Anti-mask shoppers find themselves publicly shamed

Discussion
Sources: Twitter/@ItsRellzWorld; Twitter/@CaliCoCo3
Jul 01, 2020
Tom Ryan

Videos and photos of in-store shoppers purportedly behaving badly have been going viral on social media for years, but the occurrences have spiked in recent weeks as some shoppers rebel against face mask mandates.

Last Friday, a woman at a North Hollywood Trader Joe’s was filmed cursing, slamming her shopping basket to the ground and calling employees and shoppers “Democratic pigs” when confronted about not wearing a mask. She is heard saying mask mandates violate federal laws. Millions watched the video on social media over the weekend with the incident earning widespread news coverage.

She later told an ABC News affiliate she had permission from the manager to shop without a mask, has a medical condition and was cursed by a male shopper for not wearing one. Trader Joe’s said her story was false and that a manager offered to shop for her while she waited outside, but she refused.

Two days earlier, a woman attempted to publicly shame a barista at a Starbucks in San Diego with a Facebook post after he asked if she had a mask. The women wrote in her post, “Meet Lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.” She took a picture of him wearing a face mask and included it in the post.

The post led to an outpouring of support for the barista. A GoFundMe page, entitled “Tips for Lenin Standing Up To A San Diego Karen” started by a stranger has raised over $100,000. The barista plans to use the funds to pursue his dream of teaching dance and donating to the San Diego community.

Other incidents include a man trying to fight his way into an Orlando Walmart after being told of a mask requirement, a group of shoppers in a Staten Island ShopRite vilifying an unmasked shopper until she left and a Costco employee calmly escorting a man refusing to wear a mask from the store.

Retailers generally respond to such incidents by restating their mask policy.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the viral shaming of shoppers who refuse to wear masks on social media more of a positive or negative development for retailers? How should and can stores respond?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This is not a matter of dressing poorly. It’s a matter of being a disease spreader."
"Instead of stressing about viral videos (which are generally out of their control), retailers should create a strategy to get their brand highlighted in meme culture."
"The employees are just doing their job and enforcing company/local policy — it’s terrible to take it out on them."

Join the Discussion!

38 Comments on "Anti-mask shoppers find themselves publicly shamed"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is really, really simple.

A retail store is private property. Within the law, private property owners have the right to set whatever policies they wish for those entering their premises. This includes an obligation to wear a mask. If you don’t like those policies then you are free not to shop there and to go elsewhere. If you do want to shop there, you abide by the policies.

It is a great shame that so many people don’t understand this and are unable to show respect for retailers and the staff working there. Some of the responses seen on social media are plain ugly and downright criminal. It is both shocking and saddening to see.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Spot on as always Neil!

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Well said, Neil, and so true.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Well said, Neil.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Shaming is negative in almost any context. In the world we live today, confrontations like these will most certainly be captured on phones and posted. These acts of reckless ignorance are sad and disgraceful, and frontline employees should not be subjected to this type of abuse. The best approach retailers can take is to post clear guidelines at the entrance of their stores – no masks, no service. Period. Given how aggressive and emotional some shoppers feel about the issue, I urge retailers to apply additional security at the entrance of the store to minimize confrontations inside the store.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I have seen a lot of these videos over the past few days. In my state, the counties that have the largest renewed spikes in COVID-19 asked the governor about implementing a mask requirement for their county, and the governor has not denied any of those requests. As much as some people don’t like the requirement (especially at restaurants and gyms) people need to know there is value in wearing a mask to help curb new cases. I have also seen where customers have acted badly and taken it out on the employees — when the rule is not the employees’ fault. They are only adhering to the rules mandated by the county. Acting like a fool isn’t going to accomplish anything other than that person being slammed on social media. Stores need to continue following rules and monitoring that customers are adhering to them. Those that don’t or can’t should not be allowed into the stores.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

In fairness, I’ve shamed shoppers at my local stores who do not wear masks, especially the idiot at Kroger the other day who was coughing and not wearing a mask. Regardless of whether people like it or not, it is an anti-social act to not wear a mask. Retailers should relish social media conflicts – it’s free advertising – as long as they are handling the problem as nicely and politely as the people at Gelson’s clearly did.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I am still for individual choice. We are all adults. This goes for both shoppers and store operators. We have the right to not shop at stores that do not enforce mask wearing. We also have the right to not wear masks. In rural areas, there is no shame nor much reason to wear masks. The news reports only on urban areas. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Even within the same state, Manhattan should have different guidelines than rural upstate NY. Trouble is, few elected leaders understand this.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

So is a crowded bar full of unmasked customers in a rural area any less risky than a crowded bar full of unmasked customers in Houston? Can you guarantee that everyone in that bar (or restaurant, or store) is virus-free? Is the contact tracing up to speed so you know that none of those bar patrons were recently in an urban “hot zone” for the virus?

