We Have Questions

Many big retailers have announced rules that customers must wear masks when shopping, as meticulously tracked by The Times’s Gillian Friedman. But however explicitly a company’s policy is worded, enforcement is another issue. In an eye-opening story out today, The Times’s Michael Corkery found that major companies are taking a decidedly hands-off approach.

It’s often up to rank-and-file employees to enforce mask policies, and they didn’t sign up for this. Chains like Walgreens and Walmart say that employees shouldn’t bar maskless customers from entering a store or refuse them service once inside. This muddles the “mandatory” mask-wearing edict, creating opportunities for confusion and confrontation.

• It’s akin to Walmart’s policy on bringing guns into its stores: discouraged, but not enforced. Those two policies are colliding, with an 18-year-old Walmart “health ambassador,” who asks customers to put on masks before entering a store in North Carolina, telling Michael that he has noticed more customers carrying guns into the store, giving him extra pause about telling them to put on a mask.

No exceptions? Workers and unions say that companies need to take a stricter stance on masks, either by hiring security guards to refuse entry to unmasked shoppers or insisting that employees refuse service to those not wearing masks and summon a manager to deal with the situation.

• Retailers, then, may end up following the airline industry, which has been making mask rules stricter and leaving less room for interpretation. Southwest now says that only children under the age of 2 are allowed not to wear masks. “The reason we’re doing this is we’re simply seeing too many exceptions to the policy and this put our flight crews in a really tough spot,” said Thomas Nealon, the airline’s president.

Steven Davidoff Solomon, a.k.a. the Deal Professor, is a professor at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law and the faculty co-director at the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy. Here, he runs down the reasons “blank check” companies are making a comeback.

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are having a moment. They have raised around $19 billion so far this year, already more than in any full year in the past, according to SPAC Analytics.

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