Starbucks becomes latest retailer to make masks mandatory

Discussion
Photo: Starbucks
Jul 13, 2020
Tom Ryan

Starbucks last week joined a small group of multi-state retailers that are requiring customers to wear masks for entry across all locations.

The mandate, to begin July 15, is part of Starbucks’ “continued effort in prioritizing the health and well-being” of employees and customers during the pandemic, the coffee giant said. The chain will provide drive-thru, curbside pickup or online delivery service for those without masks.

Starbucks joins seven other multi-state retailers enacting a storewide ban: Costco, Apple, H-E-B, Dollar Tree, Verizon, AT&T and Menards. The majority of other retailers follow local guidelines.

Approximately 20 states have a statewide mask mandate, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expressed that everyone “should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public.”

The question of mask requirements in recent weeks has only been accelerating as a political hot button. On Friday, a USA Today article noted that lawmakers in more conservative states in the South and West have strongly opposed mask mandates. The article pointed to incidents of shoppers rebelling against wearing masks going viral on social media “as some right-leaning Americans have called masks a tool of oppression, Democratic conspiracy, and even sacrilege.”

In a letter sent last week to the National Governors Association, RILA president Brian Dodge urged governors not to charge store employees with the primary enforcement of mask mandates or fine retailers for customers’ non-compliance. “Retailers are using extensive signage at entrances and through the store to enforce safety policies, and we recommend this be the role of retailers and employees — to clearly communicate policy, but not physically confront customers,” he wrote.

The letter also called for a uniform approach across states, noting that “conflicting orders and guidelines from counties  and municipalities create confusion for employees and customers, and ultimately leads to conflict.”

Finally, Mr. Dodge urged individuals not encumbered by a medical condition to wear masks when shopping or in public places. “Wearing a mask is about respecting others and preventing the spread of a deadly disease. This should no longer be up for debate,” he wrote.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Starbucks’ move to make masks mandatory for in-store customers likely heighten or lessen the risk of confrontations from shoppers? What practical solutions do you see to avoiding conflicts over masks while ensuring the safety of shoppers and customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Good for Starbucks! For those with an issue, there's Starbucks' drive-thru."
"Smart move by Starbucks! This should never have been a debate or a political issue if there were proper leadership at the Federal level."
"Safety first, period. It is Starbucks’ responsibility to protect its baristas. Don’t like it? Move on."

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32 Comments on "Starbucks becomes latest retailer to make masks mandatory"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Starbucks along with other forward-thinking retailers are putting safety first. I suspect that Starbucks’ customers will be agreeable to the rules and compliance will likely be high. The more prevalent face mask wearing is, the less of an issue this will become. Face mask wearing is becoming normalized, and I suspect the awkward and unhelpful confrontations with people not wearing them will diminish over time.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

It’s not just confrontations between shoppers and store associates — it’s also confrontations between masked and unmasked shoppers that are becoming a problem. Costco, for one, has had few reported incidents because its policy is so straightforward. Starbucks is doing the right thing, in the absence of any consistent governmental approach to the issue even as the numbers of cases rise in many parts of the country. It looks like it’s going to be up to private businesses to “flatten the curve” once and for all, if enough of them follow the lead of Starbucks, Apple and Costco.

storewanderer
Guest
9 months 1 day ago

Costco can terminate any customer at any time very easily. If a customer does not like their policies, a refund can be given promptly and that customer can no longer access Costco. Most other retailers can trespass a customer out, but in a lot of larger jurisdictions, especially on the West Coast, getting the police to even respond to such a request will be difficult.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

As someone who lives in an area where confrontations are high, this bad behavior from anti-maskers is short-lived. Back in the pre-COVID-19 days, I used to tell my young children they can make the getting ready in the morning routine as difficult or pleasant as they would like, but they would still end up at school. Anti-maskers are like children, it’s taking them a while to understand that they will wear masks – it’s up to them how difficult that journey will be.

So yes, there may be short-term resistance at Starbucks, but I predict it is a short-term issue. And I’m sorry that they, and any other retailer, are still having to deal with such selfish consumer behavior.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

A perfect description…” Anti-maskers are like children.”

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

Thank you, Gene. It’s also the nicest description I have.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

This is Starbucks’ decisions. Most customers will not have a problem with this. There will be a small group of customers that won’t agree and believe that this violates their rights. Starbucks (and any other brand) must be willing to lose those customers if they make a decision like this – and they are. The policy must be clear and visible to customers. Managers and employees must be trained on how to handle conflicts. There may be extreme circumstances where law enforcement may need to be brought in, especially if the situation threatens the safety of employees and customers.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

It should be simple: no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service. Sadly, the federal government, fueled by social media and our hyper-partisan climate, has turned a public health issue into a culture war. I agree with Tom’s suggestion that a more unified and consistent approach to mask mandates across states is the key to higher compliance — and fewer confrontations. Here’s hoping many more retailers soon follow the lead of Starbucks, Costco, et al, and we can end this headache for store associates everywhere.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Sadly, I am sure that this will lead to some conflicts. A small minority seem to be hellbent on creating a huge fuss over masks. This is unpleasant for other customers and especially for staff. However it’s really simple: if you don’t like a retailer’s mask policy then don’t visit and go elsewhere or stay home. Despite the hassle it may create, Starbucks has a right to enact whatever policies it sees as necessary for keeping its staff, customers and the community safe.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

