Baltimore Sun

Store work­ers get train­ing on mask con­flicts

- By Sapna Ma­hesh­wari Retail · Infectious Diseases · Industries · Health Conditions

Many re­tail work­ers will re­ceive a new sort of prepa­ra­tion for this year’s holiday sea­son: train­ing on how to man­age con­flicts with cus­tomers who re­sist maskwear­ing, so­cial dis­tanc­ing and store ca­pac­ity lim­its.

The Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, a trade group rep­re­sent­ing about 16,000 re­tail­ers, said Thurs­day that it had teamed with the Cri­sis Pre­ven­tion In­sti­tute, a com­pany focused on re­duc­ing work­place vi­o­lence, to help re­tail work­ers learn how to pre­vent and deesca­late shop­per dis­putes that emerge from pan­demic re­stric­tions.

The train­ing puts a spot­light on the un­ex­pected chal­lenges that store work­ers have been forced to grap­ple with during the pan­demic. Most re­tail­ers were early to re­quire masks and dis­tanc­ing in stores, but some shop­pers have flouted the rules, putting em­ploy­ees in un­com­fort­able and some­times fright­en­ing po­si­tions.

In the on­line train­ing, “one of the ma­jor sce­nar­ios is around an em­ployee ask­ing a cus­tomer to wear a mask, and he re­acts,” said Adam Lukoskie, vice pres­i­dent of the NRF Foun­da­tion, the trade group’s non­profit arm. “There’s an­other sce­nario where a mother and child are there and are up­set this gen­tle­man is not wear­ing a mask so then the em­ployee has to help make peace.”

Susan Driscoll, pres­i­dent of the Cri­sis Pre­ven­tion In­sti­tute, said the on­line train­ing pro­gram and ac­com­pa­ny­ing COVID-19

Cus­tomer Con­flict Pre­ven­tion cre­den­tial are “re­ally focused on how to en­gage your think­ing brain over your emo­tional brain.” It teaches em­ploy­ees how to rec­og­nize what stage of a cri­sis a con­sumer may be in, and what they can do to defuse the sit­u­a­tion, she said.

“It is very prac­ti­cal,” Driscoll said. For ex­am­ple, she said, if a shop­per is very dis­tressed, the pro­gram of­fers tips on “how to ver­bally and non­ver­bally com­mu­ni­cate em­pa­thy and sup­port” while masked.

“Say, ‘Would you like to get out of the line and talk this through, or would you like to talk to a man­ager?’ ” she con­tin­ued. “Giv­ing them a choice puts them back in con­trol, and you get them out of the way and out of the line from cus­tomers and help deesca­late the cri­sis.”

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