Costco makes everybody mask up

Discussion
Photo: @beachbumledford via Twenty20
Nov 16, 2020

Costco, among the first retailers to require face masks upon entry in early May, has taken its restrictions a step further by mandating that customers with medical mask exemptions wear face shields.

The requirement applies to employees, as well. The only exception to the rule now is for children under the age of two. The changes come amid spikes in coronavirus cases across the U.S., which has seen the numbers of infected grow by more than 100,000 new cases per day for 12 straight days. Hospitalizations are at their highest point since the pandemic hit the U.S. earlier this year, and deaths are rising sharply, as well.

“This updated policy may seem inconvenient to some, however we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience,” said Craig Jelinek, Costco’s president and CEO, in a letter to customers.

Those unable to wear a mask or face covering were encouraged to use Costco’s online delivery options.

Earlier last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strengthened its mask recommendation, saying studies show they protect the wearer too. Previously, masks had been promoted more as a way to protect others.

Costco has faced confrontations from customers unwilling to comply with the company’s policy or exploiting the medical exemption clause although in-store incidents appear to have lessened in recent months.

On its fourth-quarter conference call on September 24, Richard Galanti, EVP and CFO, said shoppers appear “a little more comfortable” with the restrictions. He said, “We believe they feel safe, given the safety protocols and the mask requirements, the sheer size of the building itself and the width of the aisles.”

A HealthDay/Harris poll taken in early October found 93 percent of Americans indicating they sometimes, often or always wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance, including 72 percent always doing so. In August, 90 percent sometimes, often or always were found to wear one, and 61 percent always did.

Costco’s tighter guidelines may be seen as unfair to those with actual medical conditions, and masks remain a political hot potato. Many Republican leaders have indicated they would oppose a call from President-elect Joe Biden’s for a national mandate, seeing mask wearing as a personal choice. HealthDay/Harris’ study found women, older adults and Democrats more likely than their respective counterparts to wear a mask more frequently.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree with Costco’s move to require customers with medical mask exemptions to wear face shields? Do you see mask requirements becoming less or more of an issue for American shoppers in the months ahead?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"If you cannot or won’t wear a mask, there are other options for you like curbside pickup or home delivery where you are able to get the things you need. "
"I can’t imagine a rational argument against this action."
"I’d be more optimistic if this were purely a matter of public health, but it seems to be a fairly large battle in the culture wars and that is far more problematic."

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37 Comments on "Costco makes everybody mask up"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Yes, I agree with Costco’s move – perhaps some shoppers have heard that there’s a pandemic running out of control? With the news of vaccines on the horizon, I understand that it would be easy to let our guards down, but this is far from over. I think Costco is right to require masks and, as always, if shoppers don’t agree they can shop elsewhere. Safety of employees and shoppers must always come first.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I agree 100 percent. If you cannot or won’t wear a mask, there are other options for you like curbside pickup or home delivery where you are able to get the things you need. Sadly we are living with the consequences of people ignoring health mandates from the medical experts.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

I absolutely agree.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
1 year 22 days ago

Costco’s move to require customers with medical exemptions to wear face shields is a responsible decision. Some of the customers with medical exemptions may actually be compromised and need protection more than others. The pandemic is getting out of control and now is the time to rein it in. Mask mandates and stricter social distancing policies by states will become greater in the next few months and we have no choice. It is the right thing to do. It will be hard on retailers and restaurateurs but it will save lives.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Given the spike in cases, it makes sense to keep everyone safe. I have sympathy for anyone with a genuine medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, but given where we are with the pandemic it is just too dangerous for those individuals and others around them.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service. I understand that there are people with breathing issues who genuinely cannot wear a mask, but I think there are far more who just can’t be bothered to wear one. These are the people who are the problem.

Thank you Costco for taking a stand to keep your employees and customers as safe as possible. Here’s hoping other retailers follow suit.

Scott Norris
Guest

And folks with breathing issues severe enough that they cannot wear a mask should not be out in public in the midst of a highly infectious respiratory/vascular viral pandemic, period. That’s where online, delivery services, and proxy shopping are literal life-savers.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Director, Main Street Markets
1 year 22 days ago

It makes a lot of sense and I don’t see mask requirements being lessened or removed anytime soon – I suspect they will be around for a very, very long time, even after a vaccine is implemented.

Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

Totally onside with Costco. Yes, I do feel for those with medical conditions. But the reality is that there are many who still believe they have the right to put others at risk. This closes the loophole. Mask up everyone — we’re on the right track.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Frankly, I cannot comprehend anyone being against this mandate. It’s not like it is self-serving for Costco, it’s for all of us. I can’t imagine a rational argument against this action.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

It’s a shame that masks have become a symbol of political preferences and the U.S. as a whole is not able to have a consistent protocol.

