There’s the Target customer wearing a $40,000 Rolex throwing a fit because he was asked to wear a mask. There’s “Costco Karen” who had a tantrum because she was asked to do the same. Now there’s the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) asking for help with mandating mask guidance regulations to protect store personnel.
Social media has been full of news of anti-maskers wrecking displays – and weeks ago, even attacking a store clerk because of regulations requiring them to mask up inside stores. RILA has finally had enough of the trend, and asked two governors for help in a letter released on Tuesday morning (July 7).
The letter, from RILA President Brian Dodge, was addressed to National Governor’s Association Chair Lawrence Hogan (MD) and Vice Chair Andrew Cuomo (NY), asking them to push for specific and consistent mask mandates.
“The patchwork of local mandates many retailers faced earlier this year made it incredibly difficult to focus on implementing the right safety protocols,” said the letter. “While well-intended at the time, conflicts stemming from local law enforcement agencies applying their own interpretations of conflicting state and local mandates forced retailers to shift valuable time and resources away from store operations. We strongly urge governors to continue issuing concise, statewide orders that create clarity for all businesses, local governments and law enforcement. Conflicting orders and guidelines from counties and municipalities create confusion for employees and customers, and ultimately leads to conflict.”
That conflict, so well-documented over the past week, originally led the organization to publish A Blueprint for Shopping Safe, a guide for both policymakers and businesses as the economy moved toward reopening. The goal of RILA – as well as its sister organization, the National Retail Federation – has been to “homogenize” policies, whether that meant moving away from conflicting state and local orders or designations like essential/nonessential.
“To that end, retailers have invested billions in new training, sanitization procedures, PPE and safety protocols, all designed to keep employees, customers and the communities they serve safe,” says the letter. “While no business can completely eliminate risk, we are confident the measures leading retailers have implemented greatly minimize the possibility of COVID-19 spread, and are the right approach for the country until there is widespread immunity from the virus.”
The letter also urged the governors to take the ambiguity out of current regulations, which they said are essential to keeping the economy open.
“Leading retailers are requiring employees to wear masks or face coverings during their shift, and we are encouraging customers to do the same,” stated the letter. “Despite compliance from the majority of Americans, retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties. Wearing a mask is not about fear, and it certainly should not reflect one's politics. Wearing a mask is about respecting others and preventing the spread of a deadly disease. This should no longer be up for debate.”
The group finally recommended that the governors use the influence of the National Governor’s Association to convince states that haven't yet required masks in public to do so immediately.
“Given the troubling incidents we have all seen on social media involving aggressive customers refusing to wear a mask, we strongly recommend that store employees not be charged with primary enforcement of mask mandates and that retailers not be fined for a customer's non-compliance,” Dodge said. “Retailers are using extensive signage at entrances and throughout the store to enforce safety policies, and we recommend this be the role of retailers and their employees – to clearly communicate policy, but not physically confront customers.”