What the laissez faire policy of the federal government and many governors of states did not accomplish regarding the control of the coronavirus, certain, more conscientious institutions will take upon themselves. Because of their constant exposure to customers, retailers need to be very concerned with the welfare of customers and employees alike (servers’ lives are also important). What the federal government and states will not do, Starbucks and other retailers will. If some customers do not like the restriction, they have the freedom of choice to buy overpriced coffee elsewhere.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This fits Starbucks’ MO and their customers will appreciate it. Clear and consistent rules are the best policy for all retailers.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Again corporations step in when there is weak leadership at the top. Masks should have never been made into fundraising or clickbait for some. They should have been mandated from the start, as in New York. We can’t look back but until there is a vaccine, more retailers should jump on the bandwagon – especially now as the Texas governor has finally reversed his course and mandated wearing masks.

David Leibowitz
BrainTrust

RILA is absolutely correct that enforcement should not rest on the shoulders of private industry.

As more states make PPE a requirement, it will become moot and no longer a burden for retail or other establishments to bear the brunt of confrontation.

storewanderer
Guest
9 months 1 day ago
From a retail standpoint, tough to give much hope in the police to enforce a mask requirement when they won’t even respond to shoplifting calls unless it is in the thousands of dollars or fights and other incidents at the stores, particularly in large cities on the West Coast. Unfortunately, this policy will fall 100% on the stores to enforce. I have seen some stores with uniformed security guards enforce the policy quite well. But it didn’t go so well for that security guard in MI who got killed trying to enforce a mask rule. Also numerous retailers with the mask policy have another policy — do not approach or question a customer who is not wearing a mask. That is for safety of employees and other customers. And this is why you continue to see people without masks in stores. Effective policy is you have someone at the door and if someone tries to enter without a mask, you provide them a mask (yes, provide — not “sell”) or deny entry. Not chase them… Read more »
Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I think Starbucks is thinking about customer safety which is the right thing to do. It is still in awkward stage (dealing with those that don’t want to wear masks) but I believe that will subside as wearing masks for the short term will become the norm.

The opening of dining rooms has not lessened the use of drive-thrus. The lines at drive-thrus have actually increased here.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Good for Starbucks! For those with an issue, there’s Starbucks’ drive-thru.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The masked/un-masked behavior of people, cities, states and countries has become the biggest study of how to prevent disease ever in the history of the world. The results are conclusive — absolutely without question.

Starbucks and all the others are going in the right direction to protect their customers and employees. No mask, no entry, no confrontation.

Sadly it seems that some who refuse to wear a mask are spoiling for a confrontation. A little de-escalation training might be appropriate for managers to stop people at the door who think it is their right to infect others. Hopefully the un-masked will start to understand where they are not wanted and will simply pass by. Will they then start wearing masks? I doubt it.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

The place to inform customers regarding your mask policy is before they enter the store. Retailers should post easily readable and highly visible signage that states wearing a mask is required to enter the store. I am sure there is far better wording but I see this as the same type of communication as “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”

While I doubt many will take the added step of putting this requirement in their ads they could state that they are following state rules (where it is applicable) in their ads and on their apps. I agree with Mark that over time this will become far less of an issue.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Safety first, period. It is Starbucks’ responsibility to protect its baristas. Don’t like it? Move on.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Seriously, what took them so long?

Tony Orlando
Guest
If you think this is the new normal, so be it. Wearing a mask as part of your daily routine is nuts. As to trying to mandate it for everyone because certain corporations think this is how it should be — why does my personal doctor think differently? I have to wear one every day at work, and suffer with optical migraine auras which are caused by the masks. I have practiced social distancing from the beginning, and practicing hand washing is part of good daily routine we should do as well. There are plenty of amateur medical experts in the media, and folks on the streets, who act like they know how we should live, breathe, and follow mandates to the letter. Common sense matters, and getting through this virus and future events will continue to occur, and in the end we will move on. This is no way diminishes anyone who has died from this, but it is a very small percentage, and to shut down our country until a vaccine is found… Read more »
Rick Moss
Staff
Tony, I think it’s important to approach the needs/challenges of workers separately than shoppers. As a consumer here in NYC, I’ve been using a mask whenever I leave the house for months now. It can be uncomfortable at times, but I do it for the common good. I’d say 80-90% of people here wear them on the street and it’s rare to see anyone in a store without one. Consequently, NYC has gotten its problem under control. From what I’ve heard in Florida, for example, the number is reversed — 80-90% do not wear masks. You can see by the skyrocketing infection numbers how that’s working out. For workers, it’s a lot harder, no doubt. Wearing a mask for 8 – 12 hours straight is a hardship. Perhaps more frequent breaks will help so they can walk outside and remove their masks. Creative solutions are needed. But the evidence is clear: The three countries in the world right now with the biggest problems — the U.S., Brazil and the UK — have governments that have… Read more »
storewanderer
Guest
9 months 1 day ago

Many are accepting this as the new normal, despite the fact that in the US, places with mask requirements continue to have severely spiking cases. Curiously, in other countries with mask requirements, cases have declined. Why is it different in the US?

Rick Moss
Staff

Just because you have mask requirements doesn’t mean people will abide by them. Some of the states that began with a lax attitude toward masks imposed mandates after they saw alarming spikes in their numbers but, by then, the population was already into bad habits. It’s tough trying to turn people 180 degrees once you’ve told them masks are unnecessary.