In the age of COVID-19, is the customer always right?

Or, put differently, If a customer doesn’t want to wear a mask, should they be allowed not to?

“I don't think, in this case, it's a 100% guarantee anymore,” said Fiona Zhao, general manager at Unique Bunny, a retail store in Osborne Village.

Unique Bunny has had a mask mandate in place since August. 

Most customers follow the rules, said Zhao, especially now with the public health orders to wear masks indoors. 

But some customers have resisted the store’s rules on mask-wearing. Recently, said Zhao, a customer came into the store, refused to wear a mask and left saying “good luck with your business.”

“We have to protect ourselves so we can provide service,” said Zhao. “It doesn’t make sense this, kind of ‘customer is one hundred per cent right. (mentality).”

Patrons at Confusion Corner Drinks & Food are generally following the new rules for bars and restaurants, said managing partner Kevin Byrne. 

Still, Byrne is prepared for the possibility someone won’t be willing to wear a mask. 

“You have to handle that pretty delicately,” said Byrne, adding he would offer a free mask. 

“And if they still choose not to wear one? I’d be inclined to tell them ‘that’s fine’ but you have to be at a table that’s isolated” said Byrne. 

Finding creative, proactive solutions may be the best option when dealing with customers who may not adhere to COVID-19 health precautions, said Gloria Desorcy, executive director of the Consumers’ Association of Canada’s Manitoba branch. 

It makes sense to refuse a customer entry, said Desorcy, but businesses should then offer alternatives like providing a free mask or the option to collect items for in the store for the customer. 

Both are options provided at Unique Bunny. Zhao offers curbside pickup for customers and sells disposable masks for only a quarter. 

“This is the decision we had to make,” said Zhao. “Lose some of the profit on the masks but, in the meanwhile, keep customers walking in our store.”