Yes, there is less population density in rural areas (and therefore fewer outbreaks) but there are no moats or invisible fences around those areas.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust
Hi, Dick, can I guarantee everyone is virus-free? Nope. There are no guarantees in life, sorry. However I can say that intelligent social distancing can help and is much easier to accomplish in rural areas vs. urban areas. I live in a rural area, and there are three active COVID-19 cases in our county that stretches more than 200 miles across. Interesting how there have been no reports of outbreaks stemming from all the crowded supermarkets, mass discounters and DIY stores that have never closed during this crisis. We are getting fully two-thirds of cases from inside people’s homes, according to a .ppt slide I saw Gov. Cuomo present on one of his press briefings. Gotta get outta the house! Will I jump into a pile of people in a crowded local bar regardless of where it is located? Nope. But I guess I’m suggesting them leveraging of a bit of common sense. That does seem to be on short supply these days. I love this discussion, though. Great to see some pulse from the… Read more »
storewanderer
Guest
1 month 13 days ago

Most cases in rural areas have been traced to “outside visitors” who come from an urban area and visit friends or family in the rural area and pass the virus on to the rural friends/family after an extended visit.

The cases in rural areas are not because someone in a big city stopped off in a rural Walmart to buy some snacks and use the restroom — that is not how this is spreading in the rural areas.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
Politicizing the workplace is never a good idea and, make no mistake, these incidents are political. Retailers need to obey local public health and safety regulations and have an obligation to protect both employees and customers. If that means making everyone comply with mask regulations, so be it. Now since retail stores have become the latest battlefield in the culture wars there will be customers that — for whatever reason — refuse to wear a mask and demand to be served. In the case of a genuine medical issue, shopping for a customer is the best alternative. Video shaming is never a good idea. Attention is exactly what most of these “mask protesters” want, and giving them digital air time just encourages them and others to continue their disruptive behaviors. In addition, it may make the rest of your customers worried that going to your store may result in appearing in an ugly Instagram post and create problems for your staff up to, and including, assault. So the best bet is to familiarize yourself with… Read more »
Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

If a store has the right to say, “No shoes, no shirt, no service” — for public health reasons! — then it has the same right to expect its customers to wear masks. Neil is correct that private businesses should be able to exclude customers as long as the reasons aren’t discriminatory.

It’s sad that a simple, common-sense public health precaution was politicized to the point where customers are warring with each other, and with store associates just trying to do their jobs. Not wearing a mask, in a setting where you are asked to do so, is not some sort of statement about your political freedom — it’s just plain rude, and arguably dangerous given the rising outbreaks.

Al McClain
Staff

Yet another way in which the US has handled the pandemic worse than any other country in the world. This is what happens in the absence of governmental leadership: we are all left to fend for ourselves, with predictable results.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The retailers should follow their protocols, no exception. If a situation gets violent, they should do their best to de-escalate.

Otherwise I am all for the shoppers taking photos and videos of those who do not wear masks. There are consequences to decisions people make and if this is one of the consequences, so be it. You asked for it. You chose to be just plain selfish and have no regard for your fellow human beings.

And if that is not a good enough reason to wear a mask, Goldman Sachs just came out with a study that a national mask mandate could save the economy $1 trillion.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

It shouldn’t be that difficult for people to express their own point of view AND have enough respect for other people to do the exact same thing. Don’t want to wear a mask? Shop at a like-minded retailer with like-minded customers. If you want to shop at a store requiring a mask? Pretty simple to put on a mask. It’s not exactly a hazmat suit. The states with discipline have a wildly different curve than states that thought haircuts and beach outings were the priority. Now who has more “freedom?” And who can expect a quicker and longer term rebound in the local economy?

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Well, this may not be a popular opinion, but I am all for shaming those who don’t wear masks. This is not a matter of dressing poorly. It’s a matter of being a disease spreader.

Shaming is fine by me. I have no interest in dying to be polite. I reported an Instacart driver who was unmasked and tell anyone I see not wearing one in public to put one on.

It’s our only recourse to stupidity. Sorry.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

I don’t think viral shaming will mean anything meaningful to the retailers. It will be a localized, minor disturbance at the time of the incident. We see the “customer from hell” type of videos from time to time. These are no different.

