A former Tesco shopper has accused the chain of “reckless disregard” in allegedly failing to ensure masks are worn at a branch in Coventry.
Chris Brand complained to the supermarket giant that he found some staff and customers were not wearing face coverings to guard against the possible spread of Covid-19 during a trip to the Jubilee Crescent Metro branch in Radford.
Chris, 32, from Foleshill, first contacted Tesco on the day that masks were made compulsory last month, saying it was “absurd” to not at least ask shoppers why they were not taking the precaution.
His email to the retail giant was before nine members of staff at the Arena Park supermarket, also in Coventry, tested positive for Covid-19. Tesco is working with Public Health England and Coventry City Council over the incident, which emerged last week, and has undertaken a deep clean in areas of the store, with no reason made public for the source of the outbreak.
Tesco replied to the email saying it would ask all colleagues to wear face coverings, other than those exempted for medical or safety reasons, in line with Government advice.
A customer service adviser also said that there was clear signage encouraging customers to take the precaution before entering outlets but “we unfortunately are not allowed to challenge this”.
Chris originally complained to the retailer after visiting the Metro store on July 24, the day face coverings were made compulsory, though Tesco and other major retailers have said they will not tell staff to enforce the law, leaving this to the police.
He wrote: “Was really disappointed to go to the store today and see that despite laws regarding face coverings in public places half of the shoppers and half of the staff were not wearing masks or even any type of facial coverings.
“Especially annoyed at the staff not wearing them since that is completely within Tesco’s control. Nobody was confronting unmasked customers, nobody was encouraging them to buy masks.
“I will not be using the store again until the law is being respected – you’re putting staff and customers at risk with this reckless disregard for the rules.”
Mr Brand was unconvinced with the response from the retail giant, responding: “Many of the points you are saying happen, simply were not happening in my trip to the store.”
Another customer service adviser then responded that his concerns had been passed on to the store management team at Coventry Jubilee Crescent.
Mr Brand replied: “Not asking people why they don’t have a mask at the door when it’s the current policy across the country that people should be wearing them is a dereliction of your duty. Imagine if you guys refused to ask people for ID when buying alcohol because it stops confrontational situations – that wouldn’t be acceptable… when it comes to a pretty serious virus? It’s even worse.
“Imagine you didn’t ask your security guards to stop shoplifters, to stop confrontation? Again, it’s absurd. I’ll be shopping in shops that I know follow the law and protect my health and their workers’ health and until Tesco follows suit, I and my partner will not attend any of your stores.
“Likewise, we will actively encourage friends and family to also forego using your stores on the basis of health and safety. You’re not discriminating against ‘invisible disabilities’ by asking people why they have no mask if they tell you, ‘I have a disability that prevents me wearing one’.
“I understand probing further is not easy/not really something you can do, but not to even ask that question is being remiss.”
Tesco has introduced signage at the front of its stores explaining that, in line with Government guidelines, customers should wear a face covering when entering.
The retailer has also said it will make packs of masks available for purchase near the front of stores in case shoppers have forgotten to bring one with them.
The retailer has taken into account visible and invisible disabilities in ensuring that it meets its legal duties to give access to all customers at its stores.
In the initial reply to Chris, a customer service adviser wrote: “We have masks, gloves and visors available for all colleagues in our stores. All our customer-facing colleagues will be asked to wear face coverings in line with the latest advice from the government.
“There may be some colleagues who are not wearing masks for medical or safety reasons, as well as those who are behind protective screens.
“Regarding customers entering stores, we have asked all customers to wear masks before shopping in-store and have signs both inside and outside of the stores to show this.
“Again, due to medical or safety reasons some customers may not be able to wear masks.
“We unfortunately are not allowed to challenge this and this is something that the police would have to get involved with in the instance of fines etc.
“We have been listening to customer feedback and monitoring how our social distancing measures are working in practice and have decided to remove the one-way system in stores in order to help customers do their shopping safely and efficiently, while maintaining a 2-metre distance.
“We are replacing the arrow stickers with the 2-metre keep your distance floor stickers in order to make sure this is enforced and we’ve introduced Social Distancing Champions who are responsible for ensuring customers are adhering to social distancing.
“They are also on hand to help with any customer queries about the measures we’re taking.
“We also have staff on the doors monitoring the amount of people entering the store, strict hand- washing policies in place, hand sanitiser available and stations to clean trolleys and baskets.
“Rest assured, the safety of our customers and colleagues is our top priority. We have reviewed the social distancing measures in our stores to ensure that they are in line with the latest guidance and that everyone can continue to shop safely.”