At 54 decibels, furrier Rosendorf/Evans boasts the most tranquil showroom at Tysons, its racks of mink and carpeted floors eating up noise from outside. Brenda Davis says she prefers working in the back, where the mall’s clamor doesn’t bleed in. Sitting at the store’s front desk, “I feel like I should be in a disco with a drink in my hand,” she says.
The vestibule of Garage, a boutique for teens, feels like a nightclub, with music pumping at 83 decibels. Manager Sarah Booker explains that she and her employees “have headsets that allow us to talk to each other so we don’t need to yell over each other or the music.”
Outside, similar devices prove useless. “WHAT!?” a tween shouts into her cell. “Dad! What? DAD! Text me! I can’t hear you! TEXT ME I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
George He and Sharon Seun stroll past in a daze. They’ve just exited Abercrombie & Fitch, the most ear-bruising store at this mall and countless others. “It’s too loud,” says He, clutching his Abercrombie purchases. “We can’t hear each other in there,” Seun says.
House music throbs inside Abercrombie & Fitch at 86 decibels, plus the entire place reeks of Fierce, the store’s signature cologne, which is poured into little vaporizing machines and puffed out onto the sales floor.
Somewhere between courtesy and zen, manager Steve Ruehl says he’s grown numb to the smells, the noise, the endless complaints about the smells and the noise. There’s nothing he can do. Corporate dictates the music’s volume — a volume that’s maintained at every Abercrombie & Fitch, coast to coast, open to close, all year round.
“It’s actually supposed to be louder than this,” Ruehl says in a regular speaking voice, which here, qualifies as under his breath.
The beat won’t stop until 11 p.m. when Ruehl closes two sets of double doors and counts out his registers, bringing the night a little bit closer to silent.