my delivery people aren’t following safety precautions

A reader writes:

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been relying on deliveries so that I can stay at home and help flatten the curve in my community. I’m so grateful to all the people who are working as delivery people to make this possible! But I’ve had several instances where my delivery person acted in a way that put me and my family at risk. For instance, the mail delivery person who needed my signature for a package, but wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves and made skin-to-skin contact when passing me the pen. Or the grocery delivery people who ignore delivery instructions to leave the groceries at the door and insist on knocking until I open the door — and they’re not wearing a mask and gloves either.

I know these are minimal risks, but it is still upsetting to think that basically the only people I am inviting to come near my house right now may not be taking this pandemic seriously. And my community just had the largest increase in COVID-19 cases in a single day yet.

In a few of these instances, I’ve contacted the companies that I am ordering these deliveries from to let them know their delivery personnel may not be following their guidelines. I feel bad every time I do this, especially because I know the gig economy is so reliant on good reviews from customers and I don’t want to put anyone out of a job during these scary and tense times! How would you handle this?

Something that’s become increasingly clear in the last few months is that you can’t rely on anyone else to protect your health for you. You’ve got to do it yourself — and you’ve got to be willing to hold firm on your boundaries, even if it feels uncomfortable.

It would be nice if we had some universal agreements for precautions we’d all take, but we don’t. That’s largely due to lack of national leadership, but it’s also because the same lack of leadership has made it harder for people for take precautions even when they want to. For example, for all we know, your mail deliverer might prefer to wear gloves but doesn’t have a sufficient supply to change them as often as would be needed to keep them effective. Or who knows, maybe not — certainly too many people have thrown up their hands and decided they’re sick of it all and so they’re just going to … stop. There’s a collective impulse toward magical thinking right now.

But what you can control is you — and that gives you a lot of control in the situations you described. When you’re expecting grocery deliveries, you can put a sign on your door asking the delivery person to leave the bags at the door. If someone insists on waiting for you to open the door anyway, you can talk to them through your closed door and say, “I’m quarantining so can’t open the door, but thanks for dropping off my order.” When you have to sign for a package, you can excuse yourself to get your own pen. You can say, “I’m being really careful, so would you mind backing up six feet before I sign this?” That might feel uncomfortable or rude, but asserting control over your own safety isn’t rude — and it’s far better to feel a little awkward in saying/doing these things than to risk your health (and theirs) in ways you’re not comfortable with.

If you want to contact the companies themselves, make it about their practices in general. Instead of singling out a specific worker, say you’re concerned by what you’ve seen and don’t think the company is doing enough to ensure workers’ and customers’ safety and ask for the specific changes you want.

But assume you’ll need to assert and protect your own boundaries. Sometimes it’s going to feel weird or uncomfortable or like you’re asking something that would have been downright rude six months ago. It’s okay and it’s necessary right now. Like this morning’s post touched on, it’s better to feel slightly awkward than to take health risks you’re not comfortable with.

{ 339 comments… read them below }

  1. a good mouse*

    I put a sign on the door that says “Please ring bell and leave delivery, thank you and stay safe!” That’s worked really well, I haven’t had any trouble with people waiting on me. Or if they (rarely) seem to be lingering, I just wait them out and they get the hint and leave the delivery.

    Also for packages, UPS lets you sign for a package virtually on the tracking site. I’m guessing FedEx does too, but I haven’t had anything sent through them.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Or if they (rarely) seem to be lingering, I just wait them out and they get the hint and leave the delivery.

      This is what I do, or I yell, “thank you!” through the door to signify that they have the correct drop off point and can leave now (I live in an apartment).

    2. Hills to Die on*

      They may have company policies that mandate them to wait until someone answers the door.

      Speaking as someone who worked in a grocery store as a 2nd job during the shutdown, I can 100% confirm that you cannot rely on people to guarantee that your package has been handled appropriately before the delivery person brings it to you.
      Plan on bringing it in with gloves, placing it on something disposable, sanitizing the contents, throwing away the trash, sanitizing the area where you opened it, stripping in the garage or doorway after taking out the trash, immediately putting your clothes in the wash, showering, and sanitizing the surfaces you touched in order to throw out the trash, wash your clothes, and shower.

