Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers?

Discussion
Photo: @beachbumledford via Twenty20
May 04, 2020
Tom Ryan

Costco last week became the first major retailer to require that all customers wear face coverings.

“Costco employees are required to wear face coverings, and now we are asking that Costco members do so too,” said Craig Jelinek, president and CEO, in a blog entry. “We know some members may find this inconvenient or objectionable, but under the circumstances we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience. This is not simply a matter of personal choice; a face covering protects not just the wearer, but others too.”

He further added that while “some may disagree with this policy or question its effectiveness, we’re choosing to err on the side of safety in our shopping environments.”

The CDC recommends that people wear face coverings in public settings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Costco joins SpartanNash, Menards and Meijer among the few larger retailers making masks mandatory.

Some retailers, including Walmart, H-E-B and Home Depot, are encouraging, but not requiring, customers to wear masks. Whole Foods last week began encouraging customers to wear masks and said it would distribute free, disposable masks for those without one. Most retailers have no mask policy for customers.

New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois are among a number of states requiring people to wear masks when visiting grocers and other businesses. Major cities, including Miami and Los Angeles, have similar ordinances, as do some smaller towns.

Wearing masks has become a political hot potato as reopen rallies have erupted across the country calling for a reduction of COVID-19 restrictions to support the economy. Many protesters assert being ordered to wear masks violates constitutional law.

Business Insider reported that some calls surfaced on social media for a boycott of Costco following the wholesale club’s move. On Friday, the town of Stillwater, OK abandoned a requirement that people wear face coverings in local businesses after violent threats were made against retail and restaurant employees.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should stores require, recommend or forgo policies regarding wearing masks inside stores amid the pandemic? How should shoppers that do not follow in-store social distancing guidelines established by authorities or businesses be managed?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Of course retailers ought to require masks inside the store. I hope this isn't a serious question in anybody's mind. "
"This is pretty simple. Have enough consideration and respect for fellow citizens to wear a mask. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable but so is being hooked up to a ventilator."
"Requiring masks is the least retailers can do to try and keep employees safe. “Recommending” masks leaves too much open to interpretation and selective enforcement."

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53 Comments on "Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

In the absence of government orders, I think this is up to each individual company to determine. Customers should respect those policies and, if masks are required, not put staff in the difficult position of having to confront them for not wearing them. Given the patchwork of different policies, communication and signage should be clear. Ideally, retailers requiring masks should give them out to customers who don’t have them as it can still be hard to acquire them.

My only issue with masks is that some people wearing them seem to think it means they are invincible which leads to social distancing being ignored. That is undesirable. People need to wear masks and keep their distance.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Retailers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for the employees and shoppers. Ultimately every retailer will need to make their own decisions about how they choose to provide a safe environment – regardless of how politically incorrect or unfavorable with the public. While it’s true that face masks are not foolproof for minimizing virus transmission, it is widely believed that they provide some protection. Furthermore, countries that have had the best results in minimizing spread, such as South Korea, have adopted a face masks en masse. Retailers should post their policies clearly at the entrance of their stores and assign personnel to ensure the policy is being met. If some customers don’t feel comfortable with or don’t agree with face masks, they are free to shop at other stores.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

If you’re going to require them, make sure it is clearly stated at all entrances and on social media. It is not a minimum wage workers job to “get into it” with a shopper. Again, without national direction this whole subject is a quagmire.

Al McClain
Staff

First, it’s sad that we have so quickly reached the point where some of us are unwilling to put up with a little inconvenience (masks), to try to reduce the ever growing death count from COVID-19. With that as the new reality, however, I think Costco has it right. Recommending and asking customers to wear masks and put some distance between each other is the best approach. For those customers who are aggressive about not distancing, I guess calling the police would be the next option, although, that didn’t work out too well in NYC this weekend. What a state we are in. Sigh.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

The decision for retailers to require face masks is tricky and it may be a state by state decision instead of a national chain decision. With the recent news of 81 employees in a Walmart store in Massachusetts testing positive for coronavirus, more retail chains may take a more aggressive stance on face masks. Out of respect for the safety of employees and other shoppers, I don’t think it is unreasonable for stores to require employees and shoppers to wear face masks. It has prompted protests and boycotts of some chains, but it is the right thing to do at this stage of the pandemic.

