See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

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My title comes, of course, from the Rock Opera “Tommy” by The Who. But this blog is really about companies that are invading my personal space with their overblown “Hear me, Smell me” campaigns.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, or maybe you have, but it seems like every store, hotel, or restaurant that I walk into these days has “background music” playing much too loud, as if it was the main event. Studies have shown that people eat faster when listening to louder, faster music, allowing restaurants to turn their tables faster and increase their profit.

As for retailers, Paco Underhill, a shopping anthropologist, says that retailers are increasingly relying on music (plus lighting and scents) to make shopping more sensory, or “experiential” as industry experts like to say. The use of background music in the foreground causes me to tune out everything because my constantly ringing ears don’t seem to support the cocktail party effect, possibly caused by some too-energetic pyrotechnics use during high school and college.

Some stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and its offshoot, Hollister, use music as a weapon, so that their target customers can buy their wares without their pesky parents seeing the latest fashions that turn their kids into teenaged pimps and whores. On top of the music, their clothes are even sprayed with an intoxicating scent that lingers long after you have left the store.

Which brings me to my next topic – scent marketing. If the music’s too loud, I can pop in a pair of custom-fitted earplugs – which I now carry with me most of the time. But what can I do for the foul stench that is euphemistically called a, “Signature Fragrance?” Wear a gas mask? I travel frequently and am a platinum preferred guest with Starwood Hotels, one of my favorite brands. After going back and forth with their corporate office, I now know that I can ask them to turn off the scent machines when I am a guest at one of their properties. That’s better than the handful of Las Vegas properties that I cannot even set foot into without having to gasp for air while grasping for my inhaler.

I don’t see why I, as a guest, should have to deal with a scent-induced asthma attack when walking into a shopping center or staying in a hotel. Maybe I can shop elsewhere if I don’t want something from my favorite stores, and I guess I can stay elsewhere too (but I really like Westin hotels!).

It’s a free country. If a business wants to play loud music and stink up the place, that’s their prerogative. But honestly, I wish my favorite brands wouldn’t try to drive me away.

What are your opinions on the presence of loud music and scents in restaurants, retailers, and hotels that you frequent?

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