- Major U.S. retailers brought in rules requiring masks to be worn by customers
- However, the rules appear to be little more than a suggestion with stores powerless to deal with those who refuse
- The requirement for customers to wear facial coverings have sometimes brought violent reactions from some patrons who have refused to comply
- Companies that had previously announced a ‘mask-on’ policy now say they won’t challenge customers who refuse to wear them and police will also not be called
- Retailers are trying to walk a fine line between enforcement and friendly service
- Some stores have stated that if a customer refuses to comply they will be served quickly and encouraged to order online to avoid future encounters
Days after announcing customers are required to wear face masks while shopping in their stores, major U.S. retailers appear to be showing leniency in how the rules are enforced.
Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walgreens and CVS had initially required shoppers to wear masks but now in the hope of avoiding confrontations between angry customers and employees it appears to be little more than a suggestion, rather than a legally enforceable instruction.
Having retailers take on the role of the ‘mask police’ puts them in an uncomfortable position at a time when many shops are in no position financially to refuse business.
Because there is no requirement federally or legally across the country to wear a mask, and with many states having been lax in creating policies insisting residents wear them in shops, retailers are on their own when it comes to enforcing the policy.
As the number of coronavirus infections continues to rise in many states, there is concern over how best to protect customers and workers from infecting one another.
‘Many retailers feel like they have to act since some governors haven’t,’ said Melissa Murdock, spokesperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association to CNN.
The group has been lobbying governors to require masks be worn in all 50 states but in the meantime, it will fall to individual stores to implement their policy.
‘Either security or management needs to tell people that they must wear a face mask in order to be served. It’s no different than wearing shoes or a shirt,’ said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
‘If companies are not requiring customers to wear a mask within their store, then they never had a requirement. All they had was a public relations stunt.’
In recent weeks, so-called ‘anti-maskers’ have triggered violent incidents at stores and restaurants that have requested customers wear them.
In May, a security guard working at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot and killed after he told a customer to wear a mask.
There have also been dozens of videos of confrontations between angry customers and clerks in stores clashing over the rules.
Walmart, the largest retailer in the country, has said that it intends to place employees called ‘health ambassadors’ at the entrance to stores reminding shoppers to wear a mask as they are walking in.
However, if customers refuse and also decline the offer of a free mask being given to them, the staff members are instructed to let the customers walk into the store and notify management ‘so that they can determine the next steps.’
A corporate video instructs ambassadors never to engage with a customer physically or try to block their entrance into the store.
‘With every requirement there are exceptions that have been established to avoid escalating the situation and putting our associates in harm’s way. Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores,’ a Walmart representative said. ‘
Small children and those suffering from health conditions will be exempt from wearing masks.
Lowe’s home improvement chain is also requesting customers wear masks and is providing free masks to those who need them.
‘We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks,’ a Lowe’s representative said.
At Home Depot, a requirement to wear masks will also not be challenged by staff by those who don’t.
Employees have been told not to block the entrance or chase after a customer if they are not wearing one.
CVS has asked for its customers to ‘cooperate’ with the mask-on policy.
‘In the event of non-compliance, for safety reasons, we have asked our employees to avoid escalated confrontations with non-compliant customers, and to instead help them complete their purchases as quickly as possible while providing information about other options we have available for their future needs, including free home delivery for prescriptions and our drive-thru window service,’ a company rep said to DailyMail.com.