Scott Norris
Guest

This should be the klaxon call for all retailers – yes, it can happen to you and yes, you are liable for the health of your employees. Smart insurance companies should be demanding their clients take every precaution, including masks, as the potential for class-action lawsuits is now rising as fast as the infection counts.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Either require them or say nothing. “Recommending” will only lead to complaints from both shoppers who want everyone in masks and those who don’t want to wear one period.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

I’m not a lawyer, but it certainly seems the potential for legal action against retailers who knowingly allow the spread of COVID-19 that results in sickness and deaths is huge. In terms of risk mitigation, it’s a no-brainer.

Casey Golden
BrainTrust
28 days 22 hours ago

It should be mandatory – full stop. Given the legal and ethical implications and the reality of the situation, it is too great of risk to be on the fence. No shirt, no shoes, no mask – no service.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Sometimes I feel like we’re a nation of spoiled brats. We misunderstand liberty for stupidity.

Aside from that, if you’re not going to require a mask, you should require your customers to sign a waiver holding the retailer harmless if while not wearing a mask, a person either gets infected or infects others.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

This is pretty simple. Have enough consideration and respect for fellow citizens to wear a mask. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable but so is being hooked up to a ventilator. We are all anxious to get out and about again, and I guess retail is about to behave like a “Wild West” of different rules and regulations. I’ll wear a mask and shop where it is safest. Retailers and customers can all make what they think are informed decisions, but it would still be great if respect ruled the day.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Yes, while risks surrounding this disease are still not completely known, what a small ask of shoppers to protect themselves and make more comfortable and safer the store team who are helping them.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Face masks need to be required. We need to protect our most vulnerable and many states who have not experienced the heartache of the peak don’t understand what could happen to them. Herd immunity is an aspiration that will require an enormous body count. We need to be cautious at least for the next month to see how this thing morphs. A vaccine is, at best, a year away from universal availability no matter what we hear from Washington.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

In Illinois it is mandatory now. It is a public policy for the greater good. Wearing a cloth mask will not protect you, but will protect others if you are an asymptomatic carrier.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
28 days 22 hours ago

Living in Atlanta, we are on the front line of businesses reopening and I had an interesting experience this weekend which I’ll post about separately. Bottom line: I went to a big box retailer where a number of shoppers and associates were not wearing masks and I found it completely unacceptable. There was no signage other than a request for social distancing at the returns counter.

All the research clearly shows that consumers are reluctant to return to stores, evidenced by Harris reporting that 89 percent have “concerns about shopping” in-store.

While it’s up to each store to establish its own guidelines, those that fail to demonstrate a recognition of consumers’ concerns about safety and security will not get the traffic that Costco and others will.

Safety and security are the new loyalty currencies.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Store should require or recommend face coverings at least until the world feels this crisis has passed. If the store only recommends, the other shoppers may be intimidated and choose not to shop there. Store staff needs to monitor and politely remind shoppers of the guidelines.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I live in Illinois where masks are required wherever you cannot practice social distancing so the decision here is already made for you.

Yes, I believe people should be required to wear masks when shopping. And that rule should be enforced. I’m sorry if you don’t like it or feel you don’t need to follow the rules that will keep yourself and others safe. This pandemic is bigger than you.

Chris Buecker
BrainTrust

Yes, absolutely. Everybody has to contribute to the big effort to have the virus more or less under control. By wearing a mask, the chance to infect someone is much lower than without mask. People should be responsible for this themselves, however if they don’t obey the rules, then they should be gently reminded by a security guard to follow the directives.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Making masks mandatory for shoppers and workers can help retailers gain an edge by mitigating risk. However, some shoppers still don’t have access to masks because they’re out of stock.

Retailers also have an opportunity to stand out by educating consumers on how to protect the integrity of their masks (keeping an N-95 mask in a plastic bag when not in use, only touching the elastics, carrying hand sanitizer and wipes for shopping carts) for a safer shopping trip.

Given the increased risk of germs within physical stores, retailers will invest in security services for crowd counting and physical distance enforcement, ranging from verbal warnings to kicking delinquent shoppers out of the store.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Retailers have a responsibility to customers and their employees. In our current environment that extends to making the store safe to shop which includes stopping the spread of the virus. In addition to cleaning and sanitizing, masks become a necessary lever in the fight against the spread of the virus.

