Policy making is an art, or at the very least it is an action that requires thoughtfulness and insight. It was policymaking without those attributes, after all, that gave birth to the adage, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” American Ecologist Garrett Hardin once opined, “Every plausible policy must be followed by the question, ‘And then what?’” It is a statement as pertinent today as the day it was uttered, most notably in the age of COVID and policy making based on the shifting sands of a twenty-four-hour news cycle and an increasingly fickle public opinion. 

At least, that was our initial thought when we read about a man wearing only shiny red boxer shorts and a facemask, running around a Louisiana Walmart beating the elderly employees in his path. 

If you took a moment to view the video above, you will notice that the man appears to be honoring Walmart’s new policy that their customers be required to wear facemasks. In reality, it is actually a ski mask with an opening that reveals his mouth and provides no protection whatsoever, but to be fair, Walmart probably didn’t define in their policy specifically what kind of face mask must be worn. 

As with all things today, it is the intent rather than the action or result that really matters.

Of course, he didn’t actually have to wear that mask. Walmart, like other retailers, has announced they won’t actually enforce these policies because whack jobs across the nation have been killing their employees over the issue. This simply highlights the initial point made in this post; you’ve made the policy, now what? But even that question is a distraction from the real issue.

No, the underlying issue that has been woefully neglected by the media as it covers this story is this; Walmart should have a pants policy. They really should require their customers wear pants when in their stores. I am not aware that one exists, and if it does a late-night visit to a Walmart near you would tell you that, like the mask thing, it is certainly not being enforced.

Also, it seems like a less emotionally controversial issue as well. I don’t recall many recent stories about employees being beaten, shot or otherwise assaulted because they had to ask a customer to wear pants. Overall it seems a safer policy to enforce, at least from a workers’ compensation and risk management perspective. 

Fortunately, the employees assaulted in this incident were said to be not seriously injured. The man, who after the assault shed his underwear (but kept the mask – thank God for that policy!), ran from the store. Police were able to identify him, most likely because he was one of the few people at the time running around Louisiana wearing nothing but a ski mask, and arrest him. After a mental review in a hospital, he will be charged with a variety of crimes. 

All is well that ends well. But Walmart may want to consider that pants policy. They would probably have far fewer injuries from employee assaults if they did.

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