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Retail Workers Forced To Deal With Holiday Tunes

Dec 18, 2013
Originally published on December 18, 2013 6:02 am
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Some people who may wish they had at least temporary hearing loss this time of year are retail workers. We set out to find people who spend full workdays in shops or restaurants listening to the sounds of the season over and over and over.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Our cheeks are nice and rosy, and comfy and cozy are we.


At a Macy's department store here in Washington, D.C., we found Darwin Rau(ph), the man who set up the store's first Christmas display before Halloween.

DARWIN RAU: We pretty much have everything done by the second week in October.

WERTHEIMER: The holiday department has been jingling bells for two-and-a-half months, but it only started to get under Rau's skin when the Christmas carols started pumping through the entire store last week. How does that make him feel?

RAU: Not very Christmassy.


GREENE: We also heard from plenty of current and former retail workers on our Facebook page. Listener Karen Delahey(ph) from Duluth, Minnesota spent the holiday season a few years back working at Old Navy. She told us the same songs would play on a loop five or six times during every shift.

KAREN DELAHEY: At first it was kind of fun. It was like, oh, well, it's Christmas songs. You expect to hear them fairly often. Then after, like, your fourth, fifth day there, it's like, oh, sweet God. I can't stand this anymore. You hear it in your sleep.

WERTHEIMER: Not everyone working the holidays turns into a Grinch. From the incessant ho-ho-ho-ing and rum-pum-pumming, Julissa Carol(ph) says it makes her shift at TJ Maxx sugarplum sweet.

JULISSA CAROL: You're like, well, this day is kind of dry, but then the Christmas music comes on, and you get to smiling and greeting the customers. And they're all, like, Merry Christmas. We're, like, happy holidays.

GREENE: Coffee chains all over have been selling holiday-themed drinks with some yuletide musical accompaniment since before Thanksgiving. Nikita Jackson(ph) works at Caribou Coffee. She agrees that the music affects shoppers, but maybe not in all the best ways.

NIKITA JACKSON: It gets them in the mood and, you know, it's already the shopping season. So, it gets people going out and shopping, spending more money than what we should be.

WERTHEIMER: As far as how it affects the workers who has no choice but to hear Rudolph's life story over and over and over again, well, Jackson says it makes her look forward to the big day even more.

JACKSON: When they started off in, like, mid-November, I'm like, come on, guys. At least let us get to Thanksgiving first before you start playing all Christmas music. So, by the time we get to Christmas, it's like, yes, it's finally here.

GREENE: Only seven more days, Nikita. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.