The United States is in the middle of a spike in COVID-19 cases that rivals and surpasses numbers seen at its peak back in March, meaning that businesses are forced to deal with the reality of a new normal. That includes complying with state mask mandates–when said state actually even gives a mandate, that is. In many cases, this has left retailers and restaurants to self-enforce with rules and regulations about potential consumers wearing masks. Video game retailer GameStop threw its hat into the mask enforcement ring today, announcing in a press release that “it is joining other retailers in requiring all customers to wear face coverings when shopping in all U.S. stores” beginning July 27th. However, the press release isn’t the entire story, according to a report by Patrick Klepek of Vice.
It should first be noted that GameStop’s new mask rule doesn’t go into effect until July 27 according to the press release, which seems to imply that the retailer doesn’t think infections can happen in the ten days between now and then. “We believe this is the right thing to do to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our associates and customers from the growing spread of COVID-19,” said George Sherman, chief executive officer for GameStop. “Providing a safe environment in our stores for all customers and store associates continues to be our top priority and wearing a face covering is a simple step every one of us can take to ensure the safety of others in our stores.”
However, a leaked internal memo sent out to GameStop stores and acquired by Vice tells a different story. “Do NOT refuse service to a customer that refuses to wear a mask/face covering,” reads the memo. “Do not ask a customer to leave the store if they are not wearing a mask/face covering.” The memo issues instructions to try and assist the customer as quickly as possible if they refuse to abide by the order. Distributed at the same time as the press release, the memo to staff is titled “Best practices for addressing customers not wearing a mask/face covering.”
Employees are to offer a complimentary mask to anyone who enters a GameStop without a mask, but past offering a mask the employee has no power to enforce and remove a customer. “We’re being told in store that we are requiring masks, but also being told we can’t enforce it,” said one employee that spoke to Vice anonymously.
This appears to be another case of GameStop fumbling its response to coronavirus, initially getting flak for not shutting down back in March and calling itself an “essential business,” which led to employee ire, entanglements with state governments, and eventual temporary shutdown.
In response to Vice, a company spokesperson said the policies were about “keeping our associates safe.”
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