The day the (Christmas) music died

Lock your doors, folks… an angry mob is on the loose.

Around 3pm on Friday, Shoppers Drug Mart announced via their Facebook page that Christmas music would be silenced in-store until further notice. What’s baffling is the catalyst for this event.

Shoppers’ Facebook wall has been inundated with messages ranging from anger that Christmas music is playing before Remembrance Day to outrage that holiday music is playing before December arrives.

Shoppers is not divulging why they made this decision, only stating that it was an internal business decision. I, for one, am curious. I’m also slightly frightened by how the chain bent to the will of the masses. While taking customer feedback to heart is a good business move, this issue hinges on the crossroads of political correctness and holiday marketing. Everyone thinks the retail “holiday season” starts too early, but why kill the music? Will brands be forced to remove holiday paraphernalia from shelves as well?

Food for thought.

One thing’s for certain: Shoppers Drug Mart brought this social media crisis on themselves. The company went from having 10 negative comments regarding the music pre-post to a whopping 2,700+ at time of press.

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  • Shoppers Drug Mart turned what could’ve been a near non-issue to a social media mess.

    Why wouldn’t they address the handful of comments left on their timeline (plus calls they received) directly instead of resorting to the public broadcast? The initial commenters would gain satisfaction from the fact that the company listened to them and temporarily pulled the plug on the music. And the people who love Christmas music probably would not have noticed that they played it on November 1st but not on the 3rd.

    By posting a public announcement, they drew unnecessary attention and informed their almost-500,000 fans (and more) of their decision – a decision that apparently everyone has an opinion on, based on the reactions.

    It’s also funny to note that one company is being celebrated and REVERED on social media today for rolling out their holiday products (Starbucks), while another is being completely bashed.

    • Amanda

      Major difference: The Starbucks holiday products are DELICIOUS, people are addicted to them and they’re not explicitly Christmas products (the fall seasonal products are out, the winter seasonal products are in), whereas the music that Shopper’s played were explicitly CHRISTMAS carols, we don’t get anything delicious out of it, and Christmas music playing on a loop is a pretty common definition of hell.

    • Amanda

      But I agree with literally everything else you said, spot on.

    • I think the Christmas carols is what threw people over the edge. Agreeing with @c16bbd26b44607d4f255fe5ca0bb796c:disqus that they get out of control pretty quick. They really did bring this disaster on themselves. I feel like people make these kinds of complaints every year (re: music starting too early) but I’m still curious about whether people are angry because of Remembrance Day or because the music started so early. I don’t see them lashing out as much against other retailers, so it must be the overt joy of the music that’s throwing them off.

      I think there’s a trigger-happy PR/CM behind those posts. It’s good to be proactive, but that was an unnecessary reaction.

  • Amanda

    I find the retail “seasons” of Christmas then Valentine’s Day then Mother’s Day then Father’s Day then OMG SUMMER then Back to School then Hallowe’en (and repeat) get exhausting. I hate that the very second one holiday is done then BOOM next one. It’s not about enjoying that holiday, it’s always about preparing for the next one. There are some logistical considerations at stake as well – what will fill the shelves in the “seasonal” section if you don’t just hop to the next holiday? They will not “be forced to remove holiday paraphernalia” – for one, they won’t be forced to do anything, but I have a feeling that the reason why it’s done is because it’s been shown that it does positively affect sales. If it didn’t I’m sure it would have been axed by now.

    That being said, merchandise on the shelves is one thing. Decorating a business and/or playing Christmas music on November 1st is pushing the logical next step too far. I also wouldn’t be surprised if their own staff complained, and not just customers. If customers were annoyed by being in Shopper’s for a few minutes and hearing Christmas music, can you imagine what it must be like to already be hearing those same songs on loop all shift long? I’d lose my mind.

    Another example: When I was in Starbucks today, my barista actually expressed being upset that Starbucks didn’t wait until after Remembrance Day to launch their holiday line/red cups (which launched today across Canada), so it’s definitely not just consumers who are feeling this happening earlier and earlier, it’s having an effect on people who are supposed to be brand advocates.

    • What I’m not getting is the focus on Remembrance day. Is this a thing? Have I missed out on everyone having strong opinions about this before now?

      The incessant holiday push is annoying but that’s how business works. I was pretty taken aback that it was already “christmas” at my local Chapters before Halloween was even over. I still think today was too early for the Starbucks red cups to come out and I think playing Christmas music at this point is ridiculous. However, it seems like it’s become the norm for the holiday season to be celebrated for two full months.

      • Brian G.

        Remembrance Day is not a “thing”. People have lost loved ones in wars even recently and respect should be shown to those who lost their lives to defend our freedom. People have been silent for far too long but some have realized that they have a voice through social media so they are not going to sit back and take it any more from marketers pushing the boundaries of decency. The new normal is to adapt to your customers or suffer their wrath. Businesses have to stop being soulless as they are dealing with an emotional species. Only those companies that understand this will survive in the long run.

        • Hi Brian, thanks for stopping by.
          To clarify: I understand and respect Remembrance Day. What I’m not understanding is its role in the context of this situation. I have never before heard people say that it’s inappropriate to play holiday music before Remembrance Day.

          I feel that opens up a whole other can of worms – if holiday cheer is inappropriate in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, when does it become so? Are we meant to be solemn for the two weeks leading up to the day? Do we automatically switch to happy holiday mode as soon as The Last Post has played?

          I understand the need for solemnity and respect, but I’m not understanding the parameters people expect.

  • I don’t particularly care whether holiday music is playing for the 10-20 minutes that I’m in Shoppers Drug Mart. But, I do feel for the employees that likely have to listen to the same songs on repeat for 2 months. They could probably turn this around pretty quickly with a joke and show that they consider their employees’ emotions, as well as the customers’, when making decisions on store ambience.

    • Agree, 100%! I feel like they can’t make that joke because the decision was motivated by the angry Remembrance Day mob.

    • That said, I wish they would just say what motivated the decision rather than just killing the music and saying they listen to customers.

  • Great Post Stephanie! They are starting to loose likes, and it would seem clients as well. They turned a small issue that almost no one would have noticed into a HUGE social media fail and PR fail.
    So sad.