As a private business, Costco has every right to mandate what it thinks is right for its customers and employees. Given the fresh wave of infections, it seems appropriate.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Definitely. They have to try to protect their employees and all their customers. It’s that simple. If a customer cannot comply, he/she can send a proxy to do their shopping. It really is that simple.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

The U.S. is now experiencing another million COVID-19 cases every TEN DAYS. his exponential spread threatens our economy and our national security. Surely asking people to protect themselves and others is a good idea.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Good for Costco! Wearing a mask is a simple act that helps mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. And with the explosion that we are experiencing, it’s odd that this is a contentious question. We can’t seem to get the simple stuff done, and while we applaud all the news about vaccines, there is a large number of people that won’t do that either. I hope and expect other large businesses and institutions to take a similar stand, if only to protect their own employees.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Good for Costco for setting the right example. Safety and health is first, and if that means wearing a mask or shield, then so be it. Customers still have a choice. They don’t have to shop at Costco. I’m sure that’s not what Costco wants, but they are putting the majority of their customers/members health above the small percentage of people who disagree with their mask policy.

storewanderer
Guest
1 year 22 days ago

…face shield? I was in a grocery store last night where the employee wore a face shield while checking me out. When she moved her head, looked down, bagged my items, based on the angle of her face and angle of the shield, I think her breathing was going straight to my items or onto the counter unobstructed by anything.

I am not really sure these face shields accomplish the same thing as a mask. Even of someone coughs or sneezes with the face shield on it seems like there is a lot of space for those germs to get spread around vs. the mask that appears to have far less space for stuff to go out. Early in the pandemic I was thinking of using a face shield instead of a mask because it appears more comfortable in some ways, but I am not really sure it provides the same level of protection as a mask.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

175,000 new cases in this country every day, and the number is rising. It is long, long past time to get serious about this pandemic and do everything we can to slow the spread. Measures like the new mask mandate from Costco set an excellent example for other retailers to follow and represent a small but important step in the right direction. Retailers, please take note!

Tony Orlando
Guest

Our governor is sending out his stormtroopers to make sure everyone in retail is wearing masks, and that includes the customers. They will still put the burden on us for customers who refuse, and in my case there are some who conceal carry — that can make confrontation kind of scary. I passed out masks to some yesterday, and when they left the store they threw the masks on the ground and flipped off my cashiers. What a scenario we have to deal with, and our country remains deeply divided with no end in sight. Medicare is about 15 months away and I’m looking forward to my options. We will see what happens.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Tony, I sympathize with your challenges actually operating a store these days — but when you refer to your governor’s “stormtroopers,” you might consider why this kind of rhetoric causes our country to be “deeply divided with no end in sight.” The original stormtroopers were out of Nazi Germany (not Star Wars), and these metaphors are never helpful coming from either side of the political aisle.

Tony Orlando
Guest

I know what I wrote, and you can think what you like, but it is frustrating dealing with the mandates, without the harassment from the state officials shutting down businesses for things that are out of my control.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Far different from calling them “stormtroopers,” thank you.

storewanderer
Guest
1 year 22 days ago

You can log the date/time of each customer who enters without a mask and you told to wear a mask but they wouldn’t do it. If you can use the security footage to prove the interaction that will build your case further. At least that way you will have a record of attempting to enforce the rule if an inspector shows up and finds those who refuse to wear a mask in your store and then tries to issue a fine.

Interesting behavior, as people are very compliant in the West.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

It is really clear where your politics lie Tony and calling them “stormtroopers” is unhelpful.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I agreed with Costco’s “mask mandate” back in May, and in fact I have felt more secure shopping there ever since, compared to other retailers whose policies were less strict or whose enforcement has been more lax. This is for the protection of associates and other customers in the midst of the worst outbreaks, and is the only weapon in stores’ arsenals short of capacity restrictions to force social distancing.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

There is not much to add as I agree 100 percent with my colleagues.

But let me add a few points of perspective. If the U.S. citizenry would have followed similar protocols as Australia, New Zealand, Japan or South Korea, our country would have experienced about 80 percent less deaths from COVID-19. Even if we had followed the protocols and action of France or Germany, our death toll would be about 30 percent less.

Momentarily the deaths in the U.S. will hit a quarter of a million. Even at a reduced rate, 400,000 deaths is a reasonable estimate. What does that compare to? World War II. Surely our parents, or grandparents or a study of the time has discussed how the citizenry at home sacrificed during those war years. Sadly, simply wearing a mask seems to be too much of a sacrifice for way too many.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Costco continues to impress as a smart, caring company. They seem to understand that we must work as a society — and that includes retailers — to preserve ourselves while medical professionals work to defeat the virus.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

With the increasing numbers of COVID-19, mask acceptance will continue to be less and less of an issue. Customers in regions heavily impacted will have little difficulty complying with something they’ve been doing all along. With the new revelations that it’s protective to the wearer, it will make it even easier. Accommodation should be treated the same way as any disabilities regulation – if they can offer elevators and ramps, a few extra face shields and masks at the customer service desk should be no problem. The rules that Georganne points out – no shoes, etc. is the right of any proprietor. They need to protect their employees and their customers.

