A video showing a customer refusing to wear a mask at a Bunnings store inmetropolitan Melbourne over the weekend highlights the importance of trainingstaff on the ins and outs of the new government policy, retailers and industryexperts say.

In the video, the customer, who has been dubbed ‘Bunnings Karen’ on socialmedia, tells Bunnings staff members that they don’t have the right to ask herto wear a mask, or to question her reason for not wearing one, and threatensto sue them.

One of the staff members responds that wearing a mask is a condition of entryto Bunnings stores, but does not further engage with the customer. Later,police were involved, according to media reports.

Bunnings has said it is proud of the way its team members handled theincident.

“The customer’s behaviour towards our team was completely unacceptable andwe’re proud of the way our team calmly and professionally handled thesituation,” Deb Poole, Bunnings’ chief operating officer, told InsideRetail.

According to Poole, Bunnings has a well-established process in place forhandling people who refuse to wear a mask in stores where they are required,and has trained all team members on what to do.

“We won’t tolerate abuse against our team members and we have security at allmetro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire stores as support. Our team will also alertthe police should they encounter any difficulties,” she said.

Dominique Lamb, CEO of the National Retail Association, praised theinteraction as a textbook example of how to respond to customers who refuse towear a mask.

“The employees in this video handle this situation superbly and the policewere swiftly involved,” Lamb told Inside Retail.

Only Victoria Police have the authority to enforce the mask mandate inmetropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, which took effect last Thursday,July 23. They can issue $200 on-the-spot fines to people who refuse to covertheir faces if they don’t have a lawful reason not to.

Some of these reasons include having a relevant medical condition; being deafor hard of hearing; consuming food, drink or medication; engaging in physicalactivity where they are out of breath; smoking or vaping; or emergencies.Infants and children under the age of 12 also don’t need to cover their faces.

But what happens when someone tries to enter a retail store in Melbourne orMitchell Shire without a face covering?

Some retailers are not stopping people, citing the fact that there arelegitimate reasons why someone might not be wearing a mask, but others saymask-wearing is important to protect the health and safety of everyone in thestore, including other customers and staff. And if they operate on privateproperty, like Bunnings, they can legally make it a condition of entry totheir stores.

In these cases, retail workers are often the ones tasked with asking customersto comply with the rules, so it’s important they are trained on what to do,according to Lamb.

“Similar to most retail crime issues, it is not ideal to have employeesenforcing laws relating to masks, assault or theft. However they are often theworkers who are confronted first,” she said.

“As a result we have seen retailers invest in significant training around thisissue and also to put in place protocols that include security and callingpolice in order to enforce the relevant laws.”

Source:Heather McIlvaine __Inside Retail Australia

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