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It's part of a 7-Eleven corporate initiative to stop people from hanging out

Mike Pomranz
May 02, 2018

What do bored teenagers and down-on-their-luck panhandlers have in common? A hatred of opera, apparently. A 7-Eleven franchise in Modesto, California, is playing opera music outside its entrance to make sure people don’t hang around.

Intrigued by the convenience store’s unusual choice of tuneage, a reporter from the Modesto Bee decided to dig a little deeper. Turns out franchise owner Sukhi Sandhu doesn’t have a deep-seated love of opera music. Quite the opposite, actually: He knows it sucks enough that it will keep people moving. “Our classical and opera music, the one that were hearing in the background, it gets played 24-seven,” he said, speaking loudly enough to project over some very boisterous singing. “The whole idea behind this was to discourage people from loitering and panhandling, and most importantly to provide a better, positive environment for our customers to shop at our stores and obviously for them to feel safe.”

Even some panhandlers are willing to admit it’s been a good idea. “Once the music started, the riffraff left,” a homeless man, who considered himself part of that riffraff, told the Bee. “It's hard to hang out and gossip and joke around.”

But Sandhu also admitted that he can’t take credit for the idea. He said the music is part of a larger 7-Eleven program aimed at using non-confrontational methods to reduce loitering. “We test a variety of programs in our stores that promote an excellent experience for our customers,” 7-Eleven's corporate office conceded to the Bee. “We have received very positive feedback from our customers about the atmosphere created by the music devices piloted in several 7-Eleven stores across the US.”

Meanwhile, opera and classical music, even played a touch too loud, would seem like a better option than one of the alternatives Sandhu said he has tried at some of his other California stores. Another noise device, called a “mosquito device,” can be turned on and off to create a high-pitched buzzing akin to the annoying sound a mosquito makes when it’s right up in your ear.

However, amazingly, Sandhu told the Bee that he plans to change his other stores from the mosquito device to the opera music, not because the opera music is less annoying, but because it is more effective! Yes, empirical evidence now shows that people would rather listen to a mosquito buzzing in their ear than opera music. But hey, deep down, we all already knew that.

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