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Dear Management: Let Your Employees Know How Much You Appreciate Them Standing Up to Coronavirus-Created Jerks

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Meet Tison, the Costco employee who so eloquently dealt with a jerk of a customer.

In a prepared statement announcing Walmart’s first-quarter sales, President and CEO Doug McMillon didn’t tout that the retailer’s comparable sales soared an astounding 10 percent. McMillon raved about Walmart’s employees.

“More than ever, the news this quarter is our amazing associates,” McMillon said. “They are rising to the challenge to serve our customers and our communities. I’m proud of how they’re adapting and performing. Our omnichannel strategy, enabling customers to shop in seamless, flexible ways, is built for serving the needs of customers during this crisis and in the future.”

Some skeptics might roll their eyes over McMillon’s statement and accuse him of grandstanding. But I say it was a sincere gesture. Let the cynics be cynical.

McMillon isn’t the only CEO of an “essential” retailer that has touted the performance of its employees publicly during the coronavirus. Of course, they should be touting them. They are on the front lines and risking exposure to COVID-19.

But they should also be heralded in private, too. Not only are these employees risking exposure, they are putting up with a lot of crap from plenty of idiotic shoppers who are pushing the pride needle to new levels.

Did you see the video about the Costco Wholesale employee who was berated by a shopper in Colorado after the employee told the shopper he had to wear a mask while shopping inside the store because it was Costco’s policy? The customer told the employee, whose name is Tison, that he wasn’t putting on a mask “because I woke up in a free country.”

Tison handled the situation well. He told the man sternly but politely that he would have to leave the store. Then Tison ushered the man’s cart away as the man uttered expletives at him.

Well done Tison!

But I feel for Tison and others who have experienced the fury of the jerks who believe it’s their constitutional right not to wear masks even though stores like Costco are requiring them to do so to err on the side of caution. Tison and the other employees didn’t sign up for this, but unfortunately they have to deal with it.

Costco’s CEO is W. Craig Jelinek. I can only hope that Jelinek was on the phone to Tison or writing him a personal note to commend him for doing his job and enforcing the retailers’ rules. Tison deserves that, and I’m sure it would mean a lot to him.

Retail employees from across the spectrum, who are accustomed to stocking shelves, working cash registers and other duties, have been forced to deal with such unruly customers for the past several weeks — and the unruliness will continue as more retailers reopen and safety procedures are put in place that the unruly customers won’t agree with. They will continue to play the it’s-my-constitutional-right card when it’s really about wanting to be in control. It’s called narcissism, and it’s more prevalent than we realize.

So I say to the upper management of these retail establishments: Let your employees know privately and personally how much you appreciate them during this time of crisis and even after the crisis, especially when they have to deal with idiots like the one Tison had to deal with. It’s one thing to do it through a prepared and public statement, which is admirable, but it will mean a lot more when it’s completely personal.

Take the time. Make the time. Your employees deserve it.

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