(Without looking condescending or like I'm telling them how to do their job)

The other day, I was at a shop and someone was not wearing their mask (it was hanging on one of their ears, so they clearly had one).

It's rather frequent for people to not wear the mask properly (ie: under the nose) but this person wasn't wearing it AT ALL.

We are in France and it's illegal for people to not wear a mask and I believe shop owner can get in trouble for it (also the fact that not wearing a mask put everyone in more danger than necessary).

I wanted to talk to one of the employees and tell them that "someone over here is not wearing their mask" (so that the person would be kicked out or put the mask on or show proof that it was okay for them to not wear the mask) but I was afraid at how the employee would react at me telling them about it. It's a grocery shop where I go rather frequently so I really don't want to be on bad terms with the employees.

So, how could have I tell the employee while minimizing the risk of them taking it badly?

  • I know in the USA shop employees are sometimes reluctant to try to enforce mask rules because some customers can get violent. What is the situation in France? Would an employee be putting him or herself in danger by asking a shopper to put on a mask?
    – DaveG
    Dec 29, 2020 at 22:00
  • @DaveG That would be very unlikely IMO. Sure, the shopper will get upset and might become verbaly violent but I don't believe that they will get physicaly violent. Beside, people here don't habe guns or knife on them, so that would greatly reduce the risks if someone were to become violent
    – Ael
    Dec 30, 2020 at 7:34

1 Answer 1


I've worked retail in The Netherlands for quite a while. I've had customers point out things that needed my attention. Of course, there's different ways this can be done and some are nicer than others, but in general, people are likely to overthink this: I'm working the store, I'm there to handle situations from 'the toilet ran out of toilet paper' to 'someone's trying to steal'.

In general, it's nicest if people ask me to fix the problem, or just point out a potential problem, instead of commanding me to immediately fix a problem. I've always preferred remarks like 'Could you (send someone to) refill the toilet paper if you have the time' over 'You must refill the toilet paper'. Similarly, it was more helpful to get 'I saw that person put a small item in their pocket, perhaps you should check it out' than 'you should call the cops on that thief'.

In order to avoid 'telling someone how to do their job' it's better to err on the side of asking, or making sure to convey that you understand the situation is potentially a problem, instead of presenting it as definitely a problem that they should fix.

Instead of telling an employee 'someone over here is not wearing their mask' (which would sound like there's definitely a problem you want them to fix right now), ask them if they are aware that there is someone that isn't wearing their mask.

You could pre-fix that with a remark about how you fear the store might get into trouble, something like "I've heard stores could get into trouble if customers aren't wearing masks, are you aware there's someone not wearing their mask in the pancake isle?' would work. A question also leaves open the options for the employee to reassure you that the store won't be in trouble, or that they are aware of the problem already (but can't handle it for some reason).

One last note: When you've told the employee, don't look like you expect them to drop everything and handle the situation right at that moment, themselves. In cases where other people are involved (like shoplifters or potentially angry customers), an employee might just tell you 'they'll handle it' without immediately looking like they'll jump into action. In cases like that, sometimes all the employee has to do is alert a supervisor/store manager/boss. Just thank them and move on with your shopping.

  • 1
    The security person, by the main entrance, in charge of checking, is also a good option. 2nd is manager, as already mentioned in answer. My SO is doing just that at the moment. FWIW: unfortunately, some shops will not give a *** about your concern / request.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 21, 2020 at 11:32
  • 1
    @OldPadawan Oh, yeah! The shops I worked didn't have security person, so we'd alert the boss if there was a suspicion of shoplifting (to check the cameras). I've heard of the stores that usually have security at the door also using these people to enforce mask regulations, so they might be a good option to ask. I wouldn't directly ask for the store manager, that is more likely to be perceived as 'I'm going to complain' and closer to being condescending (am I not good enough for you?). Besides, without telling me what you need the manager for, I'm not very likely to just call them up.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Dec 21, 2020 at 11:37
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    oh, I make myself more clear, sorry :) if you see the manager (shirt tag + badge), go straight to them, instead of 'bothering' employee who might not be able / trained to handle such cases.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 21, 2020 at 11:52
  • @OldPadawan Ahh. Yeah that makes more sense, and I think that's a good idea too!
    – Tinkeringbell
    Dec 21, 2020 at 12:16
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    @Tinkeringbell, but it still falls down to how you look and sound, even if I use "Could you...", I would get stared down or get an answer that brings out the sarcasm in me
    – Yadu
    Dec 22, 2020 at 7:35

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