Editorial: Cleanup On Aisle…What?


Grocery shopping should be a pleasant experience, right? Or at least not an unpleasant one. Managers of local supermarkets don’t seem to agree. The volume of music played in most local supermarkets is not just annoyingly loud, it is dangerously so.

Every retail store carefully engineers the environment to get you to spend more money. There are tons of tricks from the colors of the displays to the scents pumped into the air that actually have an impact on consumer spending habits. Music genre, tempo and especially volume greatly influence shoppers.

The decibel level in local grocery stores routinely approach and exceed 90 dB. Prolonged exposure to 85 dB can cause permanent damage to hearing. (Source: Dangerous Decibels NIHL)

In a Psychology Today article, author Emily Anthes states, “Shoppers make more impulsive purchases when they’re overstimulated. Loud volume leads to sensory overload, which weakens self-control.”

The loudness is not an accident. And it sends a message: It doesn’t matter if customers, or employees, go home with irreparable hearing loss as long as the bottom line is nicely in the black.

It’s not just the volume of music either. New chains in the area also employ noisy animatronic animals, one assumes to make the supermarket a fun, amusement park-like experience for children. On the other hand, it can be viewed as indoctrinating them young to expect sensory overload in even the most mundane facets of life. If you haven’t noticed the cacophony, consider when you started learning to tune it out and if the noise is wanted or unwanted.

Next time you can’t hear yourself think while out food shopping, drop by the customer service desk or send an email to the corporate office. Then vote with your wallet. Don’t shop at stores that are actively manipulating you from the second you step through the door and ultimately causing you harm.

If I’m going to go deaf from exposure to loud noise, it’s going to be from attending too many live concerts, not spending too much time in the produce aisle.

—Kimberly Dijkstra


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