On May 1, Texas businesses started to reopen under restricted guidelines. They are among the first in the nation to do so, and if the results of an investigation by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban are any indication, things aren’t looking good.
Cuban hired secret shoppers to evaluate the rate at which Dallas businesses were reopening and whether they were following safety protocols. The results are stark: Only 36% of businesses reopened that first weekend, and 96% of open stores weren’t compliant with the protocols. Yikes.
On May 1-3, hiring platform Shiftsmart called about 1,000 popular restaurants and retailers (based on their number of Yelp reviews) to determine how many had fully reopened for dine-in and in-store shopping. From there, the company physically audited about 300 open businesses.
They evaluated mandatory protocols such as single-use condiments, marked waiting spots, and sanitized carts, as well as suggested protocols like contactless payments, at-risk group hours, and disinfected surfaces. They found that businesses followed only about 60% of mandatory protocols and 54% of the suggested protocols. For instance, one secret shopper noted that “the manager approached the table to ask how our meal was, not wearing a mask or gloves.” (Masks fall in the “suggested” category, so while that’s technically still compliant according to Texas’s rules, it goes against the CDC’s recommendations.)
While Fast Company reported that some retail startups, such as Warby Parker, are redesigning their spaces to promote social distancing, Shiftsmart’s secret shoppers found that compliance tends to vary by industry when you look in aggregate. Shiftsmart CEO Aakash Kumar wouldn’t disclose specific businesses, but he said restaurants generally performed “slightly better” than retailers, which he attributed to their background in food safety, and single-location local brands were the most compliant. “Those are the same restaurants that have a lot of local ties to the community and have built the brand over time,” says Kumar. “You can see they’re going out of their way to take safety seriously for both their employees and the patrons.”
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has faced criticism for allowing Texas businesses to reopen when coronavirus cases in the state continue to climb. Texas has one of the lowest test rates per capita in the country.
Cuban wrote that he launched the investigation to get a better sense of what reopening looks like and to see what precautions businesses are taking to make it safe for their employees and for patrons like him and his family. “We will do this again a couple more times so we can learn what the trends are and try to learn from it,” Cuban said in his post.
It’s clear that COVID-19 is upending retail design. But based on this data, it appears most businesses have yet to meet even the most basic protocols.