Shopworkers’ refusal to wear masks is causing “conflict at the cash register” and sparking hundreds of complaints, a new survey shows.
While members of the public who visit supermarkets, banks and clothing stores must wear a face covering, the people who work in those venues do not.
This split has caused anger amongst shoppers, who have made more than 350 complaints to companies, mainly about staff not being masked and the failure of retailers to enforce social distancing.
A study by Resolver, an online complaints platform, showed that between March and July, some 2,008 people specifically mentioned face masks when making a complaint, with 500 coming in July alone.
While 443 complaints were made about online retailers, some 363 people had issues in high street shops.
Alex Neill of Resolver said the rise in complaints revealed a genuine sense of confusion about what the rules were and how they have been implemented in food outlets, supermarkets and shopping centres.
He said: “Our data shows that members of the public are becoming increasingly angry about people failing to wear masks in public, particularly on public transport and in shops.
“It also reveals a genuine sense of confusion about what the rules are and how they’ve been implemented in food outlets, supermarkets and shopping centres.
“If we’re to avoid conflict at the cash registers then the Government needs to step up their efforts to clearly communicate the rules and be firmer in how they will be enforced.”
In a remarkable illustration of the problem, Boris Johnson visited a bicycle repair shop in Beeston on Tuesday. He wore a face mask, while the owner did not.
While police have the power to issue a fine of £100, there have been concerns raised that enforcing face mask rules in shops is "unrealistic and unfair," if shoppers refuse to wear face coverings in England.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank and file officers said: "Policing the wearing of face coverings in shops can't be a priority because we simply don't have the resources.
"To expect my colleagues to be policing the supermarket aisles, looking for those shoppers not wearing a face covering, is unrealistic and unfair.”
The Telegraph contacted a number of retailers on the issue.
A Waitrose & Partners spokesperson said: “Government guidance states that it is not compulsory for people working in shops to wear face coverings. However, we are asking our Partners who do not have an exemption to wear a face covering when they are in an area where 2 metres social distancing cannot be achieved or where other measures (e.g. screens) are not present.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We are recommending colleagues who are working on the shop floor wear face coverings, unless they are working behind a Perspex screen or exempt according to government guidelines.”
The luxury department store, Harrods, is taking a stronger line, and said: “Harrods colleagues will be wearing face coverings while on the shop floor unless they are behind protective screens or are exempt.”