MAJOR stores have done a U-turn on requiring customers to have a face covering and now said they will serve customers without a mask.
Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walgreens and CVS had initially said shoppers had to wear masks but now have backtracked on that in order to avoid confrontations with angry customers.
Initially stores had taken on the task of ensuring customers were wearing face masks when they entered but found themselves on their own when it came to enforcing the policy due to the lack of any legal requirement.
Melissa Murdock, a spokesperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association said: “Many retailers feel like they have to act since some governors haven’t.”
The group has been lobbying governors to require masks be worn in all 50 states but currently it falls to individual stores to implement their policy.
“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.”
Violent incidents have erupted recently when ‘anti-maskers’ have objected to being made to wear a face covering.
A security guard working at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot and killed in May after he told a customer to wear a mask.
Dozens of videos have shown confrontations between angry customers and staff in stores clashing over the rules.
Walmart, the largest retailer in the country, has said that it hopes to place employees called “health ambassadors” at the entrance to stores reminding shoppers to wear a mask as they are entering.
But if customers refuse and also decline the offer of a free mask the staff are instructed to let the customers walk into the store and notify management “so that they can determine the next steps.”
Staff have been told via a corporate video not 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.
Young kids and those with a health condition 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, while there is a requirement to wear masks staff will not challenge anyone not wearing one.
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 shoppers to “cooperate” with the mask-wearing policy.
A company rep said: “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.”
Some stores have hired private security guards to help enforce any mask-wearing policy but there has been a varying response from firms over the issue of getting the cops involved in any dispute.
CVS and Home Depot have stated they would not call the cops if a customer decided not to wear a mask.
At the Home Depot a representative said that if the customer “becomes combative or habitually refuses to comply, we’ll take further action to prevent them from entering our stores.”
Walmart said they wouldn’t rule out calling the police on “customers who become belligerent”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consistently said people should cover their mouth and nose when around others to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.