I hear it in my sleep’: CVS to update hold music that ‘haunted’ psychiatrist

I hear it in my sleep’: CVS to update hold music that ‘haunted’ psychiatrist

The US pharmacy giant CVS has said it will update the jingle it plays to telephone customers placed on hold, a tune which was the subject of a viral open letter from a Boston child psychiatrist who said it haunted him “day and night” and to an extent that was “not healthy”.

“I know,” Dr Steven Schlozman wrote. “I’m a doctor.”

The Boston Globe reported on Friday that a spokeswoman for CVS, Amy Lanctot, said work on the on-hold system was expected “to be completed later in 2019”.

“Plans had already been under way to enhance the phone system,” she said, “and the music is only one element of it.”

Schlozman works at Massachusetts general hospital in Boston. He wrote his letter last spring for the CommonHealth newsletter, which is published by WBUR, Boston’s NPR news radio station. It duly stoked a national debate, which spiralled to the point of the doctor humming the jingle on US morning TV.

“Please change your hold music,” he wrote. “Please. Do the right thing. I hear it in my sleep. I hear it when I go running. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night humming that melody. It haunts me day and night. It’s not healthy. I know. I’m a doctor.”

Changing the jingle, he said, would take CVS “or someone who works for you, or even a barely pubescent adolescent who nevertheless knows how to program music on his iPhone with more aplomb than anyone born before 1975, only about 48 seconds.

And 48 seconds is substantially less than the amount of time I have listened to your never-changing hold music.”

Scholzman wrote that he had tracked down the jingle tune by Googling it – it is commonly named as The Golden Dragon by Karl King, although its identity is contested – and claimed to have spent “35,250 minutes, or 587 and a half hours, or nearly 25 days” listening to it while on hold.

“I am 52 years old,” he wrote, “so that means that I have spent 25 days out of my 18,980 days on this planet listening to that piano piece.”

Writing that he was not opposed to being placed on hold per se, Schlozman said his time waiting for CVS to answer him had helped him become, among other things, “greatly improved [in] trashcan basketball accuracy”. He also provided some science to bolster his claim, although he admitted he’d made it up.

“CVS hold music stimulates the almond-shaped amygdala that sits in our reptilian brains,” he wrote, “and that’s not good. This is the same region of the brain involved in road rage, and in raising your middle finger, and in listening to the Steve Miller Band sing Abracadabra.

“Some 98% of respondents in a large, multi-center study examining the average American’s response to the CVS pharmacy hold music reported that their amygdalae (the plural of amygdala) were enraged.

“This study, obviously, does not exist. But it could!”

Speaking to the Globe on Friday, Scholzman said that as the CVS decision was “not related to the letter I wrote … I cannot, in good conscience, take credit. But I feel great. It’s awesome. I was tired of that music, as I’m sure a lot of other people were.”

But his agony may not yet be over. In her statement to the Globe, Lanctot, the CVS spokeswoman, did not say the update to the jingle would definitely mean using a different tune.

“Nothing has been finalized yet,” she said, “including which on-hold music we will use with the new system.”

We made a choice…
… and we want to tell you about it. We made a choice which means our journalism now reaches record numbers around the world and more than a million people have supported our reporting. We continue to face financial challenges but, unlike many news organisations, we have chosen not to put up a paywall. We want our journalism to remain accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

This is The Guardian’s model for open, independent journalism: available for everyone, funded by our readers. We depend on contributions from our readers. Will you support our choice?


Popular Post