Friday, May 22, 2020

Coronavirus Update 5-22-2020: We really don’t want our employees being “Tisons"

Social media is congratulating Tison, a Costco employee who turned away an angry customer who refused to wear a mask, a condition required by Costco to shop in its stores.

I understand the popular appeal of applauding Tison's behavior. He applied his employer's "No Mask / No Service" rule in ejecting a non-complying customer. Still, I don't think Tison did the smart thing. This encounter ended well. The customer shouted some obscenities, angrily left the store, and later tweeted a shirtless rebuttal video of his own. But this incident also could have ended in violence. 

Your employees are not professionals trained in diffusing hostile situations. And for some reason, one of the issues that's made some people the maddest during the coronavirus pandemic is being told they have to wear a mask or other face covering. 

So here are your options as a retailer or other business open to the public.

1/ Unless your state's law requires otherwise, strongly recommend that customers or non-employee visitors wear masks, but don't mandate them; or

2/ Deploy trained personnel (ideally security, but at least someone at management level) to enforce a mandatory mask rule in your business, and also train all other employees not to engage and instead to summon a designated responder. Don't leave it up to your untrained employees to try to enforce these rules and potentially deal with escalating hostilities and violence. You wouldn't send an amateur to defuse a bomb, lest you risk an explosion. This situation is no different. 

Tison, I'm happy that you walked away unscathed. But your story is not a model for other businesses and other employees to follow. Tison got lucky. Don't let your employees be Tisons, because they might get their happy ending.