Ashley Snyder noticed the classical music immediately.

Gordon Yates said store management needs to turn it up.

And Mae Jones remarked that "It seems to be working."

With apologies to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, classical music is being used by more local retailers in Bakersfield as a repellent, a tool to dissuade  panhandlers and loiterers outside their stores. Rite Aid is one of those retailers.

"The playing of classical music is a test in certain California stores — based on customer feedback — to discourage panhandling and loitering and provide a more comfortable shopping experience for our customers," the company said in an email Tuesday.

At least three Rite Aid locations in Bakersfield, apparently dealing with the presence of panhandlers and vagrants, are piping classical music to outdoor areas around the stores — including in the rear of the stores where street people sometimes gather.

"It would drive you nuts after a while," Yates, a regular customer at Rite Aid, said of the music. "Which is what it's supposed to do."

"Don't get me wrong, classical music is pretty," Snyder said, "but it would drive me crazy being out here two hours."

The National Association of Convenience Stores says panhandling can persuade shoppers to take their business elsewhere. And no retailer wants to lose potential customers.

Business owners in Bakersfield have said for years that street people and others who stand outside their stores can drive away customers. And sometimes those customers never come back.

Gill Santokh Singh, a clerk at the 7-Eleven on Roberts Lane and North Chester Avenue in Oildale, said he doesn't think the opera and classical being blasted through speakers outside the front door is having the desired effect.

"They really don't listen. Too many drugs," he said midday Monday. "It doesn't work."

Indeed, on the concrete pad in front of the store, a man lay sleeping in the shade, seemingly dead to the world. Another man sat with his back propped up against the wall.

At another 7-Eleven on Olive Drive in northwest Bakersfield, store manager Inderjit Garcha said he believes the music is no silver bullet, but it's helping.

"It helps maybe 50 to 60 percent of the time," Garcha said. And some improvement is better than no improvement.

Marc DeLeon, owner of Mad Dog Tattoo on 19th Street, said he's been dealing with people who congregate in his parking lot every day. On Monday afternoon, he blasted operatic music through a 600-watt heavy-duty speaker.

"The opera music chases them away like a musical napalm," he said in a Facebook post.

"Every day the parking lot fills up with people selling drugs and doing drugs," he told a reporter Tuesday afternoon. "These are not homeless people. Very much not. They live in the hotels. They are criminals."

"The police have their hands tied," he said. "They're overwhelmed, so short handed they don't even respond."

In the past, when crack smokers gathered behind the shop, DeLeon blasted death metal.

They seemed to like it.

Next he tried ABBA. "Dancing Queen" over and over. It worked.

The music worked so well, he's thinking about installing permanent outdoor speakers.

"It's just really hard right now," DeLeon said.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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(12) comments


All they need to do is play Stephen King singing with his band and that will scare them off and keep them from coming back.🤓


I think a firehose would be more affective.


If these vagrants are on private property, why can't the owners ask them to leave and harass them until they leave. I also think that Christian music might penetrate their brains and the might stand up and leave on their own.

Fram Smith

The trick is to find a variety of classic music which customers will not think is over the top in annoyance , but for someone who wants to hang out , will prevent them from getting too comfortable. Or you could just play "The Ride of the Valkyries " by Richard Wagner , on an endless loop at 150 decibels. That should take care of the loitering issues.

Inconvenient Truth

How about traditional Christian hymns?

[Probably make their heads spin and projectile vomit pea soup...]


How about the sound of a siren...?


Good on ya, JR. Especially enjoy the Stravinsky . . . great French Horn! Can I bring mine over and 'engage' . . .Karaoke-style . . . live? Would anyone on the Bakersfield Symphony care to join us . . . ?

Sorry folks, Garth's CrysPal tickets are "KUZZ-Only", but maybe . . .


If the classics don't work, try polka! 🤣


How about looping the sound of fingernails across a chalkboard? Play that over and over and over and over non-stop all day and all night.


I listen to classical music on NPR almost every day. Why would it run anyone off? Although, any type of music after a couple of hours would be enough.


JR, you also behave yourself in a manner respectful to others and our community. The music is intended to discourage those who behave badly. The theory is it makes them uncomfortable and they leave.


Roger that, Steve . . . on the other hand, remember Muzak . . . ? The theory and fact was . . . calm down, relax . . . buy here, buy now. And my car radio was always tuned to "Easy Listenin'" . . .

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