“Unfortunately it’s up to employees to ask customers to wear their masks properly, which becomes exhausting, especially when you have to do it all day long,” said Julia, a Whole Foods Market employee in California who asked to be identified only by her first name because she fears retribution. “Sometimes you’ll ask and they will pull it up and then just pull it down again.” (Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

Rachel Malish, a Whole Foods spokeswoman, said the company follows local ordinances and provides face masks for customers at store entrances. In places where masks are required, an employee is stationed at the entrance to make sure customers have face coverings.

Some shoppers say spotty enforcement makes them feel unsafe. Aileen McNally was surprised to encounter unmasked customers during a recent trip to the hardware store in Ulster County, N.Y., where she lives. Masks have been mandatory in the state since mid-April, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed an executive order requiring them in public spaces.

McNally, 55, said she confronted the two shoppers, who shouted expletives at her and told her to mind her own business. Nearby employees, she said, didn’t step in, and the store manager told her “he can’t make any customers wear masks.”

“Home Depot’s lack of responsibility to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus is very troubling,” she said, adding that she doesn’t plan to shop at the chain anymore. “They’re basically telling their masked customers: ‘We don’t care about you.’ ”

Margaret Smith, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, said the company has posted signs and makes frequent announcements over the loud speaker asking customers to wear masks in stores where local mandates require them. But, she said, the company is not asking “stores to police local mandates, because it can be dangerous to put our associates in that position.”

Back in Alabama, the discount store where Kae Palmer works began requiring employees to wear masks in mid-June, though she says workers often remove them in stockrooms, break areas and management offices. Just about everybody — supervisors, employees, shoppers — complains about having to wear them, she said, and there is very little enforcement of the rules.

“It gives the impression that corporate doesn’t actually care about employees and is doing the bare minimum to protect themselves from being sued,” said Palmer, 22, who brings her own masks to work because the store provides only one disposable mask per week. “As one of only three employees that wore a mask before they were mandatory, the actions tell me that management don’t take the situation seriously.”

She is careful, she said, not to call out shoppers without masks. Even then, it’s not always possible to avoid confrontation: Some customers, she said, give her a hard time for wearing a mask.

“I don’t really want someone to pick a fight with me over a mask,” she said.

Source: The Washington Post