Sainsbury’s & Waterstones: Customers divided over shops’ mask stance

Sainsbury’s has followed Waterstones’ lead in announcing that it will urge customers to wear a face mask on entry to its stores next week. The supermarket wants customer and staff to continue wearing masks for their own safety.

However, some shops in England have announced they will be urging customers to do the same as they have done for the past year.

Although it will become a personal choice next week if people want to don a mask or not, Sainsbury’s said there will be signs and tannoy messages to remind customers to wear one.

The signs and messages “will encourage customers to continue to wear a face covering, if they can”, with staff also encouraged to do so, unless they are behind a screen.

The supermarket said: “While wearing a face covering will become a personal choice, the decision to ask everyone in stores to continue to wear a face covering if they can reflects feedback from customers and colleagues where the majority of people surveyed want to keep the policy in place.”

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Sainsbury’s added that some plastic screens will be gradually removed from stores in England, but those separating customers and staff at the tills will remain in place.

Hand sanitiser stations will also remain in stores, and the supermarket’s employees will continue to clean trollies and baskets overnight.

Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, said: “As we respond to the recent change in government guidance, we know that safety is still top of mind for many of our colleagues and customers.

“Our colleagues’ safety is vital and many of our colleagues would feel more comfortable if those who can wear face coverings continue to wear them.

“Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers.”

James Daunt, Waterstones’ Managing Director, told the BBC: “If you are wearing a mask and you don’t want to be in the company with someone who isn’t wearing a mask, we expect people will use their common sense and move away.”

He added that the company’s current safety precautions will remain in place, such as plastic screens up between booksellers and customers, and all staff wearing masks.

Waterstones’ tweet this week garnered thousands of likes and comments.

Some customers welcomed the company’s stance on the new mask rules.

One customer said: “Thank you for helping immunocompromised people feel a little safer in what is still a terrifying time for us.”

Another commented: “I appreciate you can’t win here but what can you do? I will be continuing mask wearing beyond govt guidelines until situation vastly improves.”

One person said: “I’m glad you are enforcing masks. It makes me and a lot of people relaxed to know a company cares about the safety of its customers. Keep strong Waterstones!”

However, some customers were not as impressed.

One shopper said: “Get screwed. No masks in shops anymore.”

Another person commented: “I used to love going Waterstones too. Better than just ordering it online! I won’t be going now.”

One customer added: “I sincerely appreciate your stance, it is yours to make. As a semi regular customer I shall not be visiting your stores again.”

Another shopper said: “Bad decision, you will lose a lot of customers.”

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