Lowe’s won’t require employees to enforce its new requirment that all customers entering its stores wear masks out of safety concerns for the staff.
The decision comes after the national home improvement chain began imposing the mask mandate this week.
Lowe’s is joined by rival Home Depot and other retailers, including Walmart and Costco, which have asked customers to wear face masks to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
However, customers have refused to wear facial coverings in other chains, setting off heated debates with other patrons and sometimes violent confrontations with staff.
Lowe’s, while requiring all customers to wear masks as of Monday, said it wasn’t taking any chances that its employees might get hurt enforcing the rule.
‘We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks,’ a spokesperson told the Charlotte Observer.
‘So we are consistently requesting that customers wear masks for the safety of everyone in our stores,’ the spokesperson said.
The chain, based in Mooresville, North Carolina, had signs alerting customers of the requirement at its store in town off N.C. 150, the Charlotte Observer reported.
‘As a retailer offering essential goods, we have a responsibility to our associates, customers and small businesses in communities nationwide to help provide a safe shopping experience,’ Marvin Ellison, Lowe’s president and CEO, said in a statement Friday announcing the rule.
‘Not only is wearing a mask the decent, neighborly thing to do, it’s the best way to boost our economy,’ he explained.
So far, there have been more than 3.9 million cases in the US of the coronavirus, which has been blamed for more than 142,000 deaths.
Among the worst violence to erupt when a store employee tried to enforce a face covering requirement was the fatal shooting of a Family Dollar security guard in Flint Michigan in May after he refused to allow a woman’s daughter to enter the store without a face mask.
The fatal shooting at the Dollar Store on May 1 left security guard Calvin Munerlyn, 43, a father of six, dead.
Sharmel Teague, her husband Larry Teague, 44, and her son Ramonyea Bishop, 23, were charged with first-degree premeditated murder and gun charges after the confrontation.
Munerlyn had told Sharmel she had to leave the store because her daughter lacked a mask, leading Teague to argue with the security guard.
A short while later two men later entered the store. Larry Teague yelled at Munerlyn about disrespecting his wife and Bishop shot Munerlyn in the back of the head, according to Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.
A confrontation caught on video taken by a customer who was denied entry into a Costco in Arvada, Colorado, went viral shortly after it was posted online in May.
A Costco manager is seen in the footage taking the customer’s cart away and kicking him out of the store after the patron refused to wear a mask amid the coronavirus outbreak.
There was no violence over the incident, but there was rage over the denied entry, expressed in the footage of the Costco manager named Tison.
The unnamed customer posted the footage on Instagram where he refuses to comply with a request to put on a mask because he woke up in a ‘free country’.
Tison’s response is to calmly walk away with the cart while telling the customer to ‘have a nice day’.
The customer is left in disbelief, makes an insulting remark about the manager, gives up his Costco membership card to a woman who came with him to the store and proclaims, ‘I’m not an f—–g sheep.’
Other confrontations have erupted between customers asking each other to put on masks.
An unmasked Walmart shopper pushing a wheelchair pulled a gun on another customer in front of a child during a dispute that was believed to be over face coverings.
The incident at Walmart’s store in Royal Palm Beach July 19 was caught on surveillance video, which revealed the gunman as he faced off with a mask-wearing customer.
A search later turned up the unmasked man, according to authorities, who said he was being cooperative after they contacted him.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to authorities who will refer their conclusions from the probe to the State Attorney’s office.
Another incident caught on video that was posted online showed a on an abusive tirade at a Costco after an elderly woman asked him to wear his mask.
Daniel Maples, whose outburst in the Fort Myers store on June 27 was caught on a viral video posted online, was a leading sales agent at Ted Todd Insurance.
The insurance agency tweeted afterwards that Maples’ behavior was not in line with ‘company values’ and that he had been ‘terminated’.
Maples later defended his outburst, telling the Palm Beach Post that he suffers from claustrophobia and that wearing masks makes him uncomfortable.
‘After a while I start to feel like I’m suffocating. I get claustrophobic and that’s an issue for me,’ Maples said. ‘I prefer not wear the mask. It’s something that causes me a lot of distress.’