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These Mega Retailers Are No Longer Enforcing Mandatory Mask Policy

A gap is emerging between the rules as they are written and the ones that are lived out at the entrances of major American retailers.

Although many major retailers have policies in effect across every state that require shoppers to wear masks, enforcing those policies is becoming a second priority to avoiding confrontations.

Walmart, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walgreens and CVS are among those that will not bar a maskless customer, according to CNN.

Retailers got into the regulation business because navigating a changing landscape of coronavirus rules in multiple states became more of a hassle than it was worth.

“This was the right time to implement the requirement in our stores to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect workers and customers,” a Walmart representative told CNN. “Our requirement is going [to] result in many more people wearing masks than before.”

Retailers had hoped states would make it easy and declare a single standard.

“Many retailers feel like they have to act since some governors haven’t,” Melissa Murdock, spokeswoman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, told CNN. On July 6, the group urged the National Governors Association to adopt uniform rules on wearing face coverings.

But with different states at different stages of loosening or tightening lockdown rules depending upon the spread of the coronavirus, that plea went nowhere.

A leader of a group supporting employees said the rules were always hollow.

“Either security or management needs to tell people that they must wear a face mask in order to be served. It’s no different than wearing shoes or a shirt,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

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.”

Customers are pushing back — some of them literally.

According to WDBO-AM and FM in Orlando, Florida, a June episode posted to Facebook showed a man at a Florida Walmart shoving an apparently younger and much larger Walmart employee out of the way to get into a store. Although the man made it into the store, he was eventually tracked down and persuaded to leave.

After incidents like that, and numerous others recorded around the country, it’s little wonder major retailers are skittish about any confrontations between their employees and customers in a nation of more than 300 million people.

According to CNN, the men and women Walmart stations to face customers are known as health ambassadors. According to CNN, Walmart’s talking points instruct the “ambassadors” that when a customer refuses to wear a mask, despite being offered one, to “let them continue to shop.”

“With every requirement there are exceptions that have been established to avoid escalating the situation and putting our associates in harm’s way,” a Walmart representative told CNN. “Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores.”

Lowe’s also said that there are limits to how aggressive employees will get.

“We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks,” a Lowe’s representative said.

A representative of The Home Depot indicated to CNN that there is a limit to tolerance of customer stubbornness, and said “if a customer becomes combative or habitually refuses to comply, we’ll take further action to prevent them from entering our stores.”

Leslie Dach, former Walmart executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations, said the mask policy is not just about health.

“Customers want to shop at places they feel safe,” he said. “Having customers wear masks protects employees and protects customers.”

Author: Jack Davis

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