As the US opens up for business once again following the COVID-19 Pandemic and stay-at-home social distancing recommendations lift from coast to coast, the first “post-pandemic” consumers might be arriving in your businesses soon.
When they do, will they be following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks? And what do you do if they aren’t?
Retail experiences will feel much different in the days and weeks that stretch into the summer of 2020 because of social distancing protocols. We still have things to learn about COVID-19 infection control, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and how it passes between people, or even who is at the most risk regarding health concerns. Therefore, the CDC, the WHO, the Federal Government, along with many state and local governments have either recommended or required that all people wear masks as part of their infection control guidelines. This is especially so when they are within indoor shared spaces where social distancing standards are challenging to maintain.
To see a social distancing summary on face masks by state, please click here.
Retailers have had a mixed response to social distancing protocols. Some have enforced masks; others choose to let their customers decide.
Costco published a message on its website that requires its employees and guests to wear a facemask. They summarize their position with, “In short, we believe this is the right thing to do under the current circumstances,” and that despite those who think it is silly or ineffective, they were “choosing to err on the side of safety in our shopping environments.”
Please click here to read the full Costco statement.
Amazon, like Costco, requires their team members and customers to wear masks at Whole Foods Market stores. However, they also offer free disposable masks to all Whole Foods Market customers to any customers who did not bring a face covering with them.
Please click here to read the full Amazon statement.
How these brands will enforce their policies is likely to vary from location to location. One California Costco location had masks available to members who didn’t have them, but that is not to say all sites do. Amazon says they will have them available, along with other COVID-19 precautions.
However, other retailers across the country have experienced unfortunate optics on the enforcement of the face-covering recommendation or requirements. The NY Times reports that an employee in a California Trader Joe’s store in southern CA had an ugly exchange with a non-compliant customer in May that ended up online.
Some exchanges reported by The NY Times are more violent. A Target employee in Van Nuys, CA, broke his arm escorting customers refusing to wear a mask out of the store. A cashier in Perkasie, PA, was punched in the face three times after refusing to sell cigars to a customer without a mask. In San Antonio, TX, a man who could not ride the bus without a face cover shot another passenger.
While these stories are extreme, smaller unpleasant moments have erupted all across the country. None of them make anyone feel good about the brands associated with them. They also highlight that enforcement of the face mask recommendation and requirement is falling squarely in the lap of your customer-facing employees.
There are a few things you can do to help your team:
• Have a clear policy on face masks for your team and your visitors.
• Review the rules for your area. It’s a good idea to know what your state or local government has said the policy is in your area. You can read all about the laws in your state on Cnet.com here.
• Have a role-playing session for your managers to practice the conversation. Training and practice help your front-facing team navigate the tricky tightrope of enforcing the company’s rules and community in the best possible way. It is critical to give them words and phrases to use that can de-escalate a situation if it starts to take a turn for the worse. Also, make it clear what you believe is the limit of their authority by giving them boundaries. If they are unable to manage the situation to a satisfactory conclusion, what is the next step for them to take?
• Give front-facing teams an easy path to resolve the situation. It would help your organization make the best of what could become a bad situation to have a complimentary disposable mask available to offer customers. It might provide a middle ground in a confrontation that could save the day and the relationship with the customer. Our EasyMask™ courtesy mask offers a solution that is affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly.
• Support your organization with signage and instructions for everyone visiting. Make sure that you’ve provided instructional signage, sanitizing stations and other important information to make sure consumers are educated on your commitment to managing the spread of this disease. For ideas on how to manage these issues, review Westamerica’s Reopen With Confidence brochure here.
As we all get used to what the expectations are for social distancing protocols as the country reopens, we owe it to our teams and consumers to be as prepared as possible to meet social distancing guidelines and the related health concerns of the “new normal.” Face masks are likely to be a part of our social distancing recommendations for brick and mortar interactions for the months ahead.
With clear communication, a little preparation, and common courtesy, we can preserve our relationships with consumers and provide the best possible infection control experience that leaves them smiling in the aisles—even if we can’t see it behind their masks.
To request a sample of the EasyMask™, please click here.
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MacFarquhar, Neil. “Who’s Enforcing Mask Rules? Often Retail Workers, and They’re Getting Hurt.” Nytimes.com. 15 May 2020. Web. 11 June 2020.
“Coronavirus.” Costco.com. Web. 11 June 2020.
“Making masks available to Whole Foods Market customers nationwide.” Aboutamazon.com. 30 April 2020. Web. 11 June 2020.
Meyerstein, Avi. Brian Hendrix & Brad Hiles. “Returning to work with masks?” Answers to top employer questions.” Safetylawmatters.com. 3 May 2020. Web. 11 June 2020.
Roberts, Caroline. “Are face masks required where you live? Here are the rules for all 50 states.” www.cnet.com. 9 June 2020. Web. 11 June 2020.
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