Walgreens is latest chain to blast classical music to deter loiterers

Sarah Schulte Image
Friday, August 11, 2023
Walgreens blasts classical music to deter loiterers
Walgreens is the latest chain to blast classical music outside its stores to deter people from loitering.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There's no science behind it, but Walgreens is the latest chain to blast classic music to deter people from loitering outside their stores.

Only certain Walgreens locations in Chicago have the caged speakers so far, playing a short playlist including Bach and Rossini's "William Tell Overture" on repeat.

"I thought maybe their system was stuck playing the same track over and from Halloween something like that," said customer Vincent Rodriguez.

"I don't know how it does that. I think it's an interesting idea, I'd like to understand the science behind if somebody has figured it out," said customer English Dixon.

According to the Deerfield company, there's no hard data behind it but it may be working. At midday, two locations with music did not have anyone loitering while another Walgreens without the music had people hanging out.

In a written statement, the corporation said that for more than a year it has implemented a loop of classical music at certain locations nationwide, including Chicago.

They're not the only company to do so. Opera is the genre of choice for 7-11 stores. A few in Chicago also play music to deter loitering.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless blasts the tactic.

"It is essentially treating them as less than human and treating them as a nuisance, whereas there are folks that are in need of housing and supports," said Doug Schenkelberg, executive director.

There is no music yet at the South Loop Walgreens where Robert Jackson, a 63-year-old unhoused Chicagoan, likes to hang out because it's shady. He said a loop of music wouldn't deter him from leaving; he would welcome it.

"I love music all types of music it wouldn't bother me, I'd be the one right there listening to it bobbing my head," he said.

While the music continues to play, advocates for people experiencing homelessness encourage corporations like Walgreens and 7-11 to use their resources and clout to join the conversation about why people are unhoused, and how to end it.