Public good versus individual rights should not turn into an individual’s choice to potentially deliver a death sentence to someone that is more vulnerable to COVID-19. Empathy and compassion are needed to connect in our common humanity. Science, like technology, can help inform decisions and reduce risk so we can re-open and adjust to do so safely. We can wear the mask and carry on.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

This is a no brainer. Face masks protect our frontline retail workers from customer spread of COVID-19. Shoppers who do not want to wear face masks should simply not come nor be allowed into the store. Social distancing, aisle markings, etc. should be politely enforced without the aura of the COVID-19 police.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust
What a nightmare this country has become, with everyone’s opinion polarizing, and paralyzing our society. Everyone is a health expert today and if our customers choose not to, so be it, as I don’t like wearing one myself but I have to. Our nation is being led by media folks who strike fear in those who believe it is the end of times, and if we don’t get this country opened up, more folks will die from starvation, and others will be unable to buy medicines for their chronic illnesses. We have folks walking off jobs to collect the extra $600 in their unemployment checks, and the new mandates for restaurants, and other retailers, will guarantee more places closing, as operating at 50 percent capacity, simply won’t pay the bills. We are becoming a police state, and this is not going to end well. Seeing your grandkids through a window is insane, and I hope this ends soon as summer is near. This is no way to live, and the lawyers are waiting to sue… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
First, full disclosure: living in a COVID hot zone may influence my perspective here. Of course retailers ought to require masks inside the store. I hope this isn’t a serious question in anybody’s mind. It’s the only way to serve the needs of multiple critical communities. First and foremost, retailers owe it to their staff to ensure as “virus-free” a workplace as possible. These workers are potentially laying their lives on the line for $10 an hour. And if you aren’t drawn to moral reasons, try running a store where 60 percent of your floor staff is out sick. Next, you owe it to your customers to provide as safe a shopping environment as possible and today that includes masks, probably gloves in a perfect world, sanitized carts, social distancing, no demos or samples, shutting down salad bars, etc. If you have other customers who object — trust me as anyone with access to news knows we have plenty of those in Michigan — let them shop somewhere else so you can protect your employees… Read more »
Al McClain
Staff

I agree with you in principle, Ryan, but how is this enforceable? Michigan can’t even keep armed citizens from threatening legislators INSIDE the state capitol. Ohio gave up on insisting that citizens wear masks. NYC cops ended up in a brawl with citizens who wouldn’t distance from each other. On and on it goes. So, if a retailer like Costco mandates masks to enter its stores, they are putting the lives of their greeters at risk from hostile potential customers, in addition to the risk from COVID-19. The federal, state and local governments really have to step up and in many cases they haven’t. So now we have semi-organized chaos where retailers need to play law enforcers while those demanding their “rights” to not comply are egged on from on high.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

How do you enforce “no shirt, no shoes, no service?” We do so through store personnel, BUT and more importantly, it is internalized and accepted as a norm, as part of good behavior and being a responsible member of society. It becomes about social pressure to conform to a set of expectations. However, when you have, at best, mixed signals from government about wearing masks or social distancing and at worst purposefully fomenting unrest and confusion, then little on that front can be internalized but rather it becomes divisive and used for political gains while tapping into the dire economic and health impacts of the virus. If we can’t agree on something this simple to save lives, how will we tackle the real issues?

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Safety and health first! That is a priority. And for the customers who choose not to follow the in-store social distancing and mask guidelines, they should be given one warning and then asked to leave. (And I’m being generous with the one warning.) This is serious. I think it’s good that stores have strict policies. Soon enough, we’ll be back to normal. Until then, everyone must do their part to keep themselves and others safe.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Costco has it right – the point is to mitigate risk, and if that means enforcing a little inconvenience for shoppers, then so be it. We currently stand at 65,000+ people dead in this country, with over 1 million infected. Out of respect for the dead, how can we not tolerate a little potential inconvenience? If it saves even one life it will be worth it. Masks may not be guaranteed safety, but they are known to help.

In the absence of government leadership, it is ultimately up to each retailer to decide if masks are mandatory. Ideally, if a retailer requires them they will make disposable masks available at the entrance to the store and have clear signage indicating the requirement. Those retailers should also be posting to their websites and social media what their policy is for masks. That said, they also need to establish how they will enforce the requirement as it is frankly unfair to expect underpaid store associates to handle unruly customers who refuse to adhere to such policies.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

This is clearly a no brainer. Where it’s mandatory, regardless of the store policies, face masks should be worn for the safety and security of the front line workers and fellow shoppers. There is no reason to politicize this situation or put the front line store associates in charge of regulating that this policy is enforced.