David Biernbaum
BrainTrust

These requirements will boost significant confidence for an overwhelming majority of customers that Costco is a safe place to shop. Retailers should not concern themselves with the small minority of people that still don’t “get” why face covering only works when we all participate.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I agree with the new Costco policy, but I do think mask requirements are becoming more of an issue. This morning the President — in practice, a very visible anti-masker tweeted that he won the election. Why is this important? Because over 70 million voters believe in him enough to have voted for him, it’s safe to assume that many of them will follow his health directives — or, recently, non-directives. I’d be more optimistic if this were purely a matter of public health, but it seems to be a fairly large battle in the culture wars and that is far more problematic. Lawmakers across the country, such as the Governor of Florida, are still telling their citizens to open up and relax. Not a good formula for collective action. I wish Costco all the best. They’re right, but sometimes that’s not enough.

storewanderer
Guest
1 year 22 days ago

Costco as a membership store has a few more “teeth” here than some retailers have. Don’t follow their mask rule? Okay, you will be escorted to membership and your membership will be canceled/refunded and you will no longer be shopping at Costco. Same as those folks years ago who thought they could bypass the receipt check at the Costco exit: nope. Try that and your membership is going to be canceled.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Yes. This pandemic requires everyone to wear a mask for both their health as well as the health of others. Soon being maskless will be like smoking a cigarette. You can smoke in your own home or car, but nowhere else. People will have to become more reasonable, flexible, and understanding of others.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

Costco’s mask-required policy is the correct one, of course. High-risk folks with actual medical issues should not be mingling in public at all. All the rest of us should be actively protecting ourselves and each other as a matter of common decency. Remember the golden rule?

Enforcing the proper behavior is another matter, however. Ryan’s observation that mask use has become a battle line in the culture wars is unfortunately accurate. Retail workers are put in a very difficult, and sometimes scary, position when they simply ask shoppers to comply.

To those who absolutely refuse to wear a mask — due to some imagined risk, personal discomfort, or infringement on your freedom — you have an excellent alternative to entering the store. Just order online and have your goods delivered. The other shoppers will not miss you.

Carlos Arambula
BrainTrust

I’m on board with requiring 100% of customers to wear a mask. I’m not in agreement with customers being allowed to wear a face shield instead of a mask under any circumstances.

A shield does not prevent a Covid positive patient from infecting others. Further, the shield creates two paths for exhaling (mostly down, some up). In a place like Costco where tables and shelves are below waist level, an infected customer places all visitors in unnecessary risk.

As we enter another peak of infections — higher than the last two, I hope common sense prevails.

storewanderer
Guest
1 year 22 days ago

They keep telling us to wear masks. We wear masks, as teens and adults. Kids exempt. COVID cases continue to grow out of control. Is this really working to prevent the spread of COVID? Who knows. How much worse would it be if nobody wore a mask? Nobody knows and that isn’t anything we will ever know.

So, again. It seems to be all we have at this point to stop this from spreading.

And the number of un-masked kids under the age of 10 I’ve been seeing walking around stores coughing (without covering their mouths) lately is enough to make me say get a mask on those kids right now. Because, unfortunately, it is about all we have.

Almost every US state has a mask mandate at this point, so all of this noise about a “national mask mandate” is at this point just noise; a few more implemented them right after the election. Plus most private businesses already require masks nationally.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

The pandemic is now worse, not better than when it started. Costco is making the right move to protect the health and safety of its employees and customers. As Costco’s president stated, the added safety is worth any inconvenience. This won’t be a permanent situation as vaccines are now clearing their necessary hurdles, but until it truly is over, this is the right move for retailers to make. Doing nothing will not produce positive results to beat the virus. It’s an unfortunate added inconvenience for those that have genuine medical issues, but then again, it’s already an inconvenience for everyone. There is, after all, a reason why we have seen such a dramatic increase in curbside pickup and delivery services this year. We should thank Costco for taking the lead in this way.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Who wouldn’t say ABSOLUTELY when it comes to staying open? It’s a mask, not a choice.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Let’s get over the mask political discussion. A vaccine is coming. Now’s the time to double down on masks and social distancing. Shop online if you are unable or don’t want to wear a mask or shield.
Next batter….

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If you cannot or won’t wear a mask, there are other options for you like curbside pickup or home delivery where you are able to get the things you need. "
"I can’t imagine a rational argument against this action."
"I’d be more optimistic if this were purely a matter of public health, but it seems to be a fairly large battle in the culture wars and that is far more problematic."

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