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Judy Haiven: On a loop

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) On November 11 it wasn’t there, but on November 12 it was.

I’m talking about the not-so-small matter of Christmas Carols.  In case you haven’t noticed, they start November 12 in almost all retail stores in the province. 

The store manager at one Lawtons in Halifax shook his head when I asked why they started the carols more than six weeks before Christmas.  He told me, “The staff here don’t like it either. But head office sends us a Christmas cd, and we got to play it.” 

But look around.  Eight days ago, in my local Lawtons I pointed out three Chinese students; several racialised people and a bunch of white people shopping.  The manager sighed and told me if the shoppers don’t like it, the staff hates it. “Drives us crazy,” he admitted. He tore off a corner of a box which held a gross of SmartiesTM and wrote down the phone number for head office’s customer services.  Handing it to me, he muttered, “Good Luck”. 

Well, on the up side, head office did not give me the run-around.  On the down side, Laurence Fromm, District Operator for 14 Lawtons stores in Nova Scotia, told me there would be no changes to playing six weeks of Christmas music.  “I grew up in the retail environment,” he told me. “I’m used to it. Christmas is our biggest season in retail. We’ve played the music at this time for quite a few years.”  

Besides, “it’s not all religious music—the religious aspect is not strong,” Fromm said emphatically.  When I challenged him, he insisted there were seasonal favourites “that have nothing to do with the Christian religion.”  

Still he chuckled when I asked him if it was true that no one ever played Frosty the Snowman on January 15th.  “No that’s true,” he admitted.   He agreed that Frosty was part of the Christmas music package—even though it was more “generic”.  

When I complained that staff and shoppers had to hear the same 20 or 30 Christmas songs on a loop for days on end, he replied that Lawtons always had music so staff and shoppers are used to hearing it “over and over on a loop.” 

“It bothers some, but not everyone,” Fromm insisted. “Sales mean a lot. I take your point about multiculturalism.”  

But of course it’s all about increasing sales and the business of Christmas. 

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