Any consumer-facing company has to have clear and fully transparent policies around face masks, so there is no room for ambiguity or conflicts in the store between customers and store associates. For the most part, consumers have historically followed store rules and regulations, and policies around wearing masks should be no exception during these unusual times.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

If unmasked customers are allowed into stores, they’ll be the only ones there. Those of us who wear masks won’t venture in; store associates will definitely think twice before entering that petri dish. There’s nothing political about it: masks save lives.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I agree Cathy, it shouldn’t be political – but it is in every way. From the infighting between the federal government and the states to the armed militia storming some of the state legislatures. Please, someone help me understand what the hell guns have to do with a public health issue?

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Given the high cost, in terms of life and the economy, and uncertainty, in terms of immunity and contagion, safety needs to remain a priority. Given that the virus can be spread before symptoms appear, there is no easy way to know who is contagious. Requiring masks and social distancing in all public places is a reasonable step to try to avoid another shut down and to permit people outside their homes.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Yes, face masks should be mandatory “until further notice” for both shoppers and store associates. The trick right now is to find those masks, which like so much other equipment and supplies during this crisis are in short supply. (My neighborhood Walgreens? Forget it. Amazon? Sure, if you’re willing to wait three weeks for an order you may never see.) Retailers may find it necessary to provide masks at the front door if customers show up without them, and those retailers are probably better equipped to procure those masks than the customers on their own.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

I agree with Ryan. It’s really pretty simple. Retailers, even those that are in close proximity to a beach, require customers to wear shoes don’t they? What the heck is so hard about wearing a mask while you are in a store? Have we lost all common consideration for our fellow human beings?

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Thanks Zel, sadly the answer — in a number of cases — seems to be yes. Here in Michigan for example, we had armed and unmasked “protestors” screaming and spitting in the faces of law enforcement officers as they charged our State Capitol. Apparently they were mad that the Governor had the audacity to try to exercise sane public health policies. Common sense was in trouble long before any of us had heard of COVID-19. Let’s hope it makes a comeback in its wake.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I think requiring that a mask be worn should be a mandate. The focus should be on the fact that the stores are protecting the customers and the staff. It is a simple thing to do given the possibility of the consequences of not doing it.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

This one is just too easy: put on a mask to shop my store or shop somewhere else. No explanation required.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Everyone should have the respect, self-awareness, and moral compass to voluntarily wear a simple mask to protect each other as we find our way through this pandemic. This shouldn’t be about requirements and civil liberties. Apparently some of our fellow citizens believe disrespect, arrogance, selfishness, and ignorance to scientific facts trumps (no pun intended) what is our moral and civic (and civil) obligation. We’re experiencing how misinformation, propaganda, and political (and personal) agendas can be manipulated to polarize a population. I have been surprised every time a business associate or conversation with someone else reveals their belief that COVID-19 is “a hoax” or “overblown by media.” Uncomfortable silence follows – I never know what to say.

Just wear a mask! It’s a very small price to pay for doing the right thing or at least showing respect and admiration for the people that are helping everyone else!

Liz Crawford
BrainTrust

Even if the Federal government doesn’t require masks, retailers should. This is primarily for shoppers’ protection and the safety of the store associates. But also, insisting on protection will reassure everyone that it is safe to shop. We will be able to recover faster.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

In Florida the order is anyone going in a store must wear a face mask. What’s the big deal? A simple mask for a few minutes to prevent sickness and possibly death seems worth it.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Masks are still difficult to find to buy. I would encourage Costco to provide a mask to each shopper upon entry to Costco. I applaud Costco for requiring both associates and shoppers to wear masks. Costco is a big warehouse where shoppers wander and cluster unconsciously as they examine produce, etc. As an experienced Costco pandemic shopper myself, this will make shopping Costco safer to shop in my opinion.

Liz Adamson
BrainTrust

Even if you are not high risk for complications from the virus and not worried about getting it yourself, it’s about social responsibility and protecting those around you. Especially since you can have the virus and pass it to others and never know it because you are asymptomatic. If we are going to reopen the economy we need to do it in a responsible way and protect those we come into contact with as we shop.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

For the time being, all store employees should wear masks and all shoppers should have to do the same. Why take chances? Those shoppers who don’t want masks can pick up groceries curb-side. If shoppers refuse to social distance in the store, security should escort them out. Is that too tough? Who cares?

Bernice Hurst
BrainTrust

What an interesting assortment of thumbs up and thumbs down. I wonder how many of the latter there are or if it’s just one or two people disagreeing with what appears to be a majority of comments in favour. It doesn’t look as if many of those thumb downers have actually commented themselves. I wonder what response they would get….