      1. a good mouse*

        Good point! When I get deliveries (mainly of food) I have a whole process that involves washing my hands about five or six times during unpacking. From what I’ve read about how coronavirus survives and is transferred on surfaces, I don’t think you need to go so far as clothes changing and showering after every delivery unless for some reason you needed to hold the package tight to your clothes. But everyone has their own comfort levels. Anytime I’m out and even remotely close to other people (wearing a mask of course), I come home and shower and carefully move all clothing to the wash ASAP, but others I know feel more comfortable with just a thorough hand washing.

      2. fposte*

        I think that’s a personal comfort issue, though; this is a lot more extreme than any current recommendation for handling packages and deliveries. The CDC has guidance that I’ll link in a followup.

        1. Yorick*

          Yeah, you definitely don’t need to strip, immediately wash clothes, and shower after bringing in a package.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s the advice being followed by medical professionals coming back from work on the corona virus wards. There it makes sense. Bringing in a package not so much.

            1. Midwest Manager*

              Absolutely. I work in a hospital, and my perspective on what’s a risk and what isn’t is informed by the clinicians around me. None of them are concerned in the slightest about contact transmission–yes, we all use hand sanitizer before going in the cafeteria and I’ll do it before I eat anything with my hands (and after the bathroom, obviously) but I’m not worried about using someone else’s pen or touching a package or my mail or my groceries. I wash my hands when I come back from errands because I’ve been among other people, not so much because I think I’m going to pick up COVID from a surface. Stripping & showering is definitely overboard—I mean, do whatever makes you feel safe, but I don’t think it’s necessary

            2. Ana Gram*

              That’s what I do when I come home from an EMS shift. Actually, I strip on the deck…fortunately, I live in a rural area so there aren’t any neighbors around! I don’t do anything special with the groceries, though. I just wash my hands after putting them away. But I did that before the pandemic.

          2. AMT*

            As far as I’m aware, it’s not even recommended to sanitize packages/groceries or change your clothes after going out. There are no documented cases of transmission via surfaces, and surfaces like cloth and cardboard aren’t good at harboring coronavirus, anyway. If it were possible to spread it through the mail or deliveries, we’d have a lot more cases.

            1. ShanShan*

              Even more: we’d have different PATTERNS of cases. If it was pretty easy to get COVID from a grocery delivery, we’d se a lot of clusters where, for example, a lot of people in the same area got it from the same delivery person. We don’t seem to be seeing clusters like that, as much as we are able to tell.

              I still sanitize groceries to some extent, but I recognize that it’s a way of soothing myself (hey, ho, bad time to have an anxiety disorder!) and not a necessity.

            2. Amaranth*

              I’ve been stripping off the outer shipping box outside and leaving it on the porch, and just pulling out the contents with sanitized hands rather than using up gloves. I’m not especially concerned with surface transmission….but I’m not completely UNconcerned, either, if that makes sense. Since the local UPS and Amazon facilities both have reported COVID outbreaks it just makes me feel better not to bring those boxes into the house. Basically, its a tiny inconvenience so if I do catch it, I won’t feel ‘if only I’d ditched those boxes.’ I’m sure it will actually be from something like the guy who popped out of a parked car next to me, coughing.

          3. sam*

            yeah – this seems to be a holdover from that “how to wash all your groceries with bleach” video that circulated very early on that has been pretty thoroughly debunked at this point (and also we know a lot more about how virus transmission works now). When I get a food delivery, I use gloves to take everything out of the packaging and put it on real plates (and then microwave if feasible), and then toss all the packaging and gloves, but I don’t…wear a hazmat suit or anything (anymore!).

        2. professor*

          The CDC has not been great on this pandemic (and I say this as a Biologist). I’m immunocompromised and what I do is put all my groceries into a room we aren’t using except for storage type stuff (for non-perishables). Those are left for a few days so the virus (if there) dies. If I need something beforehand, I wipe it down with Chlorox wipes or remove from outer box (which I toss) and wash my hands thoroughly. Anything needing to go in the fridge or freezer is wiped with Chlorox first, as is anything they touched.

          Clothing worn out goes straight into the laundry, I go straight to the shower.

          1. Natalie*

            You don’t need to rely on the CDC then, there are plenty of independent public health experts that have been very clear that physical stuff is not the issue.

            1. Retail Delivery*

              Yeah, the WHO has been consistent this whole time that deliveries are not a vector for this disease.

          2. allathian*

            You do what makes you feel comfortable, but I must say I’m glad to see other commenters chiming in that this is unnecessary.
            We’re just putting our groceries in the fridge/freezer as is. I’m not particularly worried by surface transmission.

