Strike the harpist, enjoin the chorus? Fa la la la la

Christmas music overload a hazard of holiday retail employment

Hunter Knox, stocking shelves at Maria’s Bookshop, agrees constant exposure to Christmas carols is its own form of torture, but he endures as it puts shoppers in the holiday frame of mind. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Hunter Knox, stocking shelves at Maria’s Bookshop, agrees constant exposure to Christmas carols is its own form of torture, but he endures as it puts shoppers in the holiday frame of mind.

At 7 a.m. in Starbucks, “Deck the Halls” was blaring. One woman turned to the people behind her in line, “I haven’t had coffee yet – I’m emotionally vulnerable. Why are they playing it so loud?” The man behind her noted it was only early December and grumbled, “Imagine if you were Jewish.”

Later, as “Ding dong ding dong,” played in the background, Starbucks supervisor Taylor Kiser said the Christmas soundtrack had been playing since Thanksgiving. “It doesn’t bother me at all – but I’m the kind of person who loves Christmas music,” Kiser said.

Kiser, whose favorite Christmas carol is either “Joy to the World” or “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” said 80 to 90 percent of the store’s music consisted of Christmas carols as of Monday.

Kiser acknowledged that some Starbucks employees complained that the store’s soundtrack was provoking insanity. He said such employees were allowed breaks when it “gets to be too much for them.”

Lt. Ray Shupe of the Durango Police Department said he was not aware of any assaults or murders committed in Durango that were related to Christmas music.

Daniel Ortiz of Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory on Main Avenue, said the store was supposed to have started playing Christmas jingles the Monday before Thanksgiving, but he had managed to put it off until his boss returned.

In Oohs and Aahs, Melissa Henderson said the onslaught of Christmas carols, “hasn’t driven me crazy yet, but they will soon. Hopefully, it puts other people in the mood.”

Deborah Demme, owner of White Dragon Good Feelings Tea Room and Gallery, said she had only just started playing Christmas music through a Sirius XM radio channel.

“It’s been coming on periodically, but within days, we’ll be full tilt boogying,” she said.

Demme said one absent employee loved Christmas tunes, speaking of her enthusiasm with the magnanimous incredulity usually reserved for beloved, but mentally ill, uncles.

In Maria’s Bookshop, Bethany Bachmann said the river of Christmas ditties, “does drive me crazy, absolutely. I can’t help it, unless it’s jazz.”

Her colleague, Libby Cowles, noted that the music in Maria’s played softly and covered a wide spectrum of holiday ballads.

Asked whether the incessant playing of Christmas music amounted to torture, Maria’s Hunter Knox, who was behind the cash register, nodded vehemently.

“But playing the music this early makes the customers feel less ridiculous about doing Christmas shopping this early,” Knox said.

Cowles said the store had “honestly never considered” advertising that it does not play Christmas music to appeal to carol-fatigued customers as the actual holiday approached.

“But should we?” she asked.

Though multiple retailers admitted the unremitting stream of Christmas carols made them want to give someone a very shiny nose, not one storefront employee said he or she had developed a reliable coping strategy.

At Put a Cork in It, which was awash with lively jazz and sunlight, owner Allen Cuenca said he would start playing Christmas music Christmas Eve, then said, “But don’t report that. I don’t want to come across like a Scrooge. Or offend any Christians – I want everybody’s money.”

He offered less fortunate retail employees words of advice and encouragement. “It will be over before you know it,” Cuenca said.

Back at Starbucks, one patron, Chester Salkind, said he didn’t mind the store’s Christmas music.

“But I’m hard of hearing,” he said.

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