Video shows Costco worker calmly handling shopper berating him over mask policy

"I'm not doing it," the customer said, "because I woke up in a free country." The Costco employee's response won him praise online.
/ Source: NBC News
By Janelle Griffith

A Costco employee is being lauded online for his handling of an encounter with a customer who recorded himself berating the worker and refusing to wear a mask.

A video of the incident posted to Twitter on Monday has been viewed millions of times and highlights a reality for many retail workers who are having to enforce stores' rules and public health guidelines on masks. The original video was posted on Instagram before it was deleted.

Costco requires every employee and customer in its stores to wear a mask that covers the mouth and nose to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In the 37-second video, which has 6.3 million views, a customer who appears to be in a checkout line can be heard telling a Costco employee whose name tag says Tison, "I'll just put you on my 3,000-follower Instagram feed, mostly locals."

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The employee waves to the camera and says: "Hi everyone. I work for Costco and I'm asking this member to put on a mask because that is our company policy."

"So either wear the mask," the employee starts to say before the customer briefly turns the camera on himself and says: "And I'm not doing it. Because I woke up in a free country."

The customer resumes recording the employee who then takes the man's shopping cart and says: "Have a great day" as he wheels it away.

The customer asks the employee if he is going to take his cart full of toilet paper, detergent and other items away.

"Sir, have a great day. You are no longer welcome here in our warehouse," the worker responds. "You need to leave. Thank you very much."

The customer can be heard telling a woman beside him wearing a mask that he will give her his Costco membership card.

"He's going to take the cart away," the customer says. "Because he's a p---- little b----."

"There he is walking away with all my stuff," the customer continues. "There he goes. Because I'm not a f------ sheep."

A spokeswoman for Costco declined to comment Wednesday. The employee did not immediately return a request for an interview.

The worker was praised by many on Twitter, including actress Busy Philipps who said he was a "hero." Some Twitter users suggested Costco give Tison a raise.

Tison replied from his Twitter account, saying, "People of Twitter thank you for all of the support."

He added: "I was just trying to protect our employees and our members."

The president and chief executive officer of Costco, Craig Jelinek, explains the warehouse chain's mask policy in a letter addressed to members posted on the company's website. The letter cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as advising that face coverings can help slow the spread of the virus, including by those who are not aware they are infected.

"This is not simply a matter of personal choice; a face covering protects not just the wearer, but others too," the letter states. "In short, we believe this is the right thing to do under the current circumstances.

"Although some may disagree with this policy or question its effectiveness, we’re choosing to err on the side of safety in our shopping environments," Jelinek wrote.