      3. leapingLemur*

        I generally either:
        – quarantine groceries, packages, snail mail for 7 days
        – or wash groceries that can be washed if I want to use them earlier
        – or carefully use groceries that can’t be washed (like adding something to a cake mix) and then wash my hands
        – or handle mail carefully (and only put it in a particular place) and then wash my hands afterwards

        I’m probably going overboard based on the CDC guidelines.

      4. Meredith*

        I literally just brought a grocery delivery in off my porch.

        I’ve treated them throughout the pandemic like I’ve treated them all along (with the exception of being ok with plastic bags): I put them on the floor of the kitchen (counter would be gross in the best of times), open them, put away the groceries, throw out the bags, and then wash my hands thoroughly.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          When I go out and get groceries (I haven’t had any delivered yet), any non-perishables, I usually leave in the bag in a separate room for a few days or if I know I won’t use them right away, I’ll put them away (no gloves). Things that go in the freezer or refrigerator, I may wipe down. But usually when I pull it from the freezer or refrigerator, I’ll just make sure and wash my hand immediately after removing the food from the packaging (knowing that the food is going to be cooked).
          Juices and milk, I will just use a cloth or paper towel to handle the carton for the first few days, or I’ll wipe it down before putting in the refrigerator.
          For delivery from restaurants, I’ll just put it in a specific location on the counter, unpack it until it’s open to the food, carefully put it on a plate (which I’m not touching with my bare hands), and then discard all of the packing bags and such. Wash my hand thoroughly, and reheat the food if necessary (there’s been no evidence of transfer via food that I”ve heard about, so I don’t need to reheat if the food is already hot. Basically, I just make sure that I wash my hands after I touch any packaging and before I eat any food. So any packaging has to be removed and replaced by clean plates/bowls.

      5. Retail Delivery*

        I work for a retail company that does deliveries. When we get customer complaints that the drivers aren’t following our rules, each and every one gets investigated and counseled. Call customer service.

  2. Ping*

    It’s been my experience that people that don’t want to take precautions are also the first to get offended if you ask for those precautions- even if done nicely!
    I think you have to be willing to upset people a wee bit. This is a boundary issue, and some people don’t like boundaries.
    I also think it’s important to contact the companies. You aren’t getting them in trouble. They are doing it to themselves. And helping the companies enforce safety precautions also affects the workers. Not just the delivery person, but every other person that individual contacts.

    1. Remote HealthWorker*

      Yep. I bristled at a recent linkedIn article that said there were 4 types of customers. 3 of them were described as brave, bold, freedom loving, etc. The mask wearers? Scared.

      Whose the people running around armed and breaking down city hall doors? How about we call them scared. But no.

        1. pancakes*

          A LinkedIn post is not journalism, and in a newspaper or other publication that would be in the op-ed section as it’s wholly opinion. Un-connecting from someone who shares unwanted opinions is probably the best way to register disappointment and avoid seeing their opinions.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        If you ask me, “scared” is a perfectly reasonable thing to be right now. Having a spouse who would be higher-risk if he caught this, who just recently had surgery (he’s recovering well) is bad enough. But recently I’ve also lived through rioting and arson within about a mile of my home thanks to the senseless murder of a Black man by a police officer and the resulting protests, the loss of a favorite bookstore to said arson, multiple events cancelling due to this virus (which is NOTHING to play around with)…the surprise would be if I WEREN’T scared right now. I want to be clear, I support the protesters. There is, however, some evidence that the arson was down to anarchists and white supremacists trying to either take advantage of the situation or throw blame on the protesters, or both.

        Not to mention that I have elderly parents (who are ok so far), friends who would be VERY high risk if they caught COVID-19, and friends who have/had it (thankfully recovering, slowly).

        …I’m scared, I’m angry, and I AM NOT IN THE MOOD FOR ANYONE’S CRAP.

        But at least with grocery deliveries, we have a screen door as well as the main front door, and the storm window is down on the screen door. So I’m able to open the regular door, but the screen door is still a physical carrier (plus the grocery delivery people have been masked). They put the bags on the porch, I say “thank you” through the screen door, they get back in the truck and I bring stuff in and wash my hands thoroughly afterwards.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Wow, that’s nasty.

        People wearing masks aren’t “scared” – they are exercising appropriate precautions in the middle of a deadly pandemic!

        Fear is the human warning system, and rational fears are good things – they keep us safe and help make responsible choices.

