Dear Brands, We Really Don’t Need This Much Christmas Music in Stores

Julio Vincent Gambuto
3 min readNov 29, 2022
Unsplash Santa

The holiday season has begun. And that means our dear American brands — from Starbucks to Target, from Apple to J. Crew to Best Buy — have all flipped the digital disc-jockey switch from pleasant capitalist retail soft rock to wall-to-wall Jingle Bells. In every store in America, it’s time for the annual blitz of snow tunes. Get ready for them. On repeat. For the next 30 days. From now ’til New Year’s morning, we will each hear Mariah Carey sing All I Want For Christmas Is You 4,892 times.

I don’t hate Christmas music. I actually really enjoy the ritual of it all. Especially after the pandemic, the holidays have taken on a new meaning. This will be the first year since 2019 that my family gathers for Christmas. That’s, of course, if a new variant of Covid doesn’t rip through New York City during office-holiday-party week, like it did last year. I guess technically we did gather in 2020, in masks, but 18 people in two houses woke up the next day with Round 1 Grade-A Coronavirus. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

I just feel so terrible for the workers trapped inside these stores. This morning I went to my local coffee shop, opened the door, and was assaulted (ears only) by Silent Night at 90 decibels. It was eight o’clock in the morning. All I could think was “Jesus, these poor people. They have to work an 8-hour shift listening to this shit the whole time?” The barista read my mind. She forced a smile. And nodded. Yep, we do.

We get it, Brands. I celebrate the holidays. You celebrate the holidays. But our shared experience of the Gregorian calendar doesn’t make me any more likely to buy and LG 50" Class NanoCell 75UQA Series LED 4K UHD Smart webOS TV or a set of Diamond Halo Drop Earrings or a brand-new Ooni Karu 12 Pizza Oven. One has nothing to do with the other. I will be in your store for maybe 15 minutes, possibly longer if I’m intent on buying. Hearing The Twelve Days of Christmas or Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is not going to close the deal.

But Caroline and Tarik and Joanna, and Bobby and Dani and Vida — they will be here from 8am until their shift ends at 4pm. If they do overtime, they won’t leave til 7pm. If it’s inventory night, they’re here til 10pm. You are paying them $11 an hour. That’s $7 after taxes. In the name of all that’s holy, spare these fine people from never-ending loops of Feliz Navidad and Oh, Holy Night! and Justin Bieber singing Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Haven’t they served you well these last few years? Don’t they deserve better?

Retail workers, we see you. We feel for you. And all we want for Christmas is for American capitalism to calm the fuck down, too.

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Julio Vincent Gambuto

Author + Moviemaker // Happiness in a fucked-up modern world // New book from Avid Reader Press (Simon & Schuster) // Audie Finalist // SXSW // juliovincent.com