One Retailer Won’t Require Masks Amid COVID-19 to Avoid ‘Undue Friction’

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JUNE 22: Flags wave outside supermarket chain Winn-Dixie corporate office June 22, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Getty JACKSONVILLE, FL - JUNE 22: Flags wave outside supermarket chain Winn-Dixie corporate office June 22, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida.

With coronavirus cases spiking in several states nationwide, most major retailers are now requiring masks in order to gain entrance, including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walgreens, Target, Best Buy, CVS, Kroger, Kohls, Whole Foods, Publix, Verizon, Menards, Home Depot, Lowe’s and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

But one chain that will not require masks is Winn-Dixie, a grocery store with 500 locations in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida, where its headquarters are located.

Winn-Dixie Doesn’t Want to Cause ‘Undue Friction’ Between Customers and Employees

VIDEO: Winn Dixie not requiring masksVIDEO: Winn Dixie not requiring masks2020-07-17T22:33:43Z

According to FOX 35 Orlando, the supermarket chain is “strongly encouraging” employees and associates to wear masks but its parent company, Southeastern Grocers, will not require masks for customers.

Director of corporate communications Joe Caldwell said it is because they don’t want to cause “undue friction between our customers and associates by regulating mask mandates.

“We are adhering to all local safety mandates within each of our stores and strongly encouraging those who are medically able to wear a face covering to do so,” Caldwell said, adding that the company hopes the state government officials will “lead the way” in creating such mandates.

Caldwell also told the Washington Post, “Our associates have seen that mask mandates are a highly charged issue with our customers. We do not want to put our associates in a position to navigate interpersonal conflict or prohibit customers from shopping in our stores.”

And on the Winn-Dixie coronavirus response page of its website, the retailer writes, “At Southeastern Grocers, we choose to be a People First company, and our commitment to putting people at the heart of every decision we make remains in the best and worst of times. We continue to do all we can to provide the safest and healthiest store experience that we can for you, our customers, our communities, and our associates. Rest assured, we will continue to refine our processes and protocols in our stores, with health and safety as our guide, as long as this pandemic remains a threat. You can always count on us.”

Walmart Calls Masks ‘Critically Important’ to Fight Spread of COVID-19

Nationwide COVID-19 outbreak accelerates as Walmart, Kroger implement mandatory mask rulesCoronavirus cases are climbing in 41 states, with some areas seeing a massive strain on their health care systems. In response to spiking cases, Walmart, Kroger and other large companies are making masks mandatory in stores. David Begnaud reports.2020-07-16T11:45:07Z

On July 15, Walmart, the nation’s largest retail store, announced it would require masks for all customers starting on July 20. It was not the first retail chain to do so, but it is certainly the largest.

“We know [wearing masks] is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities. According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected, it’s critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance,” Walmart wrote on its corporate website.

Walmart further stated that “Health Ambassadors” would be posted at every entrance to remind customers of the masks requirement.

“Our ambassadors will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers. The ambassadors, identifiable by their black polo shirts, will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution. We are currently considering different solutions for customers when this requirement takes effect on July 20.”

Drug store CVS echoed those sentiments in its corporate statement, writing in a press release, “Since the pandemic began, we’ve done everything we can to keep people safe and healthy. This includes requiring that store employees wear face coverings and encouraging our customers to do so as well. In any community with state or local laws mandating the use of face coverings, we’ve made that very clear through signage and other reminders.

“With the recent spike in COVID-19 infections, we’re joining others in taking the next step and requiring all customers to wear face coverings when entering any of our stores throughout the country effective Monday, July 20. To be clear, we’re not asking our store employees to play the role of enforcer. What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering.”

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