    2. Ditto*

      This. An exterminator came into my parents’ home (my mother is extremely high-risk). My mother gave him one of her masks and made him put it on. He complied, but spent the whole time grumbling at her: “I don’t know anyone who got sick or died.” Etc. My mother was only able to shut him down with, “Well, I do know someone who died. And my doctor said if I get it, I likely will too.” He actually got a little contrite after that. She Lysoled the entire house the second he was gone.

      You have to be willing to set and state your boundaries. Now is not the time to defer to ingrained politeness. We’ve even been doing it with our next door neighbors. They come to the door to ask us a question, we won’t even answer the door without having a mask on – and then usually don’t open the glass door unless absolutely necessary. I’m sure they think we’re nuts. But we know they haven’t been as strict as we have during lockdown, and regardless… it’s a risk we can easily manage, so we will. What’s the big effing deal?

      And if you’re in a county that won’t enforce restrictions, complaining may not get you very far . We’ve found that crossing the border into our neighboring county… it’s like the Wild West. No employees wear masks or gloves because local government has been clear they won’t enforce it. You have to protect yourself as best you can and make those boundaries loud and clear.

      1. leapingLemur*

        Good for your mother! The exterminator might not be high risk, but he needs to understand that some people are.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          Chiming in with my kudos for your Mom, as well. Good for her!

          I went to the hairdresser last week wearing a mask. She wasn’t wearing one when I got to the door and mouthed “you don’t need to wear that in here”. I nodded “yes I do” and gestured that I needed her to do the same. She reluctantly put one on then proceeded to bitch about it and that she thinks this thing is overblown, etc. throughout the entire appt. When it came time to schedule the next appt., I told her I’d give her a call if I felt confident enough to come back. I think I stunned her. Even though I’ve gone to her for five years, I won’t be going back. Pisses me off that mask wearing has become such a stupid issue in the US.

          1. Malarkey01*

            I really don’t get this. These service providers are desperate for customers and to get their businesses back. And the way they think that will happen is to complain directly to their customers and criticize their requests? When I was in a customer fading job there were tons of things I thought were stupid and kept to myself (and masks aren’t stupid!)

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      I agree, however I would still watch how I phrased any contact I made to the companies.

      Personally, I would go with something like, “It is very important that you provide your staff with the appropriate PPE to keep everyone safe while they are making deliveries. It is concerning when I see that a driver does not have a mask to wear when they come to the door.” You can add gloves too, but honestly, especially for drivers, gloves get contaminated so quickly hand sanitizer is probably a better option for them a lot of the time.

      I would phrase it this way because you really don’t know if they are flouting the safety protocol or if they just do not have access to masks and such. Low level, gig and minimum wage workers may not have the resources to provide their own on a regular basis if the company isn’t stepping up. Even our local USPS didn’t have enough protective gear to go around for quite a while, I’m sure they aren’t the only locale in that boat. If the person doesn’t have it because the company isn’t doing their part, if you phrase a complaint “Bob didn’t wear a mask when he made the delivery!” That will be counted as a complaint against Bob, and possibly affect his job, even if it wasn’t totally his choice. With the ‘please provide’ wording, if Bob should have had a mask, etc. the point still gets across, but if it’s not his fault it doesn’t blow back on the driver nearly as much.

      A lot of these delivery providers are completely heartless when it comes to how they treat their drivers, I know because I worked for a couple different ones. If there is any way they can spin something to be the driver’s fault and penalize them they will, even if a reasonable investigation would show there were extenuating circumstances. Please keep that in mind when phrasing your comments.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I solved the problem by giving our regular UPS driver a mask. It’s my way of saying that I care about both his and my health. He appreciated it, even though he seldom comes within six feet of any of us.

        I can do this because I make masks. It’s my way of helping.

      2. Meepmeep*

        I’ve actually made a few extra masks and given them out to delivery people who didn’t have them on. It was always well received.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve divided my responses into groups:

      1. The person has no signs of being ill and makes reasonable effort to protect themselves and others from the virus = big thanks from me and tip.

      2. The person has no signs of being ill but has no PPE at all = I’ll take extra precautions and also ask them if someone pressuring their employer to provide safety gear would be helpful. I’ll not give their name, but complain to the company that they’re (the firm itself) not doing enough.