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust
When talking to Aptos customers about how they planned to handle this, by far the majority opinion was that they did not want to force their employees to be “enforcers.” They would provide masks as much as they could to people who don’t have them, and they would ask people to wear masks, but would not take direct enforcement action unless store associates’ safety was threatened. However, with rising numbers of cases and the risk of infection spiraling out of control, the stakes are higher than ever. Masks are the reason why stores could possibly be open in the first place. I think retailers need to be very blunt and use a very large font on signs at entrances to set expectations: to come inside, you MUST wear a mask. If you’re not able to wear a mask, call this number and we will help you shop. If you enter the store without a mask, you will be trespassing and told to leave. If you do not leave or become belligerent, the police will be… Read more »
Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

I frankly don’t get it, either one; the shaming or especially the refusal to wear a mask. The thing everyone has to realize is that it’s about being courteous and potentially (because who knows?) saving some lives or protecting others from severe sickness. Maybe less shaming and more explaining that it has nothing to do with “freedom” but more about someone not killing someone’s mother/grandmother. It feels like some education needs to happen more than anything. C’mon, America, let’s be civil!

David Weinand
BrainTrust

The use of social media for public shaming, in general, is not great for our society. There is just nowhere that a line can be drawn as to what is acceptable and what is not. That said, retailers have the right to put policies in place that are best for their staff and customers. If there is no other way to get these people using masks as a political statement to get in line with policies (which, from what I’ve seen, seems to be the case), it’s a tool that must be used.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

A retail store has the right to set the rules for entering their property. I see this as being similar to saying no shoes, no shirt, no service. The difference is the impact that not wearing a mask can have on the retailer’s other customers and staff. It is not political, it’s medical.

George Anderson
Staff

Hugo’s Tacos has closed its two restaurants in Los Angeles. Here’s the company’s statement on Instagram (edited for brevity):

To Our Customers

Our Taco Stands are exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks. Staff have been harassed, called names, and had objects and liquids thrown at them. A mask isn’t symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy.

Both of our locations are going to take a break and recharge. We’ve loved serving you the last 15 years and hope the LA community comes together on this issue so we can feel safe and reopen soon.

Thank you to the majority of our guests who are always respectful and kind.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

I suppose in some ways it’s an individual’s choice to take risks and get sick, but then analogous to those who won’t follow seatbelt laws, when they’re sick they take up scarce and costly healthcare resources. There aren’t enough Darwin awards for this crowd.

It’s not right to endanger others though, which is what going inside without a mask does. Reason doesn’t seem to work today — so maybe public pressure will. But in all cases stores could use a little help from the government to mandate masks and at least attempt to make it a universally encouraged behavior. It doesn’t matter whether you look at our COVID-19 statistics from the left or the right side of the page, it’s bad and it didn’t have to be so.

Lauren Goldberg
BrainTrust

It is terrible that our front line retail workers have become the enforcers of this public health policy. If shaming people will discourage the bad behavior, then I’m all for it. The employees are just doing their job and enforcing company/local policy — it’s terrible to take it out on them. I get it. Masks are not fun, are not comfortable and no one WANTS to wear one. Best case scenario – you are at a reduced risk from catching or spreading a disease. Worst case scenario – you had to wear a piece of fabric on your face while grocery shopping. If it’s that hard, people do have the right not to go into public stores. So many retailers are doing a fabulous job with curbside pickup and delivery.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Retailers aren’t doing the shaming — mask-wearing customers are, and I’m all for it. No mask, no service.

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 13 days ago

Just what is needed in the store. More yelling, screaming, people throwing more bits of virus out projecting it into the air to other innocent bystanders due to raising their voices.

Customers who do not wear a mask in a store that has a mask rule should be led out quietly. Perhaps the store management can provide a written notification to the customer (go look at the Alaska Airlines “yellow card” that will be given out in flights to non-mask wearing individuals) that they will be no longer allowed in the store due to refusing to wear a mask. They should NOT engage in ANY discussion. We don’t need stores to turn into war zones full of people fighting with each other over wearing a mask/not wearing a mask.

This enforcement of no masks cannot be something that puts those doing the enforcement, as well as others who are in the store with masks on just trying to mind their own business and shop, at risk of contracting the virus.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Sadly there is no cure for bad behavior, and with the prevalence of smartphones and polarization shaming of retailers will continue. Retailers’ best response is for employees (with support from management and security) to keep cool and professionally reinforce the policy.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

This is simple and fundamental for all stores, restaurants, schools, and public places. Private and public organizations have every right to enforce mask-wearing to help prevent the spread of what has proven to be a very serious virus.

Health, safety, and security matter more than ever. The unfortunate viral videos of customers who refuse to wear masks are partly attributed to the lack of a consistent federally-mandated and enforceable strategy around mask-wearing. States and local governments have a varied approach to this, and it comes down to store owners and restaurants helping to regulate things to keep their associates and customers safe.