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Masks should be worn. In some states this is now the law. Retailers are fully within their rights to prevent entrance into their store without a mask, and the best retailers will have masks available for customers who don’t have one. Inside the stores, managers and assistant managers are fully within their rights to escort customers out if they don’t follow store policy. Certain customers would be very vulnerable to coronavirus and retailers who care about their local communities will be on the right path.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Simple: We are still a free country. If you don’t want to wear a face mask to shop at a store with a face mask policy, you don’t have to shop there.

If you want to go out in public without a face mask move to a part of the country that does not require a face mask. Or file a lawsuit to protect your rights.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

Masks mainly protect others from our droplets. In the present circumstance, wearing one in public is essential citizenship. They should be required in public spaces for the foreseeable future in order to slow the pandemic.
Retailers cannot be permitted to leave this decision to individual workers. The choice must be, mask or go home. Same for shoppers — “no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no entry.” Clear and simple.

Of course this policy will have harsher impact on salons, restaurants and cosmetics counters.
To gain a clear understanding of the epidemiological principles behind this, review this link.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Stores should require all shoppers and employees to wear masks, full stop. Requiring masks is the least retailers can do to try and keep employees safe. “Recommending” masks leaves too much open to interpretation and possibilities of selective enforcement. Wearing a mask is certainly not comfortable, but, at least for me, the choice between wearing a mask or unknowingly infecting someone else seems like a no-brainer.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

It’s up to each retailer to make the decision (perhaps different decisions based on where they’re operating), at least until government regulations stipulate otherwise. Just as a retailer can stipulate customers wear shirts and shoes, they can ask customers to wear a mask. It’s then up to the customer if they want to shop there or not. Regardless, clear communication is necessary with customers as to why decisions are made and what the rules actually are. No matter what side of the recommendation they’re on, clear communication can only help.

Brian Cluster
BrainTrust

Yes, it is absolutely needed to be mandatory for the foreseeable future. Compared to other health precautions, this is the easiest to implement and it protects the customers, the employees, and the general public. A more consistent and broad policy of mask-wearing inside of public buildings will continue to help us reap the benefits of a flattened curve of the infection going forward. This is a requirement in California and 95% follow the rule. Most stores have greeters outside the door that ensure that everyone has a mask. This is not such an inconvenience vs. longer store closures and other more drastic measures that could continue to impact the economy.

Joel Goldstein
BrainTrust

With the misinformation in the media spreading like wildfire on social media, the truth is that nobody knows what will happen. The best response should be one of caution and when retail is making its re-appearance the management should be making every effort possible to protect their employees. This includes keeping a distance from customers and requiring masks and other relevant protective equipment. I do not believe that stores have the luxury to dictate what their customers should be doing as the panic eases off, however they should be protecting their employees.

George Anderson
Staff

From our summary of a Fast Company article posted in Retail News yesterday:

“An analysis of 64 scientific studies carried out by the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and funded by the World Health Organization has concluded that the use of personal protective equipment was effective in reducing transmission of previous coronavirus outbreaks including SARS and MERS.

“Roger Chou, director of the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center at OHSU and a professor of medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine, who led the study, said, “We were trying to take the evidence from viruses that we thought would be most like COVID-19… in general, if you look at [individual healthcare workers] using masks versus no masks, the risk of being infected drops by anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent.”

‘Nuff said.

Gsmith_POSConsultant
Guest
15 days 5 hours ago

How many of us remember, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”? Or, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” Retailers used to stand up to customers that broke company policy and ask them to leave if policy was broken. It’s essentially the same concept only this time it’s meant to keep people from becoming ill or even possibly dying. Post the policy, have a member of management at the door, and expect some push back. But it’s for the best in the end.

Renncore
Guest
7 days 14 hours ago

This is a slippery slope. If you’re concerned about your employees, follow cal/OSHA, have a respiratory program, have employees wear p100 respirators and do fit testing.

Our country needs to maintain our freedoms. Once you mandate something like this what’s next? This way bigger odds that’s getting in a car accident on the way to work or employee having a heart attack, do you send fat employees home?

Don’t get me wrong, we need to make sure employees and customers have a good safe experience, but at what cost?

66 out of a million is not a panic situation to put something like this in place.

Food for thought..

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Of course retailers ought to require masks inside the store. I hope this isn't a serious question in anybody's mind. "
"This is pretty simple. Have enough consideration and respect for fellow citizens to wear a mask. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable but so is being hooked up to a ventilator."
"Requiring masks is the least retailers can do to try and keep employees safe. “Recommending” masks leaves too much open to interpretation and selective enforcement."

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