      3. Person has no signs of being ill, no PPE and shows an active disregard for any safety (such as trying to grab hands/saying a conspiracy theory about the virus/coughing or sneezing in my direction) = I scrub myself down and make a formal complaint to their company using their name.

      4. Person is visibly ill with signs of Covid = complaint made using their name. That’s where I’ll draw an absolute line because to me that’s the most dangerous behaviour to the lives of others.

      My sister has encountered one person who tried to tell her that this is all ‘making humans touch-starved’ and tried to hug her but that was the only incident of numbers 3 or 4 I’ve even heard of in this town.

      I do have a sign on my door advising people that I’m disabled and high risk so if they are delivering anything please put it on the doorstep, knock the door and back away at least 2 metres. I’ll hear them because I’ve got nowhere else I’ll be at the moment!

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I rarely complain about people working any kind of service job, because I know how employers treat them as disposable and expect perfect work 100% of the time for rock-bottom wages. But if a delivery driver told me the pandemic was “making humans touch-starved” and then tried to HUG me, I’d complain to the company with their name or other hopefully identifying detail and the phrase “sexual harassment.”

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yeah, my sister encountered that one person who was delivering her food shopping order who took offence at being told to step back and put their mask on (the driver had pulled it down to talk…sigh) and then barrelled into their pet theory about humans becoming suicidal if we don’t have physical contact.

          Sister did complain a LOT to the supermarket who assured her that driver wouldn’t be doing deliveries until they learnt to behave. Funny bit of the story was my sister worrying about her son hearing the swear words she was flinging at the driver to get them to stop trying to touch her!

          (My nephew knows those words anyway. His dad swears like a pirate with a toothache)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*


              I do have to admit that I feel sorry for people who live alone. They can get touch starved and lonely.

              The solution to that is to have one or two “quarantine buddies” – people who pledge to each other to take the same level of precautions and are willing to socialize in person with each other. Some of my neighbors were college students that had a couple of apartments near each other, and they socialized together as quarantine buddies.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I have a history of delivery drivers forgetting their pen, so I have one at my door to sign. Which leads me to just automatically grab for it. If they hand you pen and paper, just say “oh I’ve got a pen right here!” and grab it up. Rarely will you find someone who would be offended or be all “But but but USE MY PEN, wtfffff.” ;) They’re usually happy because they don’t have to dig it out of their apron pocket.

    With the postal carrier though. Complaining won’t do jackshit so just don’t bother, please. To save yourself the frustration and worry. I say this as someone who has an on going battle with our postal system, I don’t even blame the carriers, speak to them directly if you can at all times possible. That’s how you fix things, calling will NOT be told to them and fall into the void where all our missing socks from the washing machine have gone.

    1. 2020storm*

      I had my washing machine repaired last week, and the repair person pulled 15 unmatched socks out of the guts of the washer. The void is tangible! My mind was blown.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The washer Gremlins didn’t even finish their sock snackies?! Rude ass, Gremlins!

        I have had them stuck in the “lip” of some machines myself. Those lips are huge and suck the suckers right in there.

        1. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

          Not their fault. They would have finished their snackie but were rudely interrupted by the repair person.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        And now I’m sitting here contemplating tearing my washing machine apart to see if I can’t find my missing Ravenclaw sock. This is probably something I was better off not knowing.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The guts of our recliner usually yields up 3 or 4 socks and a sweatshirt when I get brave.

        1. Show Me the Money*

          Overloading the washer can cause socks and other small items to go over the plastic retainer at the top of the wash basin and into the guts of the machine.

      3. DarthVelma*

        I always just thought socks were the larval stage of wire hangers.

        Seriously, socks disappear. And no matter how many times I toss out every wire hanger in the house, more show up. Just sayin’.

    2. juliebulie*

      I recently found an unfamiliar lone sock in my wash. I live alone.

      I try not to think about it.

      1. leapingLemur*

        Could the sock have somehow attached itself to another purchase you made, maybe new clothes of some other type?

    3. CC*

      I have had a couple packages that needed signature during the pandemic. For one at the beginning of March, they asked me to get my own pen (which I would have done anyway!). Since then, the mail carrier has signed for me – but they have to actually see me or a family member before they can sign (ie they won’t leave a signature package if you are not actually home).

  4. Saul Goodman*

    In my opinion, the phrase “my delivery person” tells you everything you need to know here. OP: take some time to think about how you’re more comfortable telling on someone to their employer than just being direct with the person in the moment. As Allison says, there are lots of ways to make sure delivery people distance from you — it just requires communication, not snitching.

