Kamloops, Okanagan businesses getting backlash from customers over COVID-19 protocols - InfoNews

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Kamloops, Okanagan businesses getting backlash from customers over COVID-19 protocols

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July 29, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Gail Lawson enjoyed working front desk at Kelowna's Best Western because of all the happy tourists she got to meet from all over the world. 

That is no longer the case.

"Since the pandemic, it has definitely been a whole change of atmosphere," she said. "The people that are coming here and travelling are unfortunately the ones that aren’t really as concerned (about COVID-19)."

One such individual was a guest Lawson checked into the hotel July 26. When she explained that the hotel would be implementing a mandatory mask policy on July 28, she was met with adamant resistance by an Alberta visitor with his family.

"He said 'no, you’re following a Hitler regime, I’m not having any part of that, you’re just a bunch of sheep,'" she said.

She explained to him that the rules would not change, and he was welcome to check out by Tuesday if he did not want to wear a mask, to which he agreed. 

While the majority of customers are polite and understanding, Lawson said that she encounters rudeness due to new protocols pretty frequently. 

"At least once a day, you get someone coming in that has some comment to make," she said. "Rude comments about the masks, about us putting on gloves and standing behind the plexiglass."

Lawson is concerned for the housekeepers, as they are in contact with customers on a more personal level.

"There are people travelling that are sick, that are paying no attention to this," she said. "(The housekeepers) don’t want to even go into the rooms after the people leave, for at least 3 to 4 hours."

READ MORE: Surge in Kelowna COVID-19 cases hasn't hurt hotel industry

Public resistance to COVID-19 protocols isn't unique to the hotel industry, nor even unique to Kelowna.

Robert Stodola, owner of Señor Froggy Mexican Restaurant in Kamloops, said that not only has his staff encountered rudeness from customers, but he knows it's happening elsewhere too.

"The story of what’s going on is fairly universal," he said. "That’s what I’m getting from everywhere."

Señor Froggy posted a notice to their Facebook page earlier this month asking customers to be compassionate and understanding of the new procedures.

The post states "the abuse towards our staff is appalling," adding that "every one of them is someone's child - it could be your child."

Staff at Mittz Kitchen also encountered an incident of a similar nature, when a group of nine on a wine tour with TasteFul Excursions arrived for a meal July 4.

Maatje Stamp-Vincent, owner of TasteFul Excursions, was told that the group was belligerent on their arrival and resistant to allowing staff to separate their party into two tables, as per social distancing protocol. 

She said the owner had to push their tables apart repeatedly, and on the third occasion, one man got violent.

"He pushed the tables apart and the guy just went ballistic," she said.

The individual smashed a plate of food on the floor and shoved the owner.

Stamp-Vincent said that the group's tour was ended immediately, and that TasteFul Excursions has absolutely no tolerance for that kind of behaviour.

"What we make sure of is that everyone understands what the ground rules are, before they even pay for a tour," she said. "You don’t have the right to be rude at the wineries or at any of the venues. You need to follow the protocols, and that’s it."

She stressed that this was an isolated incident, and that most customers are grateful for the safety protocols they have in place.

READ MORE: 23 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., one more death

However, for the sake of the tourism industry as a whole, she hopes people will treat workers with more respect and start taking the precautions more seriously.

"What’s happening right now is not a joke. It’s not a hoax, it’s real," she said.

She pointed out that businesses can be fined and shut down if they don't enforce the guidelines laid out by WorkSafe B.C. and the provincial government.

"If we’re not careful and we don’t treat people with respect and courtesy to overcome this, it’s only going to get worse."

—This story was corrected at 10:15 a.m. July 29 to say the group at Mittz Kitchen was a party of nine, not six.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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