What should retailers do about social distancing renegades?
Last week, a security guard at a Family Dollar in Michigan was fatally shot after telling a customer to wear a face mask.
Other high-profile incidents involving rebellion against social distancing mandates:
- On May 6, a women shot a McDonald’s employee in Oklahoma City after being told the dining room was closed;
- On May 2, a man wiped his nose and face on a Dollar Tree worker’s shirt after being told in-store customers must wear a mask;
- On May 2, a man wore a Ku Klux Klan hood while shopping at a Vons a day after health officials in San Diego ordered face coverings to be worn in public;
- On May 2, an employee and customers at a Stop and Shop in Massachusetts tackled a man who coughed and spit on produce.
More common are the minor confrontations on selling floors between customers and associates or between customers over social distancing requirements.
“I think what you’re seeing in this situation is really what you’re seeing in a variety of situations across the country, which is this tension about opening and people’s concern about it,” said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s CEO, in an interview on Good Morning America following the Oklahoma City incident.
In store aisles, it’s fairly common to see customers sidestepping workers restocking shelves or brushing by customers in violation of the six-feet apart rule. Incidents of shoppers openly or mistakenly disregarding one-way aisles have also been reported.
The more contentious issue is the requirement to wear masks in some states, cities and among a few chains, including Costco. The opposition comes from several sources. The New York Times reports, “The decision not to wear a mask has, for some, become a rebellion against what they regard as an incursion on their personal liberties. For many others, the choice is a casual one more about convenience than politics. The choice can also be a reflection of vanity, or of not understanding when or where to wear one.”
Store workers, who sometimes receive little training to resolve infractions, can overreact. Scott Nash, CEO of MOM’s Organic Market in the Mid-Atlantic region told the Associated Press he advises his staff to “use their common sense … Don’t be too lax and don’t be controlling or publicly shaming.”
- Store workers become enforcers of social distancing rules – Associated Press/Portland Press Herald
- Man tackled by Kingston Stop & Shop customers after allegedly coughing, spitting on produce – Boston 25 News
- Police: Woman coughed, spat on food in grocery claiming she had coronavirus – Fox19 Now
- McDonald’s Employee Is Shot After Store Is Partly Closed for Virus – The New York Times
- Grocery workers and customers say social distancing inside stores is difficult amid coronavirus pandemic – The Seattle Times
- Coronavirus: Man charged after wiping nose on Dollar Tree clerk who asked him to wear mask – WPXI
- McDonald’s CEO discusses impact of meat supply chain – Good Morning America
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How should stores manage the minor and major confrontations stemming from social distancing mandates? What advice would you give to store associates who are asked to deal with infractions?