CORONAVIRUS: How one West Seattle business has decided to handle masks after mandate ends

This is the last week that our state and county will require people to wear masks in many indoor settings. The end of the mandate does not mean that people can’t choose to continue wearing masks, nor does it mean that businesses or other facilities/institutions can’t choose to continue requiring them. Shandon Armstrong, proprietor of the gift shop Alair (3270 California SW), told us, “I’ve been struggling with how to handle masks this time around. … I finally came up with a solution that I’m happy with and my staff is comfortable with. I thought it might help other businesses that are also struggling with what the right thing to do is …” So as of next Saturday, March 12th, this will be Alair’s policy:

*Masks (will be) no longer required in Alair

*Our staff will usually still wear masks per their own wishes and we are all fully vaccinated and boostered

*Masks are still awesome and keeping everyone safe, so:

*Anyone that chooses to wear a mask while shopping will receive an appreciation discount of 5% off their total purchase

Even after next Saturday, masks will continue to be required in health-care and long-term-care facilities, aboard transit, and in correctional facilities.

50 Replies to "CORONAVIRUS: How one West Seattle business has decided to handle masks after mandate ends"

  • Jan loreenmartin March 6, 2022 (7:51 pm)

    Wise AND diplomatic…..jlm

  • Deb March 6, 2022 (8:00 pm)

    Shannon – What a great personalized way to honor everyone. Well Done. 

  • Sara March 6, 2022 (8:49 pm)

    I understand that this a difficult time for businesses, but this does feel a bit strange to me. Feels a bit like an unmasked tax, which seems unnecessary and intentionally divisive especially when masks that protect the wearer are now widely available. 

    • Sam March 6, 2022 (9:51 pm)

      It’s not a tax, it’s a coupon. When I spend the extra time to open up and read the ValPak that arrives in my mailbox I get a few bucks off my purchases with the coupons I clip. If you don’t clip coupons, you’re not getting taxed on your purchases, you’re just missing out on a discount. Here you don’t even need to clip anything, so I’m totally in!

    • thrillcat March 6, 2022 (10:06 pm)

      An anti-masker will call it an unmasked tax. A logical human will consider it a courtesy discount. For having the courtesy to care about the employees of the shop and their safety, who obviously still have concerns based on their decision to continue wearing masks. Kinda like getting a discount for being a decent person. 

    • Ray March 6, 2022 (10:25 pm)

      That’s… not how discounts work… Or taxes, for that matter.

      • Auntie March 6, 2022 (10:46 pm)

        I guess that is how discounts will work here. I’m in!

        • Ray March 7, 2022 (8:26 am)

          Agreed. My point was that discounts are not taxes on people who don’t use them. 

      • Sue H March 7, 2022 (12:24 am)

        So what about stores who give discounts to seniors or to veterans? Can I now claim that they are being anti-non senior or anti-non veteran to me because I don’t get that discount? That would be ridiculous. A business can do what they want to do within the law and offer a discount to whoever they want, and if it’s really that problematic, go to a different store.

        • Ray March 7, 2022 (11:11 am)

          I was saying that discounts are not equal to taxes for those who don’t receive them.  Love this idea.  Sorry if that was confusing!

    • Elton March 6, 2022 (11:26 pm)

      If it feels strange to you then you can choose a different policy for your small business. Let our other small business owners do what’s comfortable with them as long as it’s inclusive. This doesn’t exclude people from shopping who don’t want to wear a mask to shop, so I don’t see the problem. They’re not raising the default prices on all their merchandise by 5%, they’re voluntarily taking a hit on their profit margin for people who continue to wear masks. They could give you no discount and say that everyone must wear a mask to enter the store, and that would also be within their rights as a private business.

      • ACG March 7, 2022 (11:45 am)

        Well said, Elton!  

    • Adam March 7, 2022 (7:30 am)

      Wow, in what strange world do we live in where not getting a discount is viewed as a tax?? Enough with the victimhood. 

    • Aaron March 7, 2022 (7:54 am)

      What’s divisive is that we’re over two years into the pandemic, over 1,000,000 Americans have died, 1,500 died yesterday, and some people are still complaining about protecting their neighbors.

    • Anne March 7, 2022 (8:15 am)

      What a ridiculous statement-it’s a coupon -not a tax. 

  • My two cents … March 6, 2022 (8:55 pm)

    Never have been to Alair – based on this news, will be changing that! Hats off to a creative solution.

    • MK March 7, 2022 (7:16 am)

      Me too! :)

  • JLI March 6, 2022 (10:26 pm)

    For a complex problem that has no answer that will leave everyone happy, I think the is a kind and creative approach. Representing west seattle businesses well. 

  • WS Mom March 6, 2022 (10:37 pm)

    In response to Sara: calling it an “unmasked tax” is the strange part.  Might as well say any discount is a “tax” to those who don’t qualify.  Might need to correct your definition on “tax.” Woohoo to Alair! 

  • Watertowerjim March 7, 2022 (5:48 am)

    Very creative, but curious what metric(s) will be used to determine when this policy will end?  Or, will it end?  Will it be science-based?  Why do some people “trust the science” that created the mask mandate but not the science that says it can be lifted?  

    • Margo March 7, 2022 (8:03 am)

      Some people might be waiting until their children can be vaccinated. Remember, there is no current vaccine for under age 5. That’s less a metric, and more a personal concern. 

    • Anne March 7, 2022 (8:25 am)

      Lifting mask mandate doesn’t mean you cant or shouldn’t wear a mask if you feel like it. I live with an immune compromised partner-& will continue to wear a mask indoors -especially in stores-for the foreseeable future. I applaud & respect Alairs decision-the consideration for their employees & customers is very much appreciated.

    • Jenben March 7, 2022 (8:41 am)

      Thank you Alair for this! Def will be visiting and shopping with my mask on ;

    • pacnw_happy March 7, 2022 (8:57 am)

      Perhaps it is less about science and more about how the business owner and their employees feel? There are as many people with an emotional reaction to the lifting of mask mandates as there are to their original imposition. If they wanted to give a 5% discount for wearing green on St. Patrick’s day or a costume on Halloween the could do that as well, even if the science behind those is a bit hazy. :) 

    • Pessoa March 7, 2022 (9:52 am)

      Good question.  Public health policy is as much about getting everyone on the same page – social cohesiveness – as it is about actual science and health.  I believe this is going to become more and more evident as we look back and dissect our response to this pandemic.  

  • Alair March 7, 2022 (6:17 am)

    I love this community so much. Thank you! Thanks for posting the idea, and for all the supportive comments. I haven’t struggled with a decision like this since Covid started- doing what I feel is the safest for my neighbors and community has been pretty clear to me- but we haven’t had a single Covid case at Alair with our employees or customers in two years. (Knocking on all the wood)  I am proud of that and stand by every decision I’ve made. I know you can’t make everyone happy (sorry Sara) but I felt very confident and strong when I came up with this solution. And based on these comments and the dozens of emails and Instagram messages I woke up to, my community agrees and understands. I love and appreciate you, West Seattle. 

    • Blinkyjoe March 7, 2022 (8:28 am)

      I support you 100% for a creative, respectful and diplomatic solution! Hope other businesses follow. 

  • Al March 7, 2022 (8:12 am)

    Nice one!  I love this idea!  You all are awesome and so glad you are still around through this whole pandemic!  You guys are so appreciated!

  • Andrea March 7, 2022 (8:50 am)

    What a great idea and it definitely shows you care about your community.

  • JW March 7, 2022 (9:01 am)

    Sorry, Alair, you lost me on this. There are many, many good
    reasons to keep wearing a mask and also many good reasons to begin weaning ourselves
    from them. No need to argue that point; everyone has their own level of comfort
    as well as their own mental need for normalcy. We’re all going to struggle with
    it and it’s already making our heads spin. No need to add a financial component
    to it. That’s not a graceful handling of the discomfort most of us are feeling
    with the change—it’s just weird. This is your choice of course, but I’ll be
    avoiding your store until that odd discount is gone (even though, I’ll likely
    be wearing the GD mask for a bit longer…).

    • AMD March 7, 2022 (12:51 pm)

      It saves the company money to keep their employees safe and healthy (just ask the many stores who had to reduce their hours during omicron due to workers calling out sick, or needing to stay home and care for sick kids).  It sounds like this company has found a way to pass those savings on to the customers who are helping them keep their doors open.  It’s your prerogative to shop wherever you choose, but I have to admit avoiding a discount is a new one for me.

    • justme March 7, 2022 (12:52 pm)

      JW, I feel exactly the same way. This seems to be more of a virtue signaling. I’d rather see a sign that says, “We continue to require masks in our shop” rather than using a vehicle to shame on the ones that don’t want to wear it anymore, and hoping for more business in the same message. I’m not an anti masker by any means, but rewarding those that do wear it is an odd call. Just have the guts to require it for everyone at this time.

      • Elton March 7, 2022 (3:20 pm)

        This comment doesn’t make sense to me. So a discount for wearing a mask to help make employees and other shoppers feel more comfortable shames people who don’t want to wear a mask but a sign that specifically says that people who don’t wear masks aren’t welcome will not make them feel ashamed? o_0 And you’re not an anti-masker, but you speak for the people who don’t agree with wearing a mask? Very interesting.

    • cwit March 7, 2022 (2:13 pm)

      Yeah, JW! You show ’em! I hope you also avoid Trader Joe’s because of their $0.05 discount when you use a reusable bag.  Stop the bag shame! (all jokes, folks)

    • Jon Wright March 7, 2022 (3:24 pm)

      Way to stick it The Man. You’ll show them! My guess: everyone bitching about this policy has never once set foot in Alair.

  • Sara March 7, 2022 (9:21 am)

    Nothing against Alair–this is clearly the right policy for their business at least based on the comments here. But, yes, like Watertowerjim, I am questioning when such measures will end, as they seem based in something other than science. 

    • AN March 7, 2022 (1:22 pm)

      For someone with cancer (or some other issue that compromises immunity), it may never end. For someone recovering from cancer treatment, it may never end. For someone with AIDS, it may never end. For someone who’s been trying to conceive and has had multiple unexplained miscarriages, so wants to protect their new pregnancy in every possible way, it may never end. WHY is it so hard to grasp that just because it has ended for you, it doesn’t end for other people?

    • Ivan Weiss March 7, 2022 (1:24 pm)

      “I am questioning when such measures will end, as they seem based on something other than science.”

      Exactly right. They seem to be based on an individual business owner’s individual business decision. What a concept! Amazing that no one had ever thought of such a thing before.

      • Watertowerjim March 7, 2022 (3:04 pm)

         Exactly right. They seem to be based on an individual business owner’s individual business decision. What a concept! Amazing that no one had ever thought of such a thing before.”

        Wait.  Does this work both ways with you?  Individual businesses didn’t need to require them to be worn either?  Really? Better tell Inslee!

  • Fernando Magellan March 7, 2022 (9:24 am)

    West Seattle is the Best ! 

  • David March 7, 2022 (9:27 am)

    Never realized this place existed until now. I applaud their clever solution to our upcoming post mask mandate reality. Now that I know this place exists, I will make a point to stop by and check it out. If they have something I want, or that is the perfect gift for someone I know, I will also make a purchase.

  • CarDriver March 7, 2022 (12:31 pm)

     For those not liking Alairs decision it’s CLEAR that you don’t think they, or any other business owner has the right-and privilege to do what they feel is best for their employees and their business. Why is that??? What is your end game??? 

    • Lisab March 8, 2022 (9:50 am)

      Well said, THANK YOU!

    • Pessoa March 8, 2022 (10:39 am)

      CarDriver:  Who said Alair doesn’t have the right to operate their business as they see fit? No one. 

  • briangri March 7, 2022 (4:01 pm)

    To be honest, I would much rather the business just specify whether they want their guests to be masked or not. If you are more comfortable with me wearing a mask, sure, I’ll wear one. Otherwise I won’t.When it becomes “you don’t have to wear a mask, but we’d like you to” or “you don’t have to wear a mask, but we’ll give you a discount!” it turns into “guess the intention”. Just be assertive — say what you want, and reasonable guests will comply!

    • DH March 7, 2022 (8:35 pm)

      @Briangri If you can’t figure out the message here I don’t know what to say. Actually I do, they obviously want their customers to wear masks but are not going to get into battles with people. They are providing a discount to encourage mask wearing. As for the people that say this isn’t science based the entire removal of mask mandates isn’t  science based.  It’s politically and economically based. 

  • justme March 7, 2022 (6:45 pm)

    Simply put: Real concern for the health and safety of customers and employees would require masks for all. For me, I’d rather shop in stores that either require them for everyone, or not at all when I’m ready. A mixed bag does nothing for my safety or the sales person at the counter.

    • Penny March 9, 2022 (2:23 pm)

      Wait- you think that you wearing a mask does nothing for your safety?  What do you do for a living if I can ask? Are you in charge of making these kinds of decisions and getting the backlash from those decisions? Or just think you know best what everyone else should be doing?

  • Alice March 7, 2022 (7:57 pm)

    Well done, Alair. As always, your approach is thoughtful and well-articulated. To everyone saying they want to show up for Alair, get your booty in there and shop! You will for sure find something you love in this store. 

  • Libra March 8, 2022 (1:34 am)

    I applaud your decision and will definitely be a new customer!  Thanks!

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