Deterring loiterers with elevator music started in British Columbia

It all started in 1985 when managers at 7-Eleven stores in the province had to deal with crowds of teenagers outside their stores, a presence they felt was hurting their sales.

The company believed that these young people deterred other consumers from patronizing.

Therefore, management at 7-Eleven in British Columbia launched a brainstorming session with employees and psychologists to remedy the situation.

Among the ideas proposed, they thought of playing classical music or relaxing music, known as Muzak, in the parking lots of businesses, which would make the space less attractive for teenagers.

This use of music was first used in 10 stores in the province before spreading to 150 stores in North America.

The practice then spread throughout the world.

The 7-Eleven chain store did not respond to requests for CBC/Radio-Canada to find out if their stores were still playing music outside.

According to American musicologist Lily Hirsch, other companies had implemented this practice before 1985, but 7-Eleven claims which was the first company to use music programming to pursue rather than attract Y which appears to be the first company to have sanctioned this approach as policy.

I think others had unconsciously used it like that around the same time, but 7-Eleven really made it their own.explains Lily Hirsch.

He adds that today, other companies are also using this technique.

In 2012, the Washington Post wrote an article about the Manhattan bus station playing classical music to deter people from committing crimes. In 2019, the city of West Palm Beach in Florida garnered media attention by playing the nursery rhyme baby shark around certain events to keep traveling people away.

Last year, opera music was used in supervised consumption spaces in Prince George, British Columbia, a practice social workers called cruel.

The 7-Eleven chain recently came under fire for using a system to flush water around a store in Victoria to deter people from loitering. Some voices were raised that the practice was demeaning, especially for the homeless.

mark a space

Musicologist Lily Hirsch points out that the fact that people often have positive associations with music makes it a more subtle tool to discourage loitering. Using flowing water feels more intrusive than songs blasting through speakers.

Mark a space, communicate that space is not yours, but use these positive associations with music to create confusion and plausible deniability.she says.

Although the music playing outside the stores is soft and melodious, Lily Hirsch says the message sent is loud and clear: Actually, we are in a process of segregation.

Based on information from Jon Azpiri

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