PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5 ) - A customer at a Phoenix Trader Joe’s was caught in a heated exchange with employees all because he wouldn’t wear a mask. Masks are required there, but the customer defied the store policy claiming Gov. Ducey says he doesn’t have to.
It all unfolded at the Trader Joe’s on 20th Street and Camelback Road on Tuesday. Cellphone video shows the situation escalates as more and more people get involved. However, this incident has some saying Gov. Ducey hasn’t made it clear enough that businesses can still enforce their own rules. In the video, the customer refuses to wear a mask and tells Trader Joe’s staff it’s not enforceable. That’s when customers like Analise Ortiz, who recorded the video, try to help the workers out.
“I said, ‘Hey please don’t give this employee a hard time, just put on a mask or leave,” she said.
Ortiz said the man then turned to another woman shopping and did fake cough in her direction.
“There was another staff member who came in and said, ‘You need to leave. You just coughed in someone’s direction,” and in the video, you can actually hear him say, ‘This is a free country. I’ll cough if I feel like it,’” Ortiz said.
Staff continues to explain to him the mask needs to be worn as he tries to show them an article claiming Gov. Ducey says there’s no more mask mandate. You can hear employees saying in the video, “We are asking you something for our company and it’s only our jobs. Our company asks us to do this regardless of what that says.”
“Well this is the governor’s state,” the man says back in the video.
The governor’s order leaves decisions up to businesses and companies themselves, and in this case, Trader Joe’s requires masks inside. Ortiz said customers followed him to check out as he continued to argue with staff and other shoppers.
“I’m not angry, you’re angry. If this guy has anger, maybe he should leave,” the man says to another customer and staff standing around.
Mayor Kate Gallego has said the City of Phoenix "will continue to be a leader in implementing measures to stop the spread of COVID."
This happened on the same day Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the city is keeping its mask mandate despite the governor’s executive order. The mayor said it’s wrong businesses are having to defend their mask policies with no help from local government.
“Our essential workers have given so much during this pandemic, and to see them still facing this kind of disrespect right toward the end was really disheartening,” Ortiz said.
In the video, employees said they were going to call authorities, but the man did eventually leave before that had to happen. If he hadn’t left, a lawyer said authorities could have charged him with a trespassing misdemeanor. Arizona’s Family reached out to Trader Joe’s corporate for comment on the incident, but a spokesperson said the company has nothing to contribute at this time.