    1. Minnesotan*

      I don’t know how your comment follows the rule of being kind. Passive aggressive, yes. Kind, no. And in my opinion it’s telling that you seem to think cultural norms are the same everywhere. Where I’m from you throw away food, even if you’re still hungry, rather than take the last piece. You should take some time and consider why you think your experience is the right one.

      1. Emmie*

        I am not a fan of the snitching phrase in Saul’s statement, but he makes a valid point. We must ask ourselves why we are not being direct with a person and why we would rather call the company. OP notes some cultural concerns below, though others may not have those nuances.

        I would save the company calls for egregious offenses, refusals to comply, or a driver’s hostile or angry reply. Wearing masks is necessary, though we can still recognize it is hot, and uncomfortable. I cannot imagine what it is like for a delivery driver who is carrying heavy packages all day while driving a truck without air conditioning (a norm in my hot area of my country.)

        1. Remote HealthWorker*

          I think refusing to comply with contactless delivery instructions is egregious.

            1. Sunflower*

              I actually think this is a company issue vs driver. Most drivers want to get in and out of places without hassle as quick as possible- I don’t see why someone would insist on having contact/hassling/waiting around for someone if they had the option to drop and go.

              I’ve heard(and many people on here are citing) that many companies advertising as contact less are not actually.

              1. Perse's Mom*

                As an apartment dweller, there seems to be a point of confusion – ‘leave my food at the door’ is the default when I’m ordering food, but most of the drivers seem to think this must mean I let them into the building and they need to leave it at my apartment door. While *I* mean they can leave it outside the front door (and save themselves the time and energy by not having to hoof it up the stairs).

                1. sam*

                  “contactless” delivery in a doorman building in NYC is just particularly confusing, as we’re just reducing the number of people coming into the building – they’re still handing off deliveries to the doorman and I then go downstairs and pick stuff up from a human being. When I use a delivery service that alerts as to arrival, I actually just go downstairs before they arrive and wait rather than force my doorman to do the whole interaction – particularly for grocery deliveries, as I bring my grandma cart downstairs and load all the bags into the cart rather than have my groceries left all over the lobby floor (the peapod driver the other night thought I was GREAT because I came all the way out to the truck and we just loaded everything straight from there – it saved everyone time!)

          1. professor*

            I second this, and I have no problem or guilt if someone gets fired for not doing this (provided they are provided PPE of course, or told it’s required even if they must get it…whether that should happen is up for debate though)

        2. fhqwhgads*

          It’s the company’s responsibility to provide masks. It’s the company’s responsibility to require those working for them to wear them during the pandemic. Either the delivery person has no mask and no means of obtaining one or they do but still chose not to. If it’s the former, you tell the company rather than the person because you want the company to know that you want alllllllll their people behaving safely, which might actually make them give a shit. If the company does want them doing this, and it’s the person choosing not to, you tell the company so they know they have a reckless person.
          Being direct with the person who poses a real threat to you in the moment, standing there maskless, their breath a potential source of death, has little benefit. If they react poorly, you’re the one in a bad position. If it’s the company’s fault anyway, you end up talking to the company. There is zero chance that after 3 months of pandemic the person is going hear this feedback and think “you know what, yeah I really should wear a mask”. Every source of news or information, even if people don’t specifically read or watch the news, it is impossible to be unaware that is the recommended practice.

          1. professor*

            I can pretty much guarantee that companies like Instacart are NOT providing PPE and expecting their contractors (since they don’t have employees apparently) to have masks

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I just assume that their companies are cheese-paring bastards who can’t be bothered to provide masks for their contractors, and give them a mask. I make them, many people can’t, or don’t have time. I find that if I assume that the delivery person is being shafted, and extend kindness, the message gets through.

        3. Essess*

          Endangering lives is egregious. There are people that will die because of someone not wearing a mask around them when they should. No one can claim that they don’t know that they should be wearing a mask when out interacting with other people in their daily work.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      People have been assaulted and even murdered for asking others to wear masks! Of course the LW is reluctant to make a request that may be met with hostility.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. The OP has every right to be concerned about how perfect strangers would react to her reasonable request right now.

      2. OP*

        Thank you! I live in a county that just made national news for our health officer being forced to resign after receiving multiple death threats when she tried to mandate public use of masks. This is not a friendly place to live right now.

        1. Remote HealthWorker*

          I was so disappointed in that! And the council/board pressuring her and the next health chair instead of supporting them.

