London

Local business 'dispirited' after anti-maskers slam store with negative reviews

A London, Ont. business is being slammed with negative reviews on social media after a group of people refused to abide by the store's mandatory mask policy and were asked to leave. 

Londoners have flooded the store's social media pages to counteract negative reviews

Employee Melissa Parrott and owner Troy Hutchison in front of Grooves Records store in downtown London, Ont. (Gary Ennett/CBC)

A London, Ont. business is being slammed with negative reviews on social media after a group of people refused to abide by the store's mandatory mask policy and were asked to leave. 

Troy Hutchison, the owner of Grooves Records on Dundas Street, said the reviews came after an incident last week when a customer refused to wear a mask inside the store. 

Back in July, London's medical officer of health made face masks mandatory inside businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19. The city then also passed a bylaw requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces, including retail establishments. 

While staff at Grooves Records gave the customer the option to deliver whatever product they wanted free of charge and also offered curbside pickup, the customer was set on entering the store, but staff did not let the person in. 

"We gave him all these options for folks that can't enter the store because we want to make every accommodation, but he didn't want to be accommodated in any of those ways and left." 

The next day, Hutchison said, the person came back with a small group of other people who also refused to put on their masks while being asked to do so by an employee that is immunocompromised. 

"I saw this going down and I got very angry. I yelled at them. I swore at them. You know, we called the police at that point," Hutchison said. 

"We're a small business and it's hard operating a retail establishment at any time, especially hard during a pandemic. The staff don't need the grief."

The group recorded the interaction and posted the video on social media. After that, the business started receiving negative reviews online, tarnishing the ratings they had worked on for more than 15 years.  

"We go out of our way to provide good service and to have one day happen where that gets knocked right down was pretty dispiriting," said Hutchison. 

'People need to find something better to do with their time' 

Exemptions to city's mandatory mask bylaw do exist and those are valid for people with underlying medical conditions as well as for children under the age of 12. Additionally, there are other accommodations made under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

"There's people who have a legitimate reasons why they can't wear a mask, and that's why the bylaw is structured the way it is," Acting Mayor Jesse Helmer said during a media briefing Monday.

"But the idea that there be groups of people going around together and not wearing masks is a really bad idea in the middle of a public health emergency and so I think people need to cut out the nonsense and not do things like that."

"People who are just kind of roving around looking to create conflict because they don't like the mask bylaw ... need to find something better to do with their time," he said, adding that most local businesses have gone out of their way to accommodate those who can't wear masks.  

The region's medical officer of health, Dr. Chris Mackie, said businesses can set stricter rules around their mask policy, like for example asking those who are exempt from wearing a mask to actually provide proof.  

Londoners step in to support Grooves Records

Hutchison said the group of anti-maskers that he saw last week were not a reflection of the type of clientele his store has seen over the course of the pandemic.

In fact, he said the vast majority of Londoners have complied with the mask policy and those who are unable to have been happy to receive accommodation.

Grooves Records offers free local delivery for purchases $50 and over. They also offer curbside pickup for those who are unable to wear a mask inside the store. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC News)

Ever since the negative reviews were posted online, Londoners have been flooding the store's social media pages with positive reviews about their experiences at the store trying to counteract the actions of the group. 

"I woke up to literally a hundred new Facebook reviews from local Londoners that were all positive, expressing love for Grooves," he said. 

"I don't want to say it was worth having to deal with all the crap, but the support from London has been just amazing, like, thank you, London. It really made my day."

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