Christmas Music – Additional Stress and Anxiety?

Christmas Music – additional stress and anxiety?

There was an interesting article on Business Insider this morning that talked about piped-in Christmas music inside retail stores. The article talked about how Christmas music can actually cause additional stress and anxiety among customers and retail store employees alike. They say that although listening to holiday tunes evokes happy and positive emotions initially, the experience turns to distress when listeners hear the music repeatedly. Listeners start to feel lonely as they start to think of their family and loved ones who they cannot be with during the holiday season. Others think of money problems — and how celebrating the holiday season also implies spending extra for presents and various festivities.

Christmas Music in Philippine Shopping Malls

Although the article basically surveyed American consumers and retail staff, I believe that that the study has clear associations with Philippine shopping malls. We are probably the only country in the world where Christmas music is piped into department stores starting September. The idea is for customers to start feeling the ‘holiday spirit’ when visiting the store, and thus stimulating the buying experience — customers remember the holidays and are prompted to start their Christmas shopping early. But with rising inflation, thinking of Christmas shopping is probably the farthest thing from the minds of ordinary Filipinos. Most Filipinos can barely budget for basic necessities, what more to buy gifts for all their inaanaks?

The experience is probably even more excruciating for our sales associates who spend 8 hours or more a day listening to the holiday tunes. Many of our retail staff have husbands, wives, fathers, or mothers who work abroad as OFW’s. It is unlikely that many of them will be able to gather as one big family by the Noche Buena dinner table come Christmas eve. The thought of being alone during Christmas can easily dampen whatever positive spirit the Christmas tune was supposed to have evoked. Likewise, many of our retail staff have to work extra long hours in December, as this is the strongest shopping month of the year and malls operate longer. So Christmas can also be equated as ‘extra work’ for our sales associates.

I do not recommend completely changing the tune of our music in our local retail stores, as it is already a Philippine tradition to start Christmas celebrations early. But perhaps we shouldn’t really overdo it? If we start celebrating in September, we will all be in the midst of ‘holiday fatigue’ even before December rolls on.

The key is to find a balance between creating some sort of anticipation for the Christmas holidays, and making sure we do not over-stimulate our customers and sales staff. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of our stores is to deliver the best customer experience to enhance the shopping process. Listening to Jose Mari Chan ‘watching girls and boys selling lanterns on the street’ 4 times an hour is simply over the top.