After multiple violent and even deadly incidents involving customers who refuse to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several major retailers are instructing staff – out of concern for the employees’ safety – to still serve people who defy mask mandates.
CNN reports that Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walgreens and CVS are among the companies who say they will still serve customers who refuse to wear masks to avoid confrontations between shoppers and their workers.
Chain stores with mask policies wind up having to enforce their own stores in the 20 states that don’t have an order to wear masks, leaving often lower paid workers in a precarious position.
With no federal policy in place, the Retail Industry Leaders Association has asked state governments for a uniform approach that might help avoid “conflict” stemming from the patchwork approach to fighting the coronavirus.
Some feel that allowing people to shop while not wearing a mask defeats the point of the mask policy and will make everyone else feel less safe.
“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,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union told CNN. “(Companies who) 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.”
A Walmart training video recommends that its health ambassadors, the black polo-clad workers who greet entering customers, allow people refusing to wear a mask into the store before notifying management.
If a customer refuses a complimentary mask, “let them continue to shop” and avoid any physical altercation, according to the talking points obtained by CNN.
“With every requirement there are exceptions that have been established to avoid escalating the situation and putting our associates in harm’s way,” a Walmart spokesperson told CNN. “Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores.”
Home Depot, Lowe’s and CVS also vowed not to endanger their employees by asking them to enforce a mask policy.
See more from CNN’s report.