The pandemic has not only accelerated trends that were ongoing before the virus started spreading, but also the political polarization around masks or no masks.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

How did we end up with so much vitriol in society?

Certainly the choice not to wear a mask is one which threatens people around you. So how did it become ok to ignore the health and well being of the rest of society in favor of (usually) embracing a facial individualism?

On the other hand, how did we so quickly forget there ARE reasons people can’t wear masks? Where did our sympathy for their conditions go?

The key here seems to be finding a middle ground where those who legitimately can’t wear a mask can signal “I care for those around me” while being mask-free.

Instead, we’re all shouting at each other. Sigh.

Scott Norris
Guest

The folks who legitimately can’t wear masks do have convenient options: online ordering, curbside pickup, home delivery, have friends or family do shopping, etc. People who have breathing problems so severe that they can’t wear a mask are the most vulnerable in this crisis and should not be out shopping in public right now, period. Sympathy for these individuals is a mask mandate. There is no middle ground here.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust
How many times has the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy been challenged by customers? Due to medical reasons? Retailers have the right to set policies for shopping in their stores. In most cases, they can also refuse service to shoppers who are in violation of their rules and policies. This is a time where retailers should absolutely hold their ground. Retailers owe it to their customers to provide a safe shopping environment, with fair prices, quality products and decent service. Nothing more. Still, many retailers are going above and beyond by providing an alternative for those who refuse to wear a mask like offering to shop for them (also, online shopping is a new invention that has worked for millions). Suggesting that store employees can’t shop for them because there are “private” things they want to buy is a farce. Store managers know and stock every item in the store. And let’s be honest, nothing is private at checkout. Bottom line is, the vast majority of customers who refuse to wear a mask… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

This is a video showing the poor position people take in the service of trying to prove themselves right. What is the point? If you want to shop, abide by the rules. They are there to keep us safe. Like it or not. In this case, she only wanted to prove herself a better debater than the store security person. How intelligent is that? I saw something on Facebook last night. It was an ad from an attorney saying if you have been refused service because you would not wear a mask; contact us so we can prove how stupid (or words meaning the same thing) you are.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Humor is a coping mechanism and, as consumers see their peers behave increasingly erratically, it only makes sense that people would joke about it to keep moving forward.

The viral videos showing the chaos in grocery stores could turn off some consumers from physical shopping. However, it also shows that the retailer is enforcing mask mandates and has employees that can remain professional in any situation.

Instead of stressing about viral videos (which are generally out of their control), retailers should create a strategy to get their brand highlighted in meme culture. After all, it’s one of the primary ways that consumers build community remotely.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

What Neil said. To elaborate: I’m entirely fine with intense social pressure (and mild legal pressure) on me and my fellow citizens to wear a face covering in public. In the present circumstance, when you approach me unmasked in public, that’s tantamount to an assault on my person. If your raise your voice and scream about it, thereby exhaling far more particles and sending them a much farther distance, that might as well be attempted murder. #maskitorcasket

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Enforcement should be by qualified persons — generally store management and/or the “authorities — not by vigilantes. Although the woman’s story apparently ended up being false, it’s not impossible that a person could have proscribing medical issues, and social media is not a diagnostic tool.

The sad reality for retailers is that there are, always have been and always will be both selfish jerks and professional busy-bodies, and sometime they encounter each other in their store.

Joe Skorupa
Guest

Vitriol by members of the public (shoppers or anyone) was not born this year due to a shift in our political discourse or the pandemic. It has occurred regularly, consistently and often without public witness. What is different this time is that videos are being taken and posted. I am all for it.

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 14 days ago
Rule one during Coronavirus is you do not have any unnecessary interactions. That means you don’t talk to people you don’t know and you most certainly don’t go raise your voice around people you don’t know. Getting in a confrontation with a stranger over a mask is a terrible idea. I am against mask wearing unless you are sick. Unless I am going in an airplane or going to a medical office, then yes, mask in any case. Some tell us we may be sick and not have symptoms and need to wear a mask for this reason to stop the current virus from spreading. So here we are, masks required in public places. Fine. Many densely populated areas (counties — not the whole state) in CA, large areas in TX/AZ, have been requiring masks for weeks or months now and their cases are spiking like crazy the past week in those areas that have been requiring masks for weeks/months now. So I don’t think the mask is proven effective at all. It is more… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"This is not a matter of dressing poorly. It’s a matter of being a disease spreader."
"Instead of stressing about viral videos (which are generally out of their control), retailers should create a strategy to get their brand highlighted in meme culture."
"The employees are just doing their job and enforcing company/local policy — it’s terrible to take it out on them."

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