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Happy New Year, everyone!
Can you believe we are now in 2022? In the Chinese calendar, this is the Year of the Tiger and apparently, it promises positive changes, business stability and finances flowing smoothly throughout the year. Well, that certainly all sounds very positive to me, and I wish that experience for us all.
In the UK and across Europe, we wrapped up 2021 with yet another coronavirus wobble that further exposed the ongoing fragility of our health services and economic recovery, as a result of the pressures imposed by this relentless virus. Just as we were gearing up for Christmas, the New Year and the additional footfall that these celebrations bring into the salons, another and supposedly more virulent strain of the virus entered our communities. In the Netherlands, for example, so-called “non-essential” retailers, including tanning salons, must (at this writing) close at 5pm, thus missing out on essential evening business.
With cases of the new Omicron variant being reported in the UK, the government immediately re-introduced restrictions requiring mandatory face-coverings for staff and customers in all retail environments, including tanning salons. This in itself, is not too much of an issue for those customers who understand it is a legal requirement and accept that it is about everyone “playing their part.” The issue lies with those who don’t or won’t wear face-coverings, although bearing in mind some of these people will be exempt, and the inevitable level of confrontations that this requirement can and often does generate in the salon.
It is a mandatory requirement for salon operators to encourage the wearing of face-coverings, but they are not required to enforce it. That is the job of the police and other public authority personnel. However, salons must display a poster in a prominent position advising the legal requirement. Failure to do this can result in a first-time offence fine of $1,500 for the salon owner with a maximum $13,500 fine for repeat offences.
Of course, the vast majority of salons are compliant with all their legal requirements, but it is completely understandable that salon owners will want to ensure the safety of their staff as a priority and will not, therefore, ask staff to enter into dialogue with customers about face-coverings and simply communicate the law via poster displays. Throughout the retail environment, business owners are extremely concerned about abuse against their staff from customers who do not want to wear a face-covering. Reminding them of the requirement was a big trigger for abuse for many when restrictions were previously in place and so, understandably, staff would be hesitant to challenge customers this time around.
The ultimate responsibility for wearing a face-covering in-salon clearly rests with individual customers and this is where confrontations can and do arise. This reminds me of the entrenched positions of some people during the endless Brexit discussions when we experienced so much partisan rancour. It is not uncommon for a face-covering customer to directly challenge a customer not wearing one, even though that customer may very well be exempt. In this type of scenario, things can unfortunately get heated very quickly and this is where staff will find it necessary to intervene and then, potentially find themselves on the receiving end of customer abuse. This is quite simply unacceptable!
The reality is that we are all frustrated, fed-up and maybe even conflicted about the rules; so let us hope that the positive changes expected in 2022 find their way to us soon and that we can, at the very least, all show each other respect and kindness.
In the tanning industry since 1982, Gary is Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of Ergoline, and runs Ergoline Plus, the exclusive distributor for a wide range of sunless products and spray systems. He is also Chairman of the Media Committee for the UK’s Sunbed Association & a European Sunlight Association member.
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