January 9, 2007 - Songs By The Doors
You hate to be one of those, "back in the day" people who tell everyone else how much better things were before things changed to how they are today. But, when it comes to noise, particularly in a shopping environment, things have changed.
The world has gotten noisier. Today, people big and small, young and old, pierced and tattooed, and PC and Mac, bop through their lives listening to tunes on their iPods. And, when they unplug their heads from their own private music selections, chances are that other public music will quickly fill the void. It seems that every store, restaurant, and coffee shop is playing a music marathon of favorite tunes - some that you recognize, some that you've hardly even heard of. Sometimes the music is so loud that it blasts out of front door of the business like the smell of cinnamon rolls in front of Cinnabon.
Yesterday, the dedicated staff of edhat.com left our iPods in the car and took a little stroll down State Street and into Paseo Nuevo. As we walked past each store, we stopped, looked, and listened. We wanted to see if we could hear the inside music from the outside. As we began our musical journey,
we started to question our initial premise that noise is new. Some of the old style shops actually have speakers on the outside of the building. We remembered that the Christian Science Reading Room on State and Victoria used to have a speaker on the outside that we were going to use for a Wednesday Where Is It (WWII) before it was removed last summer.
So, as we walked down State Street above Carrillo, pretty much the only stores that tried to lull us in like the Sirens in The Odyssey were the stores that had been in business for a long time. At least that's the way it was until we came closer to Paseo Nuevo, where the national chains live. It seems the first chapter of Chain Retail For Dummies must cover the topic of music. Each and every store had a speaker near the door. Walking fast through Paseo Nuevo, and hearing one song after another, is like driving with the car radio on ‘Scan'. And, not only was it music. Many stores wafted unique smells as well.
We are sad to report that one store in Paseo Nuevo who is no longer playing the music is Gallery Paseo Nuevo.
The beat stopped there at the end of year. Yesterday was moving day.
Originally, we had thought that the contest for yesterday would be to guess the store with the loudest music. But that would have been too easy. For the sake of proof, the dedicated staff risked sensory overload and walked into Abercrombie and Fitch to measure the sound level there. Our noise meter topped out at 87db – that's more than a freeway over-crossing. According to OSHA, "when information indicates that any employee's exposure may equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels, the employer shall develop and implement a monitoring program." We tried to ask someone working at Abercrombie if they had such a program, but they couldn't hear what we were saying.
For comparison sake, we checked out the db-levels at other stores. Even Global Feet, where the music bounces through their uncluttered space like a super-ball in the bathroom, had only a 72db reading.
Overall, 37.8% of stores we walked past had music playing that could be heard from 10-feet outside the front door. Click here for a list of the music-emitting stores we found. Since the new-format Edhat newsletter started a couple of months ago, participation in our daily contest about 37.8% below what it was before. Of course that means it is easier to win – which, with a guess of 39%, is just what Goleta Joe did. Joe wins a cool Edhat t-shirt!
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