Supermarket boss Joost Deen wants clearer mouth masks policy: ‘People should feel safe’

Customers at the Deen in Purmerend, where many customers wear a mouth mask, but many don’t.Image Guus Dubbelman / de Volkskrant

One branch of Deen Supermarkten is not the other. In Purmerend Overwhere the staff do not wear masks, while in that smaller shop a distance of 1.5 meters is hardly possible. Only the cashiers have followed the advice of the management to wear a face mask. Except one. “It is simply not mandatory,” she says.

In Amsterdam, the city with an active mouth masks policy, the customer of the Deen branch on the Mosveld in Amsterdam-Noord is approached by an employee immediately at the entrance: “Do you have a mouth mask with you?” Those who say no will receive one, but it is not mandatory. “But if we get 90 percent of the customers to wear a mouth mask, we are happy,” said the employee in Amsterdam. He more than succeeded that afternoon, everyone at this Deen location – including staff – wears a mouth mask.

Joost Deen (44), as director of the third generation marketing formula in the Deen family business, is in a dilemma, he says. ‘We would like to encourage the use of face masks. But we cannot oblige our staff to wear a mouth mask, because it is not part of the company clothing. We have asked our branch managers to set a good example. But some business leaders say they don’t consider it that important. I am disappointed that some stores lack the urgency of a face mask, but I am fairly helpless. ‘

According to Deen, almost everyone in Amsterdam wears mouth masks is because ‘nice’ security guards there ‘handed out mouth masks to customers’ in a fun, playful way. “Although refusing is not a problem.”

Fun? Shouldn’t supermarkets put in place strict security guards to enforce the corona measures?

‘We should not be strict as a shopkeeper, that does not suit our industry. We should not want to come across as pedantic, as that deters customers. People should feel safe in a supermarket. It is going too far for us to refuse customers who do not want to wear a mouth mask. It becomes uncomfortable when we talk to them about it. You don’t really want to make it mandatory. We too sometimes have to deal with aggressive customers. Although you could say that it is better for the safety of our employees. ‘

Deen’s turnover has risen sharply thanks to this pandemic. Isn’t it a social responsibility to be a trendsetter in the face mask policy as a supermarket?

‘We took responsibility by being the first supermarket to give our employees a corona bonus, followed by Albert Heijn and Lidl, among others. And we have donated 400,000 euros to sports clubs. We too would prefer everyone in our stores to wear a mouth mask, but we cannot enforce it as long as the government speaks of mandatory advice. ‘

Extreme times call for extreme measures?

‘Maybe next week we will all wear mouth caps in the supermarket, it is also a matter of getting used to. Then it is the government that has to make that move, not the Dutch retailers. The government must take a stand, our industry benefits from clarity. Let the government say: a face mask is mandatory in a supermarket. Then there is no more discussion. Now we operate in a gray area. ‘

More about mouth masks

This is how you wear a mouth mask (and make sure your glasses don’t fog up)
A quick guide to putting on, wearing, removing, storing and washing the mouth mask properly.

Are mouth masks a good idea or not?
The cabinet advises wearing mouth masks in shops – a measure that experts had serious reservations about.What has changed?

Stop it! The large Volkskrant face mask test
Where do you buy them, what does it cost, which ones protect the best? The mouth cap test panel of de Volkskrant shopped, tested and posed with a cross-section of the current range of non-medical masks.

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