Don’t argue with anti-mask shoppers, CDC says to retailers

While many customers follow mask policies of stores, the CDC now recommends retail workers avoid arguing with customers who refuse. Pexels

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about a new coronavirus health risk you probably didn’t expect: getting slapped, choked or kicked in the workplace by angry customers. And the best way to avoid it is not to engage.

The health agency issued guidance this week for retail and service workers suggesting ways consumer-facing companies can limit violence toward workers that may occur when businesses implement policies to stop the spread of the virus. Or in other words, how to protect workers tasked with the unenviable job of asking shoppers to wear masks, keep 6 feet apart or wait their turn before entering a capacity-limited store.

The new CDC page gives a series of actions companies can take to protect workers, from installing panic buttons to having staff enforcing mask-wearing operate in teams of two. Above all, workers shouldn’t put themselves in the direct line of danger, according to the federal agency that usually focuses on disease prevention.

“Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent,” the guidance warns. Likewise, if a shopper appears upset when asked to mask up or told about the in-store limit on toilet paper, don’t attempt to make them follow the policy, the CDC says.

That advice mirrors what the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart Inc., told its own workers in July: Stay calm and show understanding, but if customers insist on walking in without a mask, just get out of the way.

Tribune Wire

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