Walmart, CVS won't enforce mask rules to avoid conflict with customers

Many stores are requiring face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Alexandra Garrett Associate Editor
Alexandra is an associate editor on CNET's Performance Optimization team. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, and interned with CNET's Tech and News teams while in school. Prior to joining CNET full time, Alexandra was a breaking news fellow at Newsweek, where she covered current events and politics.
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Retail Signs

Walmart and CVS are asking employees to avoid conflict with customers over face mask policies.

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Shoppers who refuse to wear a face mask will still be able to shop at Walmart , CVS and other retailers regardless of the companies' policies. The stores are apparently hoping to avoid confrontations between employees and angry customers.

Walmart said it will station "health ambassadors" at the store's entrances to remind shoppers about the mask requirement amid the coronavirus pandemic. But a training video spotted by CNN on Sunday tells employees to let a customer into the store and notify management if a customer refuses to wear a mask. The training video also tells employees to never physically engage with a customer or block them from entering the store.

"If a customer doesn't want to wear a face covering, our Health Ambassadors notify a member of management, who will talk to the customer and try to find a solution," said a Walmart spokesperson on Tuesday. "We do not want our associates to do anything that could lead to a physical confrontation."  

CVS said it also wants to avoid confrontation with customers who refuse to comply with its mask policy. Instead, employees will help those shoppers make their purchases as quickly as possible and recommend they use CVS delivery or drive-thru options in the future, said a spokesperson.

Walgreens, like CVS, said it's not confronting shoppers who refuse to wear a mask, citing safety concerns for its employees. "Our store staff may remind customers of this policy, however for the safety of our team members, we are not otherwise confronting individuals who do not follow it," said Walgreens. 

Lowe's will also serve shoppers who refuse to wear masks, according to CNN. 

"Retailers are going to great lengths to ensure customers wear masks in stores, however, we do not believe it should be the role of a retail employee to physically confront a belligerent customer," said Jason Brewer, executive vice president of communications and state affairs for Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Target , Walgreens and others. He added that the association has asked governors to mandate mask use in stores, so that "law enforcement can properly address situations where customers refuse to wear a mask."

To help prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a face covering in public or when around others you don't live with, "especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."

Although some states require people to wear a mask, there is no federal mandate. Some retailers including Walmart, Target, CVS and others began requiring customers to wear face coverings while shopping to protect employees and help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Lowe's didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.