Volume Control

Retailers are using the power of sound as a subtle sales tool

Larry Williams / zefa / Corbis

Julian Treasure isn't happy with what he hears. Standing in a coffee bar in London's Soho district, he's forced to raise his voice to list the noises bouncing around the café: the rumble of an espresso machine, the hum of a refrigerator and the tinny tones of Michael Jackson through shoddy speakers. To Treasure, it sounds like money slipping away. "The soundscape is brutal," he says. "You're not likely to stick around here for a second cup." As head of the Sound Agency, a consultancy in London, Treasure wants companies to tune in to the realization that making the wrong noise...

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