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The sound of music

16 Feb


Fingernails on chalkboardThe fact that music elicits emotion is old news. Massive investments in research time and dollars have explored both the therapeutic and consumer behavior applications of music.

If you work for a large company you might have little or no control over the music that pumps through your commercial spaces. In some cases, it may be so bland that you’re only aware of it around Christmas (the day after Halloween) when it becomes insufferable. Small businesses have all the music choices in the world. Some people shouldn’t have that kind of power.

Last week, I experienced three hours of pure auditory hell. The owner of the shop I was in had their personal iPod on shuffle. By “shuffle” I mean it was in the throws of an identity crisis and was committed to taking everyone down with it. No one in the room, including the long-suffering staff, knew how they were supposed to feel – other than incredibly anxious. The owner didn’t see that there was a problem and refused to change it or turn it off.

Consumer’s emotions are affected by their environment, and they evaluate their environment with their emotions. It makes sense strategically to understand what creates and sustains pleasant emotional reactions.

Pre-made playlists are out there. Grooveshark is a good place to start. Users can build their own play lists or combine pre-made playlists to make larger ones quickly. YouTube is another great resource.

The auditory experience of the customer often feels like an after-thought, but it deserves some more attention. How often have you left a space because of their awful aural environment?

Or how it smelled?

(Next Up: What’s your first impression of a retail environment?)

(Photo courtesy of


Are you sleeping with too many people?

15 Feb

Awake to the warming glow of technology

I sleep with too many people at night.

I am guilty. I text, respond to emails, check out Facebook, read endless streams of tweets, and sometimes even play Angry Birds.

I often have trouble sleeping. Sometimes I can’t get to sleep for hours. Other times, like last Sunday, I wake up at 4am for no reason, completely unable to get back to sleep.

I have no idea what the problem could be.

Yes, I am delusional. Of course messing around with my phone in bed is the problem. I should stop but it is just so tempting. When I set my alarm those little alert icons are too much for me to ignore.

Too many of us take our smart phone, laptop, iPad, and whatever else to bed, but it is atrocious sleep hygiene. You might also be sleep-texting, which I assume is much like “drunk-dialing” but less coherent, and more unnerving. The theory is that we are so plugged-in during the day that we can’t separate ourselves from it at night.

The 2011 iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report found that 52% of mobile workers felt that their mobile work habits affected their sleep. Terrifyingly, the report also concluded that getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night makes you 12% more likely to die before the age of 65, compared to your friend who gets six to eight hours of sleep a night.

Apps that track your sleep patterns are out there, but I wonder if they aren’t the original problem repackaged and rebranded. The fact that we eat, sleep, and breathe our devices presents enormous opportunity for the industrious among us. Even so, the dependency probably shouldn’t be encouraged.

As of tonight I am challenging myself to keep my phone and laptop out of the bedroom. I’ll plug in my forgotten alarm clock and draw some much-needed personal boundaries. If the American Sleep Association says that the bed is for sleep and sex only, then who am I to argue?

(Photo courtesy of

The world is strong-arming me to get mobile.

10 Jan

I don’t have a cell phone. I have very little interest in changing this.

It irritates some of my friends. Sometimes I feel like I am missing out, but when I am having a drink at the pub with a bunch of people and half of them are elbows deep in a text I think ‘not for me’. I get by fine with a land-line and the many communication options my Mac has to offer. I got by fine until last week that is.

My Shaw phone modem malfunctioned. I not only couldn’t make or receive calls, but nobody could buzz me from the front door of my building. I lived with this for a few days but I eventually had to make the 45 minute call to Shaw to get the modem replaced. Of course I had to make this call elsewhere than home.

‘Your phone is not working at all?’
‘Nope, and my buzzer doesn’t work either.’
‘What’s your cell number?’
‘I don’t have one. I’m one of those guys. Last one I bet, right?’
‘Can you use a friend’s phone?’
‘I can’t ask a friend to wait with me from 8 AM to 8 PM for your guy on a work day. Can’t he just toss a stone at my window when he gets here?’

I arranged for the technician to check in with the coffee shop in my building to be let in. So long as he made it before 4:30 PM this would work. After that no dice. At least most of the ridiculous appointment waiting period was covered.

But really, what a hassle. At this point my refusal to join the mobile masses is the real problem. I’m the asshole, not Shaw.

The tech made it before 4:30 PM and my phone works again. Like somebody who made a promise to god in order to get out of a jam – and survived – I don’t feel much like keeping my promise to get a cell phone. But really it is time, or is it?

Black Friday is a symbolic conclusion to the Occupy campaign

25 Nov

Shopping crowds on Black Friday

What sublime timing that as the last tents come down in Occupy camps around the continent, the doors swing open for the ultimate shopping day of the year.

Did the Occupy movement get it all wrong?

They’ve been targeting their message at Big Business and corporate greed, but as rampaging bargain hunters on this Black Friday make plain, greed is hardly the exclusive province of the vendors.

There is an old Chinese proverb that the fish rots from the head down. But Chinese medicine looks also to the feet to determine the health of the entire body.

When our society has gotten to the point where shoppers carry pepper spray on Black Friday to keep others away from the stuff they want to grab, and when store clerks can be trampled to death as they open their doors for business, it’s clear that more than a little examination of western society’s feet is required.

But just not today. You’ll be crushed under them.