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Sun, Sept. 19

Haddad: Grateful for patrons who practice civility regarding small business mask requirements

I was recently shopping at a local small business where the owners have a sign posted that says, “Masks required,” with a footnote explaining that they are trying to protect at-risk staff and customers.

A couple walked in without masks. An employee politely asked if they had face masks they could wear while in the store, and if not, she could supply them with a free mask. The older adult male immediately started berating the employee, using foul language and a raised, angry and hateful voice. It was hard to watch, and my heart ached for the young employee. The couple left with loathing looks, still spewing profanities.

This scenario has played out at countless businesses throughout the quad-city area. Even though government mask mandates have recently been lifted, there are many businesses that still feel face masks are important to protect vulnerable employees and customers.

Below are some of the comments we have received from local business owners expressing their concerns about what some customers apparently believe is appropriate behavior.

“As the owner of a small family mom-and-pop business, I feel compelled to address the rudeness my employees are subjected to on a daily basis by customers who are not willing to follow our request to wear a mask while shopping in our store. To me, wearing a mask is a matter of respect. You don’t have to agree that masks are effective, but we would appreciate you being polite and courteous to our employees. There is a back story on why we ask our customers to wear masks — many of our employees, or their spouses, have serious health issues. One of our employees’ spouses is battling cancer. We are trying to protect her — the last thing she wants to do is contract COVID and take it home to her husband. We have another employee whose spouse is pregnant. She has had a very difficult pregnancy with a lot of complications and has been in the hospital three times just this past week. We are trying to protect her husband — the last thing we would want to happen is to have him take COVID home to his wife.”

“My wife and I own a small business in town. We’ve invested everything we have into our shop, which barely sustains our family. A man came in and started yelling obscenities at my wife because we have a sign asking people to please wear a mask. He left in a rage. Later, we learned he started a thread on social media asking people to boycott our store. I can understand if he didn’t want to wear a mask, that’s his choice, and he can find another shop that sells (our products), but why did he have to be so hateful to my wife? And then to go even further to try to harm our family business just because we are trying to protect ourselves and customers — it’s just wrong.”

“By and large, 98 percent of our customers are very supportive of our mask ‘mandate.’ We receive compliments and expressions of gratitude every day from customers thanking us for requesting masks. Unfortunately, those who refuse to wear masks have been extremely belligerent and rude to our employees, using expletives and gestures that are inappropriate and unnecessary.”

“Where is the kindness, and a spirit of thoughtfulness and caring for someone who is doing their job to serve the public? Small mom-and-pop businesses need your support and encouragement, not your condemnation and criticism.”

“A customer wrote us a letter stating that because of our mask mandate they ‘won’t be back’ and added, ‘Too bad because I really enjoy supporting our local businesses.’ How are you supporting a local business when you refuse to shop there when all they are trying to do is to protect their employees who are on the front line every day working with the public?”

As I read these notes from local business owners I find myself recalling a Bible prophesy that says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”

I’d like to think that these cold hearts are not yet considered “many” in our community. My optimism and faith in humanity compels me to hope that these extremists who think it’s OK to treat others so horribly are only a vocal minority. Perhaps they are otherwise good people who have accidentally allowed themselves to be so caught up in politics and pride that they have temporarily lost the practice of common courtesy.

I hope they find it again.

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