaging in “music torture.” I’ll first start off by saying that I’m not making light of music torture. It has been used in some extreme real torture cases, which to this day, is no laughing matter. Then there’s the case of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. After the U.S. troops invaded Panama in late 1989, Noriega took refuge in a compound. To extract Noriega, U.S. troops blasted some music from Van Halen and Howard Stern radio programs. Noriega couldn’t take it any longer and surrendered after a little over one week. Like the Noriega case, an obnoxious playlist can backfire and get customers to flee.

If customers like me are irritated by the department store’s musical playlist, I cannot imagine how its employees handle the song choices. I feel sorry for the department store’s employees because more than likely, the music is on a loop – or repeats the same sets of songs all too often.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that being subjected to repetitious sounds and visuals is pure torture. When I worked in a drug store over 30 years ago, corporate folks thought it would be great to have two monitors hooked up to a VHS video player that repeated commercials featuring the lovely and talented actress Nancy Dussault. For trivia buffs and the all-too-young out there, Ms. Dussault appeared on a television situation comedy titled, Too Close for Comfort in the early to mid-1980s. She was the drug store’s spokesperson who was featured in those ads. While Ms. Dussault was more than pleasant to look at throughout my shift, she became a bit tiresome after the millionth viewing.

Look, department or drug stores have a right to create their own playlists or video loops. I get the fact that there are well-intentioned folks in corporate meeting rooms cooking up these ideas to increase sales through these psychological maneuvers. What these folks need to remember is that a seemingly endless loop of audio and/or video is beyond annoying: its torture.


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