Retailers Stress About Mask Enforcement

Employees are being hassled by customers not wearing face coverings despite state and local mandates.

July 06, 2020

MISHAWAKA, Ind.—During lockdowns, customers expressed their appreciation for workers at grocery stores, convenience stores, drugstores and gas stations who continued to work amid the pandemic. But now, with states easing restrictions, many workers are facing extra stress because some customers refuse to comply with mandated face covering regulations, the Wall Street Journal reports.

As a result, retail chains like 7-Eleven and CVS have to figure out how to enforce face covering rules after noncomplying patrons have assaulted security guards and clerks. For example, one unmasked customer threw a coffee cup at a 7-Eleven cashier who refused service, punching and kicking her.

In response to these assaults, some chains have told workers to not question mask-less customers, while others are directing employees to phone the police if a shopper refuses to comply. “We are not in a position to decide who does and does not fall into this category in our stores,” said a spokeswoman for Hy-Vee Inc.

One Los Angeles restaurant is closing because of the mask controversy, CBS News reports. The two-unit Hugo’s Tacos has been in business for 15 years but stated that a vocal, mask-free majority has made working difficult for its staff.

“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,” Hugo’s said on its Instagram page. “A mask isn't symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy.”

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Harris Teeter has said it will not enforce a new statewide mask requirement, the Charlotte Observer reports. “Everyone does need access to food and medicine, and Harris Teeter has been transparent with local and state-level government[s] that we will not refuse entry or remove anyone not wearing a mask from our stores,” said Danna Robinson, Harris Teeter spokeswoman. “With the many exceptions outlined in the Executive Order, if we offer a shopper a mask and they decline, we are not in a position to determine whether the individual qualifies for the exceptions.”

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.