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Why Can’t It Be “Quiet Hour” At Coles All Day, Every Day?

Do we really need squawking ads and jangling registers at any time?

Shoppers have reacted with enthusiasm to Coles’ new initiative to introduce a ‘quiet hour’ to 68 stores across the country, to make it easier for people with sensory processing issues, including those on the autism spectrum, to do their grocery shopping.

In select stores, between 10:30AM and 11:30AM each Tuesday, the supermarket chain will dim its lights by 50 per cent, turn off the in-store radio, reduce the beeps of registers to their lowest level and keep store announcements to a minimum.

The plan is a welcome one, but it begs the question – why can’t we all shop in Quiet Time all of the time? Admittedly there are other things I’d like Coles to sort out first – it’d be nice to buy an avocado that couldn’t be used to bowl the opening test of the Ashes, or to make it through a self-serve checkout without having to summon one of the tellers they were supposed to replace – but a quieter, calmer store could only be a good thing.

The internet is in fervent agreement. “It’s a shame you can’t leave the radio off and the register levels low permanently. It would make everyone’s shopping experience more pleasant,” suggested Coles shopper Robyn Mac on the Coles Facebook page. “So sick of being bombarded by unnecessary noise at the shops. Noise levels (largely from music/radio) have gone beyond ambient to downright overpowering…I don’t have autism, just a desire to keep my hearing and sanity intact.”

Another shopper, Meg McGowan, asked the supermarket chain if it would at least consider extending the ‘hour’ to a whole day – so it doesn’t clash with people’s school and work commitments. “Perhaps you could trial it for a while and see what customers think. I suspect it will be as popular as ‘quiet carriages’ have been on the trains,” she predicts.

Coles Facebook customer
A shopper pleads for more quiet time at Coles.
Coles Facebook
“It’s a form of aural assault”

Some of the changes may not be practical on a permanent measure – it’s not realistic to expect staff to stop calling for a price check in Aisle Five over the loudspeaker. But is there any earthly reason why the register beeps need to be turned up full-throttle at any time? Or that the squawking in-store advertisements can’t be turned down a notch?

Customers already love Coles – it was voted “best shopping environment and experience” of all retailers in a recent Nielsen survey of 13,000 Australians.

But if it wants to keep the top spot, it might consider expanding its famous “Down, down” slogan beyond its product prices, to the volume knob on its in-store cacophony.  


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