The Citizen Times asked to observe customer and employee mask compliance at local grocery stores. Almost all refused. Here’s what they said:
- Publix media relations manager Nicole Krauss. “We apologize for the inconvenience and you know we are always happy to help when able, however we’ve declined all requests for in-store/store-front/parking lot/distribution center b-roll and interviews for all of our media partners across our footprint.”
- Trader Joe’s media specialist Kenya Friend-Daniel. “Thanks for reaching out. We’re going to pass on this opportunity for now.”
- Aldi’s media team: “Beginning July 27, ALDI will require face coverings in order to enter any of its stores … We are currently unable to answer follow-up questions or accommodate interview requests.”
- Ingles CFO Ron Freeman: “Our long-standing policy … does not allow media in our stores. Thanks for understanding.”
- Rebeka Mora, Whole Foods: “Our stores are focused on serving customers at this time and are not able to accommodate.”
- Earth Fare: No reply.
- Harris Teeter: No reply.
- Walmart: No reply.
Though all of the stores the Citizen Times contacted say they require masks to shop, only the French Broad Food Co-Op said it would allow a reporter to verify the claims.
“That would be no problem,” said French Broad Food Co-Op general manager Bobby Sullivan. “I think transparency is so important right now.”
French Broad Food Co-op: No mask, no entry
Sullivan said FBFC established mask rules when the CDC began strongly recommending face coverings, which the store has required shoppers to wear since May 11.
The FBFC also provides either hand sanitizer or gloves at the door. Only 10 people are allowed to shop at once, with curbside pickup and solo shopping encouraged.
Even so, Sullivan said the mask issue still rears its head.
“Compliance has been pretty good but we absolutely need to enforce it,” he said. “I never thought I’d see the day when grocery stores needed bouncers.
Sometimes shoppers pull their masks down in the store, which makes customers nervous and puts staff in an uncomfortable position. In general, the staff tries to identify mask refusers outside.
“It was a real problem when we first started requiring them, but things have settled down a bit now,” Sullivan said.