Staff at Penticton's Booster Juice stores are facing abuse over the decision to require masks in the store, despite accomodations for those who can't or won't wear masks. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Penticton Booster Juice owner pleads for kindness as abuse of staff ramps up over mask policy

The Penticton Booster Juice has seen incidents of verbal and physical abuse hurled because of masks

One of the owners of the Penticton Booster Juice stores is calling for people to show a little more kindness as their staff has been subjected to growing abuse over the stores’ mask policy.

The first week or so after the policy of making masks required for staff and customers was instituted went smoothly, co-owner Amanda Lysohirka told the Western News on Friday (Aug. 13).

After that first week passed, however, the situation quickly deteriorated, to the point that people have ripped their signs off the walls, thrown things at and spit on staff, and more.

There is currently an open file with the RCMP over some of the instances, with Lysohirka sending over video footage and information as needed.

It’s far beyond the usual customers that take issue with how long it takes for their drinks to be made or similar things, even the verbal comments that happen every day about how the staff are “sheep.”

“The bigger ones, I’d say happen two or three times a week,” said Lysohirka. “And we have never refused service to anyone. We have a big board that sits above my waist for everyone to see, you can’t miss it, and gives ways to serve you without a mask. “

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Multiple accommodations for people unable or unwilling to wear masks inside the store, including setting up tables outside for ordering and contactless pick-ups, ordering using an app and staff being willing to step outside and take an order for a customer as well.

Despite those accommodations, there are still some people who enter the store looking for the confrontation, such as one man who tossed the debit-card reader and punched down the sign after hurling shouted abuse to the 16-year-old working at the counter, before walking out of the store.

“On the security camera, you see him walk by the store, see the sign that says masks are required and stop dead in his tracks,” said Lysohirka. “He flipped around and came into the store and pulled his exemption card out immediately. He came into the store knowing he was going to pick a fight.”

With the accommodations that are in place for those people who can’t or don’t wish to wear masks, the intention behind the policy was to protect the staff who were concerned about the virus. The mask policy was set up and has continued with the support of her employees out of a concern for safety. Some of those staff though are now less supportive, because they are more worried about some of the customers’ behaviour.

COVID-19 cases in the Interior are skyrocketing, particularly in the Central Okanagan, which now accounts for most of the recent cases in the entire province. Penticton’s own weekly new cases doubled from the last week of July to the first week of August, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

READ MORE: First week of August sees 30 new COVID-19 cases in South Okanagan

It is not just tourists either, who are proving to be less than hospitable to the staff, but locals that have been customers of the store before.

One customer even went so far as to track down Lysohirka on Facebook and then messaged her about Lysohirka’s husband and children, even though Lysohirka brought the customer her drinks directly.

“Everyone has a right to come to work in a safe environment, and customers are not giving that to the staff,” said Lysohirka.

At the end of the day, all that she wants and hopes to see is that people calm down and give the staff working at the store some compassion and a bit of a break.

“Just be kind,” said Lysohirka. “I’m not looking for sympathy, just a reminder of understanding, and kindness.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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