AT&T has sent a notice to its retail stores with instructions on how to deal with potential issues, including those of law enforcement, on why they remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Describing it as “best practice only”, the guidelines sent on Thursday “should be used in the event that officials, individuals or groups inquire about the reasons for the opening of the AT&T store.”
Wednesday, AT&T announced the closure of 40% of its retail stores across the country, all stores closing on Sundays and the others open during modified hours. The decision applies to retail stores owned by AT&T, not those owned and operated by individuals.
A number of states have issued orders requiring the closure of all, except essential, businesses. AT&T argues that it is considered to be a core business as an “essential communications provider” under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. The company also provides technical support in its retail stores for first responders as part of its FirstNet program.
“Our customers and first responders find the service we provide in our retail stores invaluable, especially at times like this,” a company spokesperson said in an email to The edge. “Due to changing circumstances and social distancing guidelines, we are balancing the need to serve the public in our retail stores with the health and safety of our customers and employees.”
AT & T’s position is, the letter says, that its retail stores provide “essential services that are essential to the public’s ability to communicate during the current emergency.” If a store is “visited by local government officials or the police and they ask why we are open during the Shelter in Place order”, the letter asks store employees “to explain that AT&T is an essential business providing essential services and show them the printed copy of the attached letter. If they have any other questions, please hire your management team. “
The spokesman added that AT&T retail employees have been instructed on social distancing and personal hygiene, and that stores have posted signs reminding customers of CDC best practices. Store employees were “instructed to wash their hands and wipe doors, appliances, phones and surfaces after each interaction with the customer” and to wipe the entire store every two hours.
“We know of various directives and, in some cases, orders that set out the requirements that businesses and individuals must follow during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the store note said. “AT&T is committed to meeting these requirements while providing essential services to our communities.”
Quarantine orders have spread to the United States in the past week. California Governor Gavin Newsom Made Statewide Shelter Order which limits companies that can stay open. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday issued an order for everyone “not vital”Companies to close.
On March 13, AT&T told employees to start working from home, but the order did not apply to workers in its retail stores or workers who install equipment for customers.
AT&T previously suspended its arbitrary broadband caps in response to the coronavirus pandemic and signed the FCC Keep Americans Connected Pledge, agreeing not to disconnect subscribers or to charge late fees during epidemic.