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Despite store mask requirements, some will still serve customers refusing to wear masks

As 11Alive found out, some policies do not involve direct enforcement.

ATLANTA — It’s becoming a growing list of restaurants and retailers requiring shoppers to wear a mask.

11Alive viewers have been posting on social media, calling out shoppers for not wearing masks, and those businesses for not enforcing their own policy.

But, as 11Alive found out, some policies do not involve direct enforcement.

One shopper from Atlanta said he’s been to stores in the Atlanta-metro that require masks, but some customers are ignoring that.

“I never go to the store now and find that everyone’s wearing a mask. It never happens,” he said.

11Alive reporter Chenue Her reached out to ten of the biggest corporations about their policies: The Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Kroger, Publix, CVS, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Aldi, and Lowe’s.

As of Monday evening, seven got back to us: The Home Depot, Kroger, CVS, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Target, and Walmart.

Their statements all stressed safety for customers and staff.

But, with more and more confrontations in stores involving customers, sometimes even staff, some of these companies are finding ways to still serve customers without masks to avoid and de-escalate situations.

CVS said in a statement:

“For safety reasons, we have asked our employees to avoid escalated confrontations with non-compliant customers, and to instead help them complete their purchases as quickly as possible while providing information about other options we have available for their future needs, including free home delivery for prescriptions and our drive-thru window service.”

In another statement, Chief Operating Officer Jon Roberts will not ask CVS employees to “play the role of enforcer”.

Walmart said they have health ambassadors who are trained in de-escalation: 

“Our Health Ambassadors have received special de-escalation training to help make the process of mandating masks inside our stores as smooth as possible for customers. They will work with customers who show up to our stores without a face covering to try and find a solution. There is not a uniform solution, because there is not a uniform approach to each situation. In many of our stores, we have also repurposed our third-party security resources to assist in reminding customers to wear masks.

Since it may not be possible for all customers to wear masks, our Ambassadors are also trained on how to best handle exceptions to reduce friction. Our goal is to keep our associates from physical confrontations.”

The Home Depot’s statement said they’ll offer masks to customers who don’t have one:

“Our associates will offer masks to those who don’t have one, but it’s too dangerous to forcibly or physically deny entry. That said, if a customer becomes combative or habitually refuses to comply, we’ll take further action to prevent them from entering our stores.”

The Home Depot also added: 

”We require customers to wear masks while inside our stores. We have signage posted, as well as announcements over our PA systems. We also have social distancing captains who will remind customers that they must wear a mask or facial covering.”

Kroger sent 11Alive this statement on their policy:

“With the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country—as America’s grocer—we are committed to doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus. Kroger’s most urgent priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers while meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores, e-commerce solutions, and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials.

As an employer, grocery provider, and community partner, we have a responsibility to help keep our associates, customers, and communities safe. We respect and acknowledge that some customers, due to medical reasons, may not be able to wear a mask (small children are exempt). We encourage those customers to consider an alternative option like a face shield or facial covering. If they’re unable to wear a mask or an alternative design, we request that they use our e-commerce services like pickup or delivery. To support all households during the COVID-19 pandemic, our grocery pickup service remains free (generally a $4.95 fee).

Kroger stores will also provide masks to customers who do not have one.

According to the CDC, wearing a facial covering, combined with social distancing and frequent handwashing, has been scientifically proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are taking this extra step now because we recognize additional precautions are needed to protect our country.”

-- Christine Backus, Manager, Associate Communications & Engagement

Target’s statement:

“Starting August 1, we’re requiring guests to wear masks or face coverings in all of our stores, except for those with underlying medical conditions and young children. This builds on the more than 80% of our stores that already require guests to wear face coverings due to local and state regulations. Given the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the role masks play in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, our store team members also already wear masks when they come to work, which we provide for them.

To help our guests, we’ll be:

  • Providing disposable masks at our store entrances to guests who do not have one.
  • Adding signage, overhead audio reminders and stationing team members at store entrances to remind guests to wear masks.
  • Guiding guests to shop our various no-contact fulfillment options, including Drive-Up, Target.com, and Shipt, if they’d prefer.
  • Continuing to monitor the situation and respond accordingly with the goal of keeping our team and guests safe.”

Starbuck’s statement is here. In an email to 11Alive, the company also added, in part: “It is our responsibility to protect our partners and comply with local public health mandates. As such, our partners have the right and responsibility to refuse service to customers who are not wearing facial coverings.”

McDonald’s full statement can be found here.


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