Yochanan Gordon’s opinion piece “The Mask in my Pocket” (Inside Out, August 28) had some thoughtful reflections on teshuvah; however, in his concluding remarks he had some hurtful and defamatory remarks to make about our local business owners. He stated, “I scoff inwardly at the signs in storefronts that say ‘No mask no entry,’ as if the store owners really care whether or not their patrons, who are helping pay their rent and put food on their tables, are wearing masks or not.”
I find this statement offensive. Mr. Gordon is questioning the sincerity of our local business owners in their reasonable request that customers wear masks. Many of us are in demographics that are more susceptible to COVID-19. Do people over the age of 50 or people with mild asthma not have a right to protect our lives while working hard to earn a parnassah? And those of us who are not in such demographics ourselves are intent on protecting the lives of our customers and patrons, who themselves or their loved ones might be.
Mr. Gordon claims that our customers are paying our rent and putting food on our tables, as if we are the recipients of the public’s tzedakah. We invest our capital and labor into our businesses and we pay our own rent and put food on our own tables. We are certainly thankful for our customers’ business, and treat them with all the kindness and respect they deserve as patrons of our respective establishments. However, our local businesses and their customers engage in an exchange wherein they both benefit in the exchange of goods and services for value. It is not a lopsided scenario wherein only one party benefits. A basic principle in the freedom of contract is that the two parties have the right to dictate the terms and conditions of the exchange to each other, and if either side does not consent, then the other party is free to walk away. When we as business owners place signs in our windows asking that our customers wear masks upon entry, we are establishing a condition of participating in business with us. No one is holding a gun to our customers’ heads, demanding they wear a mask. They are free to walk away if that is a condition that they personally find unreasonable or burdensome. As much as it may sadden us, we do not begrudge any customer who prefers not to wear a mask and therefore chooses not to patronize our establishments. That is their right as a potential customer, as much as it is our right to insist on one as a merchant.
Mr. Gordon also stated that asking customers to wear a mask is “almost as sincere as the BLM signs that were emblazoned on some local storefronts ahead of local protests.” I did not personally see any such signs, but if there were some, you don’t know those store owners’ convictions. I did see many stores boarded up in an attempt to protect their investment from possible looting.
Mr. Gordon, do not question our sincerity and commitment to protecting our lives, the lives of our loved ones, and the lives of our customers. Do not take credit for our hard work and labor as proprietors in this community. As we prepare for these Yamim Nora’im, and in a spirit of teshuvah, I suggest that you take your introspection just a tad further, and consider perhaps whether you have been unkind and unfair to our local, hardworking business owners and operators.
A mask-wearing business owner in the 5 Towns