A few weeks a go I wrote a post about how the Burger King on Market Street in San Francisco played classical music all night and all day, to discourage the homeless from hanging around.
I also noted how that was not the first time such a tactic had been used.
- A Canadian 7-Eleven used classical music as a way to disperse crowds
- police in West Palm Beach, Florida successfully cleaned up a drug-ridden street corner by installing a loudspeaker booming Beethoven and Mozart
- the London Underground system had remarkable results after playing orchestral soundtracks in 65 tube stations as part of a scheme to deter “anti-social” behavior.
Well now the Wall Street Journal reports on a modified version of this tactic, but it does not involve classical music.
Some Rite Aid storefronts in San Diego, Hollywood and Long Beach, Calif. have begun playing Barry Manilow music outside its stores, over and over, and loudly, as a way to deter loiterers and panhandlers. As the Journal reports, the tactic seems to have worked, but it also has mystified and annoyed neighbors and shoppers.
It seems like an odd solution. Is there something about panhandlers and loiterers that make them more prone to dislike “Mandy” or “I Write the Songs” as compared to neighbors and shoppers. I would guess that dislike of Barry Manilow songs is randomly distributed, which would seem to suggest that Rite Aid is just as likely to upset those whom they are trying to keep away compared to those whom it is trying to attract.
One neighbor reported that she couldn’t enjoy her patio or open her window without hearing “…oh Mandy…” “I thought some older man had died and left a Barry’s Most Depressing Hits CD on repeat,” she says. “I felt trapped in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ ”
Apparently this is not the first time Manilow’s music has been used for such purposes. In 2006, a city council in Sydney, Australia, used Mr. Manilow’s greatest hits to drive away local youths hanging out in car parks, revving their engines and annoying residents, according to a BBC News report. A local official said at the time that Mr. Manilow’s music would work because it was “daggy”—Australian slang for uncool.
Back in the U.S., some people have begun posting videos of the Manilow music playing outside a Rite Aid.
Manilow’s publicist says that he is not aware of what Rite Aid is doing, but while it may bother him a bit to know how his music is being used, he can certainly answer critics with the fact that he is the top-selling adult contemporary artist of all time, with 50 top 40 singles. He also has a large and devoted fanbase, and is still selling out venues.
Given that, it’s again hard to think why Rite Aid thinks that playing his music would repel one group of people, the loiterers, but not repel another group of people, the customers. I would think his large and devoted fanbase would include people that fall into both groups, as would people who dislike his music.
I’d offer Rite Aid an alternative, one that would definitely keep the loiterers away, but it would also keep the customers away as well. I could send you audio recordings of my accounting lectures, and no one would come within a 100 feet of the place. If you are interested, just let me know. The one audio on the differences between FIFO and LIFO would be particularly good at repelling people.
And I can’t end the post without a couple of Barry Manilow music videos: