We’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the past few months and they’ve worked. We’ve done a good job in Nova Scotia of flattening the curve, far better than some other provinces and most of the U.S. The government is loosening restrictions, which means that many businesses will welcome back customers soon. But it will be a new normal.

When customers return to stores and service providers open again, things will look and feel different. What are some of the changes you can expect? And how can you help companies run so that they can stay in business, while protecting the health and safely of their employees and customers like you?

Businesses will ask customers to wear masks in high-traffic retail spaces and employees in those locations may wear other personal protective equipment (PPE). This isn’t arbitrary. It’s to protect you, employees, and your friends and family. Wearing a mask doesn’t make you a sheep and protesting their use on principle doesn’t make you a courageous fighter for individual liberties. It makes you rude, selfish, and ignorant.

Most stores will have to restrict the number of customers, which means you may have to wait before entering. Once you’re inside, most stores will have spacing guidelines such as directional arrows and markers to show how far you should be from other customers. These guides are in place for good reason; show courtesy for the employees and other customers by respecting them.

Some businesses may have changes in policies related to returns, exchanges, and warranties, in response to changes brought about by the pandemic and in anticipation of a possible second wave. As a customer, it’s your right and responsibility to know the details of these policies before making a purchase. If in doubt, ask. And if you’re concerned, ask for it in writing.

Some businesses may request payment by debit or credit card instead of cash to minimize the frequency of contact during transactions. While the Bank of Canada has asked businesses not to deny payment in cash (since not everyone is able to pay using a card), they have also stated that no law requires any business to accept cash.

As a customer, you have the right and responsibility to know what forms of payment are accepted. Once again, ask if you’re unsure. You also have the right to take your business elsewhere if you’re not able or willing to pay in the way you’re asked. I highly recommend doing this without stomping your feet or making an employee’s day miserable.

Some stores may require employees to browse for you, bringing items to you. Others may not allow you to try on clothing before purchase. These changes are to minimize the number of people handling goods, so be patient and understanding with the people who are trying to help you.

Some companies are already charging COVID fees” and more will likely start. The stark reality for many businesses is that they have to pass along higher costs if they’re going to stay in business at all. Protective equipment for workers, plexiglass barriers, and signs all cost money. And companies are bearing these higher costs in a time when they’re also serving fewer customers. Consider this when deciding if you feel an extra fee is warranted. 

And a note to business operators: keep the fees reasonable, disclose it before purchase, and do away with it once your costs have levelled out.

Finally, be patient and understanding with workers. Respect the requests that businesses make of you. If you have a concern or a question about something you see, ask someone who works there instead of taking pictures and naming and shaming on social media. In these trying times, start with the trust that most people are trying to do what’s right.

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