The ‘Can’t Make Me’ Customer

Grocery Workers Encounter Hundreds a Day

Credit: Jeff Koterba,

While waiting in line at Whole Foods last Thursday, a customer in front of me quickly got out of line and into another after refusing the checker’s request to comply with store policy that must adhere to California’s mandatory wearing of cloth face coverings when indoors while in a public space. I chatted with the checker after the incident, who told me that because of the customer’s refusal to wear a face mask, “I refused to help the customer,” which is the absolute right of the employee, as stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

In the meantime, we continued to talk, and I observed the “can’t-make-me-I-don’t-care-about-you consumer, and I scrutinized the Whole Foods checker’s body language and facial expressions which, in my mind I projected as a nonplussed demeanor — I don’t recall the checker even acknowledging the selfish customer — probably was more focused on the clock striking 9 o’clock quitting time. Finishing up, the items were bagged, and the maskless customer paid and exited the building.

At the same time, my conversation continued with my checker: “Shouldn’t the manager step in and enforce policy?”


“So why isn’t the manager taking action,” I asked, as the boss stood nine feet to my right, fully aware of what was happening.

“I don’t know,” the checker said.

How irresponsible, I remarked.

“Yes, you’re right” the checker said with a look of reticence.

I said goodbye and on the walk home I decided to write a letter to Whole Foods’ corporate offices later in the evening. A little research brought me to this section of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sec. 12182. Prohibition of discrimination by public accommodations

“Nothing…shall require an entity to permit an individual to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of such entity where such individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”

It’s hard to understand the reasoning and rationale of those who choose not to wear masks, or continue to travel and not quarantine when returning home, or cry hoax. They are in the minority, but it’s just the right amount of people to slow the progress of kind, caring, compassionate humans who are doing the right thing to defeat COVID-19. I’m an optimist, and a realist at all times, and we will get through this. I don’t know that for a fact, but I feel pretty good about it.

Happy Holidays everyone. Be safe.


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