This morning, my son’s partner, Rollie, posted on Facebook that they’d had a disturbing experience at the local grocery store near where they live. While shopping at the H-E-B (yes, that’s the name of it; it’s the founder’s initials, which is much better than if they’d chosen Butts, his last name*), there was a customer not wearing a mask getting really close to Rollie and Declan. They asked this college-age customer to mask up, but they would not. When Declan called the store later, they said they could not enforce the mask-wearing signs all over the store, because the workers keep receiving threats of violence.
My gosh, people. Is it really worth threatening to harm others when a private company requests that people take safety precautions? Do people pull out their weapons when stores try to enforce “no shoes, no shirt, no service”? It’s all common-sense health stuff when around food.
I sorta knew this was coming when the Texas governor lifted all restrictions and let restaurants and bars go back to full capacity. I also was not surprised to learn that many establishments voluntarily have not changed what they are doing, mainly out of concern for the people who work there. That bit makes me proud of fellow humans.
Many people have opinions on whether the grocery chain should take a stance on mask wearing, ranging from, “H-E-B is a liberal tool” to “H-E-B should be escorting barefaced customers out of the store” (all these are usually expressed more colorfully, of course).
I went off to find out more information, and located a helpful Houston Chronicle article by Abigail Rosenthal. In it, I found the official H-E-B policy:
“While statewide policy has changed, our store protocol has not,” the company said in a statement. “Mask use at our stores will remain. Our signs requiring mask use will remain posted at entrances and we will continue to make announcements in store.”
We will continue to expect shoppers to wear masks while in our stores. Additionally, we will still require all our Partners and vendors to wear masks while at work.”March 5 statement
That’s all good, but I was disturbed to read that there have been over 2,000 in-store incidents in Houston. I wonder how many there have been in the rest of the state? People do continue to disappoint me. The President of the grocery store chain said they simply can’t force people to be kind and caring.
McClelland said then that customers not wearing a mask would be asked to put one on. If they don’t have one, a Partner would offer them a mask. But McClelland said associates would not escalate the situation if the customer continued to refuse.
“What’s important to me is, I’ve got to ensure for the physical safety of both my employees and customers in the store,”… “That’s what we have been doing, and frankly it’s the same thing we’ll continue to do.”H-E-B clarifies mask policy, says customers will be ‘expected’ to wear masks in stores, Houston Chronicle, March 8
This really makes me worried about people like Rollie, who work in restaurants and have to deal with the general public. I can easily see how it would be really difficult for restaurant and other food-service workers to remain civil while they are so concerned about their health.
I will continue to mask up when I am interacting closely with people I don’t know and who haven’t been vaccinated. If it turns out that it was an abundance of caution to do it, well, it hasn’t hurt anything and has maybe kept some spring pollen out of my airways, to boot!
And if you are among the group who doesn’t want to wear a mask, I am sure there are other grocery stores you can go to. That’s freedom, right? Each privately owned company can make their own decisions, and if you disagree, they won’t get your money! That will show them! (And that is why I don’t patronize certain establishments that force their religion on their employees or discriminate blatantly against my LGBTQ+ friends and family.)
*By the way, I have nothing against the name Butts. It was my grandmother’s given surname, and there’s a whole branch of Butts relatives out there in Appalachia.