Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Noise is the new smoking רעש: העישון החדש

When I first moved here, Israel was way behind the States in terms of smoking in public places. I found that in order to get someone to put out her cigarette, on a bus, say, I’d have to say I have allergies, or asthma, or contact lenses: It had not yet been internalized that we’re all entitled to a smoke-free environment, just because.

We’ve come a long way vis-à-vis smoking, but I noticed that I’ve had to fall back on the same excuse-giving in order to get retail establishments to lower the volume on their (usually awful) music. This week I was sitting on a bench in Azrieli Mall in Modiin, taking a break and waiting to meet a friend. The bench was situated between two stores, each playing loud music. A few meters away was an Orange (cellular provider) island, and I wondered how the staff imprisoned therein could stand it and how they were able to even hear their customers. Then I had an idea.

I went into one of the music-blaring stores (empty of clientele) and asked the two teenagers staffing the place to turn down their music, “because I’m trying to execute a transaction at Orange and I can’t hear myself think”. They complied, albeit with quizzical looks on their faces. Ditto for the other store. They complied, but I’d had to give a reason for my request; after all, I was not their customer, so technically I had no “right” to ask them for anything…except that noise is…well, noisy.

While I’d solved my situation-specific problem momentarily (one of the stores turned its music up a few minutes later, causing me to wonder, “Wasn’t it a relief for the proprietors to have it quiet?”), I can’t help but wonder: Doesn’t the mall management get it? Instead of being relaxed and inviting, the atmosphere at that mall was like that of an outdoor bazaar, which here in the Middle East means each vendor blasting her music as loudly as possible, which according to their logic attracts customers, which I find anything but inviting: I find it downright off-putting.

Didn’t the mall management study “What makes a successful mall” in mall management school? Have any of them happened to visit a mall in the States, by any chance? Because while I’m by no means a fan of malls or consumerism in general, if you’re going to run a business — regardless of the nature thereof — don’t you want to do it right?

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