San Antonio-based H-E-B will 'urge,' but not require, shoppers to mask up — and that’s bullshit

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Grocery chain H-E-B has opened submissions for annual Quest for Texas Best competition. - COURTESY H-E-B
  • Courtesy H-E-B
  • Grocery chain H-E-B has opened submissions for annual Quest for Texas Best competition.

In December, the Current reported that employees of grocery chain H-E-B felt bullied into not forcing shoppers to don masks, because, well, people are assholes.

Now — against clear advice from the Centers for Disease Control — Texas' fuckstick governor is prematurely lifting the state's mask mandate. The San Antonio-based grocer responded by saying it will no longer require shoppers to don face coverings while perusing its aisles once the order goes into effect on March 10.

Responding to an outcry on Twitter, H-E-B said its decision comes down to the number of confrontations employees have faced since the company introduced its own mask rule in spring of last year.

“H-E-B strongly encourages the use masks and requires it for all Partners and vendors,” a representative of the chain told Twitter user @drewsaplin late Tuesday. “We ask that all our customers please wear masks in our stores. To protect the safety of our Partners, we will not engage in confrontation.”

Of course, the point of requiring people to wear masks is to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 44,000 Texans since this time last year. Sure, a good number of us will continue to follow common sense and cover up, but those who don't will put others at risk.

Even a cursory perusal of the grocery chain’s Twitter feed shows people are pissed that the revered chain — which gained national applause for its responses to COVID and the state's winter storm crisis — would increase risks to its employees and vendors by not requiring shoppers to do what's right.

H-E-B spokesperson Lisa Helfman provided a full statement to news outlets late Tuesday, saying the chain would “urge all customers” to wear masks, while requiring staffers and vendors to do so.

“Although there is no longer a statewide mask order, H-E-B believes it is important that masks be worn in public spaces until more Texans and our Partners have access to the Covid-19 vaccine," the statement read. "As an essential service provider during the pandemic, H-E-B is focused on the health and safety of our Partners and customers. H-E-B will still require all our Partners and vendors to wear masks while at work, and we urge all customers to please wear a mask when in our stores."

H-E-B was months ahead of state officials, in creating and enforcing in-store mask policies. In some cases, it brought on security staff to enforce the those rules so line-level employees would be spared the confrontations.

An H-E-B spokeswoman didn't respond to the Current's query whether it will hire security to encourage mask use at its stores.

Given H-E-B's willingness to recognize its employees' work during the COVID crisis with pandemic-related incentives and resources — including COVID-19 "thank you" bonuses and permanent pay raises — it seems odd the company won't stand up for them once again by requiring customers to wear masks.

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