Ms. Robinson’s mother, who asked to be kept anonymous for fear of losing her job, said that in the last two to three weeks, fights over masks had become astonishingly frequent. It was not uncommon for the police to be called to her store three to four times a day, she said.
“We’ve had shoppers go after each other,” she said. “Pushing matches, running carts into each other, running over people’s feet, ankles.”
She said that many of the staff members she supervised were already working 12 to 14 hour days and had been doing so since March. (There were physical conflicts with shoppers then, too; Ms. Robinson’s mother said she was slapped in the back of a neck by a customer who was frustrated that the store had run out of toilet paper.)
Even offering masks to customers did not work, she said: “They’ll outright decline or they’ll show you a fraudulent card that says, ‘You can’t ask me to do this.’”
The fighting between customers creates a tension that does not dissipate once the altercation has ended, she said. She no longer feels comfortable walking to her car alone after the store closes, concerned that an aggravated customer may be waiting for her there.
“Now we go two to three employees at a time,” she said.
In Florida, where cases of the virus have been rising rapidly, the state had not issued any official rules on masks as of Tuesday morning, leaving the decision in the hands of counties, localities and small businesses. (The state’s department of health issued a public advisory on June 20 recommending masks.)