Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in BlogBog, Design in daily life
The curiously silent Stop & Shop gas pump.

The curiously silent Stop & Shop gas pump.

Recently a new Stop & Shop gas station opened in our neighborhood. Cars lined up with drivers anxiously clutching their Stop & Shop cards in anticipation of a pot of gold in petrol savings. And save they did…and spend. Excitement filled the salty, on-shore air, as did some of the most offensive, loud pop music du jour. Pass the earmuffs, please, Elvis is in the building! Literally and actually.

Certainly, I was not one of those savings fools waiting in line for gas, I was here for the music! Nothing makes me pump more gas than cheezy, autotuned tunes! Does your station have YouTube station? How about a Stop & Shop slow jam? Tune me in, Shoppy!

OK, so it didn’t exactly play out that way. When I reached the pump, got out of my car, I was assaulted by some pop-hip-hip-rap-metal-collaboration abomination. Once again, I was disappointed by a corporate executive’s decision to pump music into every orifice of its brick and mortar retail entities. It’s not enough to have a little background branding music that can be selectively ignored, no, the music has to upfront, loud and competing with any environmental sounds within a half-mile radius. Bird songs, forget ’em! Screeching tires from that nearby accident, missed it! The sound of that accelerating car blasting into the pump next to you…well you may hear the “BOOM!” but chances are you’ll be unconscious.

I have to give it Ms. Cheeze, she’s been taking the Minimini Cooper to the Sunoco station for fillups. She can stay in the car, and that nice young man lights her Gauloises for her. No need need for kitty earplugs, our Sunoco doesn’t have music at all! Ms. Cheese can swish her tail to all the  Nancy Sinatra her 8-track can handle. Tap to this beat, tie guy!

As we move into more curated retail environments, I wonder how many sales are lost due to overwhelming stimuli, aggressive music and raucous store environments. Apparently, not-so-ambient music must lead to an increase in purchasing, but what about left-of-introverted consumers like myself that choose to stay out of such spaces? I can’t help but wonder if all this music is a bad design choice.

About 5 years ago I started to notice stores I frequented had a volume. Not just a soundtrack, but an increase in the overall sound level of the music. I even complained about the music at one women’s clothing chain, and was met by an apathetic Retail Nymph, who expressed her ennui at lightning speed: flipping her hair and phone (yes, there were flip phones back then) and offering not a syllable of empathy or apology. Not unlike the response I get from Ms. Cheeze when I ask her to park the Minimini Cooper some where other than the doormat.

On return visits to the gas station, I find myself wishing the pump has a turbo setting, so I could blast-up my tank and go. The music leaves me cranky, ill at ease, and with an over all sense of get-me-the-f*ck-out-of-here-STAT. Sadly, I must be in the minority. Or perhaps musical taste is simply above curation. That’s it, I’m a proud elitist. Well this has been a fruitful exercise in self examination.