Commentary: No mask, no service

By Sheron Patrick
For The Cordova Times

No shoes, no shirt, no service. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Those are signs we have all seen in businesses. We likely don’t give a second thought to those popular adages anymore. But the new signs, the pandemic-related signs asking customers to wear masks in certain businesses and adhere to social distancing rules, those are new signs to us. The way customers are responding to those new signs and suggestions varies.

It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted us all in different ways. While there are endless stories of businesses stepping up to help their communities in new ways, there are unfortunate stories of both businesses and consumers behaving badly during these chaotic times. At Better Business Bureau, our core value is helping create a marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. That trust is more important today than it has ever been in BBB’s more than 100-year history. Here at BBB, we work hard to connect our businesses to resources they can trust and in turn implement to build trust.

As businesses are working hard to reopen, they are doing so with customer and staff safety in mind. And though many of us are eager to return to our favorite restaurants and retailers, it’s incumbent on all of us to do so safely. It is also important to give grace to businesses adapting to this “new normal.” That means showing up to shop without being belligerent or getting confrontational with the employees doing the best they can to follow their boss’s directives on masks, sanitation and spacing.

You might not agree with the rule that you must wear a mask to shop at your favorite free-sample big box store. But, like the “No shoes, no shirt, no service” rule, you can kindly comply and shop or not comply and not shop.

It is a privilege to shop wherever we want, a perk of free market capitalism. Because we have a free market, shoppers are not bound to any one retailer. On the flip side, businesses are not forced to accept any customer that walks through the doors.

That adage, “The customer is always right,” does not apply to customers behaving belligerently. As merchants gradually flip signs from closed to open, remember that business owners are doing their best to protect their employees and consumers. While businesses are more than ready to receive business, remember that they also want to keep everyone healthy and safe. The Centers for Disease Control has a lengthy list of recommendations for business owners to follow to maintain a safe and clean store.

Consumers, we encourage you to do your part. That could include carrying hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, and keeping up with social distancing guidelines. Most of all, show respect for the businesses you love by complying with the rules they’ve thought long and hard about implementing.

Here are the tips BBB recommends for consumers to safely support business owners:

  • Stay up to date on the merchant’s requests by email or social media; pay attention to the number of people physically allowed in the store and the store hours.
  • Remember to use any gift cards tucked away from the holidays.
  • Do comparison shopping online. If you’re purchasing a big-ticket item such as a major appliance, consider checking features and availability online rather than going from store to store.
  • Be patient as businesses restock shelves and begin new routines. Business owners are trying to reassure customers they’re clean, safe and willing to provide a good experience.

For more tips on operating safely and ethically, visit

Sheron Patrick is the communications manager for the Better Business Bureau of Northwest and Pacific serving Alaska.