When a store employee in the Ocean County Mall in Toms River was spit at and struck with a belt after she asked two customers to pull up their masks, it didn’t surprise me at all. Asking employees to enforce the mask policy is asking for trouble. With the volatility of this issue, it’s putting an employee in a dangerous situation to ask him or her to be the mask police. According to an article on nj.com, an employee at Zumiez in the Ocean County Mall noticed two customers wearing their masks around their necks and then asked them to pull the masks up over their faces.

The two customers became irate, according to the article, and one grabbed a belt, snapping it at the employee and the other spat at her. I recently asked an employee at a home improvement store this question: Who is in charge of making sure customers “mask up”? He answered, “No one. The customers police each other. We’re not allowed to say anything to them.”

That’s a good policy. Why should an employee, who may already believe he’s at risk of catching COViD-19, take on the extra risk of confronting a crazy customer? Retail employees are not security guards. They’re not police. Some stores even have a policy that prohibits their workers from confronting shoplifters because of the potential danger involved. You may think this isn’t a dangerous situation and since non maskers aren’t criminals it’s not that a big deal to confront them.

We all know that everyone’s wound up and tense and everyone is judging everyone else’s mask wearing (or not wearing). We know what a polarizing issue this is. Why have an employee ruffle someone’s feathers by having them do the dirty work? If a store decides to be strict about the mask policy, an employee should have the right to distance himself from someone who’s not wearing a mask if it makes him feel safer. But to give him the responsibility (and the headache) of having to be the bad guy (or the good guy, depending on which side of the mask debate you’re on) is simply not fair. And it’s also way outside of the scope of the responsibility a retail employee should be charged with.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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