Businesses large and small around Cody have instituted a range of face mask policies. Whether or not wearing the face masks is adhered to by customers may be a different story, but some believe mask wearing has increased as the summer has progressed.
“Especially after Albertsons and Walmart put out their requirements and (President Donald) Trump started encouraging them, I think people have been wearing them more,” Danielle Troll said, as she was shopping with her mask-clad six-year-old daughter Charlie Troll at Albertsons. “But I only wear one because I have to (in Albertsons).”
Albertsons, Walmart, AT&T and the Dollar Tree are four corporate businesses with stores in Cody that have instituted mandates for face mask wearing from all people in their stores nationwide. However at all four employees will stop short of forcing their customers to wear them.
“If a customer refuses to wear a mask and to leave the store, we permit the customer to continue shopping in order to avoid conflicts that would put the store director or other employees and customers at risk,” said Kathy Holland, a communications and public relations spokesperson for the Albertsons Intermountain Division.
But before it ever gets to that point of confrontation, customers are given multiple alerts to the face mask requirements. Signage regarding face masks is displayed prominently in the entrances to all three stores, and at Albertsons and Walmart customers are given the option to perform their shopping via pick-up services.
“For customers who enter the store without wearing a mask, store managers have been asked to greet the customer and inform them of the company requirement that all customers are required to wear a face mask/covering in the store, just as it is required of our associates and vendors,” Holland said in an email.
Holland said 90% of Albertsons stores are located in states that require face mask use indoors, and on July 21 the company extended that order to the rest of its stores including Cody.
A recent trip to Albertsons around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday revealed nearly every customer in the store wearing masks.
In addition to signage, Walmart has recently hired health ambassadors who are stationed near the store’s entrances for the purpose of reminding customers to wear masks.
In a corporate training video made for the health ambassadors, the employees are instructed to stay calm, listen intently, and show understanding when they approach customers not wearing masks.
The video is geared more toward stores located in states and communities mandating indoor mask use. Walmart said 65% of its U.S. stores and Sam’s Clubs are in areas where there is a government mandate on face coverings.
Walmart did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The company’s face mask policy exempts those who cannot wear masks due to age, preexisting health conditions or religious beliefs.
“If a customer tells you they can’t for one of these reasons, listen and tell them you understand,” the video instructs.
If they don’t provide one of these answers or make the employee feel unsafe, the ambassadors are instructed to let them pass, but to alert management.
“Remember, safety is our priority,” the narrator said.
Ambassadors are not allowed to physically engage with these customers and are told not to block the entrance or attempt to stop them in any way.
“Wally (Walmart) does not enforce his own Masks Required shopper policy,” said Cody resident Dewey Vanderhoff.
A recent trip to Walmart showed about 85% of the customers were wearing face masks around 5:30 p.m.
The Dollar Tree has a similar policy to these two businesses. In May, a security guard was shot and killed at a Michigan store of its sister business Family Dollar, after he told a customer to wear a mask.
According to its website, the store is requiring all staff, customers and vendors to wear masks inside the store. But staff at the Cody store said their staff is not telling people to leave the store if they refuse to wear them. Nearly every customer was without a mask during a visit to the store.
AT&T is engaging the same mandate at its Cody store, and a few smaller local businesses are offering similar restrictions.
Tonja Schmidt, a manager at Tractor Supply Company, said its staff is engaging with customers not wearing face masks and offering them free masks. Regardless of their answer, they’re free to continue shopping, she said.
“We’re not going to turn somebody away,” Schmidt said.
Sarah Mikesell Growney, owner of The Thistle, said she is “respectfully requesting” that customers wear masks inside her store as she has two employees with compromised immune systems. But if a customer walks in without one on and or asks about it, she said she will not tell them to put one on.
“I tell them, ‘you’re fine, just don’t lick me,’” she said.
Growney explained her store usually has many social distancing opportunities. She agrees with Troll that the big three Cody corporations and Trump spurned greater mask use, and said she would like to see state leaders follow suit and adopt a face mask policy for Wyoming.
“If it gets worse (increase in cases), I would require masks,” she said.