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Cartoon
Winter 2004

Happy, quiet New Year!

Season soured by stentorian songs

Noise hurts!"Endless Christmas carols irk Czech clerks", "In Vienna, pleas for a silent night" and "Oh, you cruel Christmas time!" read the headlines of recently published articles about Czech, Austrian and German sales clerks stressed by the incessant playing of Christmas carols in their workplaces.

On December 22nd the Guardian reported that labour unions in the Czech Republic demanded that stores stop playing Christmas carols or pay compensation for causing emotional trauma to sales clerks. Some stores play the same songs all day and play them loudly. Employees say shifts have become unbearable. Unions have written to major chains, such as Tesco, and demanded that employees be compensated. A Tesco spokesman said the chain has not received any complaints.

The situation appeared to be similar in neighbouring Austria, where the well-known carol "Silent Night" was written and composed in 1816. According to an article in The Vancouver Sun on Dec. 6th, labour unions there were pressing stores to stop the incessant playing of carols, denouncing the practice as "psychological terrorism" that grates the ears of shop employees. "They become aggressive and develop an aversion to Christmas music," said Gottfried Rieser, a leader of the campaign. When they're at home with their families, they can't stand "Silent Night" or "Jingle Bells" one more time. Rieser wants shops to limit playing to one hour to give workers a break. "There's no point in playing 'Softly Falls the Snow' in the sausage department," he said.

In Germany Bild am Sonntag quoted VERDI manager Roland Tremper in Berlin as having demanded additional breaks for the affected personnel. Forced exposure to Christmas songs uninterruptedly all day causes the clerks massive headaches. "Exposure to music gets ever worse. I consider that to be an act of cruelty," Tremper said. The permanent sound-shower is not merely nerve-racking, but literally sickening, according to experts' opinion. "Hours of exposure to music can result in permanent irritability and aggressiveness toward colleagues and others," said Cologne psychologist Christian Ludke of "BamS".

Editor's note: We heard such reports for the first time and wonder what all the other types of incessantly played music are doing to store employees and customers during the rest of the year. So far, we heard of no official complaint by either unions or consumer organisations. We seem to be the "lone voice in the wilderness" here. Neither government officials nor Workers' Compensation Boards appear concerned about this sort of psychological torture at work.

Entire contents © 2003 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society
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