Mask Mandates Mean More Responsibility for Businesses. How are they reacting?

by Ben Spradling | Jul 29, 2020 1:43:48 PM

What the rule is now.

It is unlikely many business owners include “enforcing state-issued mandates” on a list of things they enjoy about their roles. Like it or not, though, that’s suddenly become a big part of the job description.

Earlier this month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee joined other elected officials across the Northwest and Pacific in ordering businesses to require the use of face coverings by all customers or visitors. Any business who fails to meet those expectations risks heavy fines or, even worse, the suspension of their operating license.

The order places a lot of unrequested responsibility on business owners at a time when attracting customers has not been easy. But despite having the extra hurdle added to their operations, some businesses, like Evergreen Market, a recreational cannabis retailer based out of Auburn, Washington, are recognizing the purpose of the mandate and acting accordingly. 

“As a company, we're very aware of the responsibility that we have,” says Nikki Marangon, marketing manager of Evergreen Market. “We have hundreds of customers that come across all five of our stores every single day. That's a lot of people, right? So, if there are a couple that feel really passionately about not wearing a mask, that's fine. But we also feel very passionately about defending public health. So, we can't let them in, you know.”

How enforcement happens.

Keeping those face mask-averse customers out of stores largely depends on employees for enforcement, though. And so far, that format hasn’t exactly produced a stellar success rate. A recent survey of grocery store employees revealed that seven out of 10 weren’t enforcing mask mandates in their store. Their inaction renders the mandate most meaningless.

So how has Evergreen Market been able to get their employees on board? To state things too simply, they hire the right people. Their team members possess empathy, dependably and a consistent sense of calm. Those are especially important skills right now.

“Obviously, cannabis enthusiasts aren't exactly known for getting really riled up,” says Marangon. “But the people we hire are really great at de-escalation and are really great at having an understanding voice and sympathizing with somebody's thoughts and position. They also recognize that this is policy. This is what we have to be doing.”

What Evergreen Market is doing now seems smooth because those actions are in line with what they’ve already done. Long before mandates were issued, the cannabis retailer had already asked customers to social distance and pushed for more purchases to be made online. There was also the installation of the Dial A Budtender (DAB) – a phone-operated program that delivers customized customer service without the danger of face-to-face interaction.

“People really like to talk to their budtender to get their recommendations, and by placing an order online, you may miss that whole personal experience,” says Marangon. “So, what we did was put together somewhat of a call center. The budtender can use their laptop to look up products and be sure they're getting great answers to people's questions.”

Profit vs. Protection: How to pick priorities.

Washington state’s current mask mandate may make DAB a preferred alternative for more Evergreen Market customers, but it still may not their first choice. Business operations have to change when new orders get issued. That can impact the bottom line.

For Marrangon and the rest of the Evergreen Market team, as important as financials are to defining operational success, right now, those numbers aren’t the priority.

“Our concern is definitely more on the health and safety of our customer than if we’re going to beat our numbers from last year. If we make a little bit less money than we have historically, that's fine, as long as more people are safe.”

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