Texan 7-Eleven Uses Roaring Opera Music to Scare Away Homeless People

A 7-Eleven store in Austin, Texas, is blaring opera music over its outdoor loudspeakers to discourage homeless people from congregating near or inside the store, a move that has drawn complaints from neighbors and the unhoused alike. "I was just astounded by how loud it was. Annoying, this early in the morning," said Jessica Cohen, a neighborhood resident, and frequent shopper. "Not that I don't love classical music, but this is just rude." Read on to find out how long this has been going on nationwide and what the company (and opponents) have to say about the tactic. 

1

"No One Wants to Listen to Classical Music"

"I think it's to keep us homeless (people) off of their property. No one wants to listen to classical music. So they run us off by the classical music, so we don't hang out in the parking lot," Kevin Morgan, an unhoused Austin man, told local station KXAN. Morgan told the station that the loud classical music had started playing about a week before. "Nobody likes the music because it is going all night," he said. "It plays all night, all day." 

2

"Unfortunately, These Tactics Are Not New Or Original"

Local residents have complained about the music. One apartment dweller across from the convenience store contacted the station to report that he could hear the loud music overnight. The city of Austin has received five noise complaints about the store since 2023 began. "Unfortunately, these kinds of tactics are not new or original," Daniela Silva, a former Austin City Council Member candidate, told KXAN.

"The reason that so many people are here is because this is a place where you can get food, you can get water, there's a bus stop where people can get around. I mean, what we really need to be doing is making it so that people have the basic resources that they need."

3

Customers "Scared to Come Here"

One 7-Eleven franchise owner in Austin told Fox News he's been blasting classical music, regardless of complaints, because the homeless population is affecting his business. "Especially a lot of my female customers and my young customers are scared to come here, because there are people constantly hanging out in the parking lot soliciting for money," said store owner Jagat Patel.

4

Other Stores Doing Same Thing

Patel told Fox News on Sunday that he started playing loud classical music about ten days earlier because he heard other 7-Eleven stores nationwide were doing the same thing. "Studies have shown that the classical music is annoying. Opera is annoying, and I'm assuming they are correct because it's working," he said.

In September 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that a North Hollywood 7-Eleven had begun utilizing the tactic. "They use it as a deterrent for loitering," said cashier Lydia Erdman. The homeless people "still show up, but our customers like it better now. We had it pretty bad. It was an issue for a while."

5

Loitering—a.k.a. Homelessness—a Target

"In Los Angeles, where it's hard to go far without seeing an orange, red and green 7-Eleven sign staring down at you, the owners of multiple franchises of the convenience store have started installing speakers to play the same playlist to drive away loiterers and panhandlers, many of whom owners and managers say are homeless," the Times reported then.

In 2018, 7-Eleven told the Modesto Bee they "test a variety of programs in our stores" and "have received very positive feedback from our customers about the atmosphere created by the music devices piloted in several 7-Eleven stores."