SPOKANE, Wash. - We've all grown up in a time where businesses said if you weren't wearing shoes or a shirt, you wouldn't be served. I can only speak for myself when I say I've never personally had a problem adhering to those rules, but I'm assuming most of us don't have a problem with that rule nor do we really even think about it anymore.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Jay Inslee's order that all Washingtonians wear a mask while out in public, businesses have had to add "mask" to their "No Shirt, No Shoes" policies. Opinions on that addition vary.
You don't have to look very far to find many people who don't agree with Inslee's order and refuse to wear a mask. You could probably find someone in your own family, certainly in the comment section of this article when it gets posted to social media, and in various videos showing people irate at employees after being told they need to wear a mask.
"You Democratic pigs!" one woman yelled after throwing her basket on the ground when Trader Joe's employees told her she had to wear a mask (warning: graphic language).
"I don't give a *expletive*" another woman yelled multiple times as she threw items out of her cart after being refused service for not wearing a mask in a Dallas, Texas grocery store (it probably goes without saying because of the "expletive" indicated above, but there's graphic language in that video, too).
"I can't believe you have the gull (gall) and the nerve to try and make somebody do something outside of their own will," another woman said to an employee of a Grocery Outlet store in a video reportedly shot in Spokane Valley. The video was posted on Facebook and had hundreds of comments and shares, with most seemingly in support of the woman who shot it.
"It is a private business, would you like to see the law?" the woman who identified herself as a manager said in the video.
You can hear the woman reply "yes" in the video but then when she's invited to the store's office to go over the law, she changes her mind and says, "I'm not going anywhere with you."
The video ends with the woman saying she is going to call the cops and it's unclear what happened after that. I reached out to Grocery Outlet in Spokane Valley Wednesday morning regarding the video of the confrontation and was directed to their corporate office. As of this publishing, I had not heard back.
I'm not sure people had the same passion when they were told they had to wear shoes or a shirt back in the day, but agree with it or not, Inslee's order is in effect and you are required to wear a mask in public.
There are exceptions to the mandate, including children and those with an underlying medical condition. However, the Department of Health said businesses are not responsible to enforce the order, but they can refuse service or entry to those who don't wear a mask. If a customer cites a medical condition as the reason they can't wear a mask, the business must provide accommodations, like curbside delivery as an option.
There have been reports of people pulling out cards stating they are exempt from wearing a mask, so much so that the Department of Justice released a statement warning businesses about the fraudulent cards.
Some businesses like Costco will refund your membership if you don't want to wear a mask.
Many airlines have made policies that passengers must wear a mask. Alaska Airlines even announced that non-compliant passengers could be banned from flying with them in the future if they don't wear a mask.
A memo from American Airlines urges flight attendants to take an informational approach and deescalate situations with customers who refuse to wear a mask.
Many law enforcement agencies are taking the same approach with the mask mandate, opting for education and not citation. So, you most likely won't get a misdemeanor for not wearing a mask but if the encounter turns physical, police will respond.
Should you as an individual say something to someone if you see they are not wearing a mask? The State of Washington says, "no."
"Someone may have a medical reason for not wearing a face covering," a statement on the Department of Health's website says. "Whether those around you are wearing face coverings or not, focus on keeping 6 feet of distance between you and washing your hands often."
The National Retail Foundation has offered up tips to businesses on how to de-escalate a tense situation with a customer. You can read about them here, but I will say it basically boils down to being nice.
Being nice can be easier said than done in some of these instances, from both points of view, but if you find yourself in one of these situations, remember, respect is a two-way street.
If you feel wearing a mask is infringing on your civil liberties, you're always free to shop somewhere else, too. One woman named Barbara on Twitter posted on Wednesday that she was kicked out Safeway for not wearing a mask, so she went to Walmart, where they didn't ask her to put one on. Walmart's official policy on their website says they only "encourage" customers to wear masks, but all of their employees are required to.