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What to do about those mask-hating customers
Posted on January 28th, 2021

Sadly, I’m hearing it more frequently than I expected.

Local retail stores, restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses that deal with the public during these COVID times are seeing more and more customers who are belligerent about mask-wearing requirements.

One prominent retailer lamented the frequency at which customers without masks on blithely walk into her business despite the clear and obvious signs that state mask-wearing is required. More than one retailer has complained about this problem, as have several restaurant and other food-service businesses. Some people just don’t care.

But what’s even more disturbing are the reports I’m hearing of out-sized angry and nasty responses that workers suffer through when these mask-less customers are nicely asked to wear masks.

I’ve heard of temper tantrums by adults. I’ve heard of profanity being used by young children when asked to wear a mask. I heard of one case were a customer yanked off his poorly worn mask and threw it on the floor, blathering loudly and embarrassingly the entire time. An expensive pair of glasses was even damaged in this fit of pique. The stories go on and on.
This all suggests an astounding lack of respect shown by many customers toward regular workers and employees. It shows an indifference to the safety of others. I’m sorry to hear that this sort of behavior takes place when we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

I applaud our local businesses who put in place mask-wearing requirements because their efforts to try and limit the spread of disease is an effort that can help protect my health, the health of my family and the health of our community. As well, it can help limit the spread of disease that could again result in business shut-downs and curfews that would ultimately kill our business and kill our fragile winter season.

Business owners should remember that they have the absolute right to require mask-wearing in their locations. In the same way that a restaurant or store can say “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” they can say “No Mask, No Entry and No Service.” It’s not a political statement. It’s a public health and economic protection measure. Just because a store or restaurant is open to the public does not mean it’s a public place like a sidewalk or a roadway. It’s still a private business.

Yes, government can step in and force the issue in all public places and businesses, but we are not in that position yet.

I know that almost every local business I can think of is being proactive about their mask-wearing policies. They are providing clear and simple notice, with signs at entrances or inside, that clearly state mask-wearing is required. Conspicuous signage in prominent places is a good idea. It might even help to assign an employee or manager to stand at the door to inform people walking in of the sign-wearing requirement.

Employees should be trained in the basics of how to gently remind customers of the mask-wearing requirement, even offering a mask for the customer’s use if needed.

It’s also a good idea to accommodate those rare customers who have health reasons that preclude them from being able to wear a mask. Offer them alternative entry, special service windows or even special delivery.

Then try and be delicate in dealing with visitors who flat-out refuse to comply. A manager is usually the best person to deal with these non-compliant customers. Once again, offer alternatives to these customers (to-go service, special outside dining, perhaps) that aren’t confrontational or demeaning.

Of course, if push comes to shove, then law enforcement can be called to handle an out-of-control mask resister.

I hope that as time goes by our visitors will start to realize that mask-wearing in a business is good for them, good for society, and good overall for business. With that realization, perhaps angry responses will subside.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching to anyone wanting to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.


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