          I’ve also experienced:
          Glares, purposeful butting into my space, unneccassary shoulder bumps, parking right next to me after circling around more convenient spots, reaching into my cart to grab items…. And I live in a rural town! With plenty of space! It’s all because of the mask.

          1. OP*

            It’s really awful and upsetting and definitely an ongoing issue here. Meanwhile our COVID cases are just growing faster than ever…

          2. CorruptedbyCoffee*

            I live in one of the more cautious states, and thankfully most people are now wearing masks. But my particular town leans independent, and the other day I made eye contact with a man on a double wide sidewalk. He glared at me, then swerved about 8 feet into my space so he could shoulder check me, still glaring as he bumped by. I was wearing a mask, he was not. I’m now back at work, and we’re not looking forward to dealing with these people.

              1. Essess*

                I agree. People who are deliberately trying to risk infecting you should be held accountable.

            1. Red Wheelbarrow*

              That is awful and sounds really scary, with the combination of virus risk and hostility. I’m so sorry you had to deal with it.

            2. Taniwha Girl*

              I would bring a yardstick or umbrella and start using it to ward people off like a weapon. Seriously. If you are within range of my yardstick I will hit you with it!

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              He shoulder checked you? I would be very tempted to go full shrieking freakout and call the cops on him for assault and battery, because it was obviously deliberate. But I’m not nice when people assault me.

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Ah, yeah, I live not far away, I think.

          It could be that, for the grocery guys, even though the delivery should be “contactless” the company has gotten enough reports of porch pirates stealing deliveries that they have told the drivers not to just drop it and run, but to wait for an answer. I would just go to the door and call through, “thanks very much! I’ll grab it when you get back to the car!” That way the driver can honestly tell his boss he made contact before he left.

          I know that is a huge issue where I am, and grocery stores don’t have the money or resources to keep sending out replacement deliveries of stolen goods.

          1. MatKnifeNinja*

            Where I live, the drivers have to see a human answer the door. They just don’t leave the packages any more.

            The porch pirates are stealing everything now.

            OP, have a container by the door with a mask, glove and a fine tip Sharpie maker. Put a small container for disposing of the gloves if you are really really concerned. Also wipes/sprays/whatever.

            This way when delivery person shows up, gloves and mask goes on. You got your pen ready. Sign, bring stuff in. Take off gloves-into the garbage they go. Put mask back on hook. Sanitize door knobs. Or bring everything straight back to your other room and wipe down boxes, and take care of glove/mask disposal in that room.

            If you don’t assume people will look out for you (yes, I know businesses say they are contactless, but these are business that treat their employees like meat with eyes), set it up so you feel safe.

            I’m not worried about delivery people, I’m worried about the start of the school year. Word on the street is my district is praying masks and wipes will handle the situation. The classrooms are too small for social distancing, and kids are never tidy. I can’t picture 11 year olds worrying about wearing masks and washing hands.

            The party is just getting started.

        3. Scarlet*

          Do you seriously believe your delivery person is going to murder you or even assault you for requesting they take additional precautions?

            1. Scarlet*

              DELIVERY PEOPLE have murdered customers?

              There is a really big difference between some rando on the street and a delivery person who has been vetted/employed/trained by a company to deliver/interact with customers and is getting paid to do so.

              So no, sorry this has not happened and the likelihood of it happening is extremely low.

              1. DFA*

                So you want OP to potentially risk her life because that specific category hasn’t murdered yet? Nice.

              2. Jennifer Thneed*

                Who are these trained delivery people you speak of? I mean yes, FedEx and UPS and the postal service – they’re actual employees of delivery services. But so many things are coming thru “gig economy” workers, and they aren’t employees, and they aren’t trained. They’re just people with cars who are trying to make rent.

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      Reading into the phrase “my delivery person” is quite a stretch. It’s a pretty normal way to phrase that idea.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. I’m in NYC and we probably have more delivery people here than anywhere else in the US. It’s the standard way to describe workers making deliveries.

    4. Name of Requirement*

      I agree. A cheerful, “I’ll just grab my pen” or shouting through the door seems easier and more effective. Keep in mind these people are probably getting yelled at for dropping off groceries or not sharing their pen. It’s fairly unlikely that someone in the service industry is going to flip out at such a reasonable request; they have to deal with unreasonable requests and are supposed to take a degree of abuse as part of the job. Not everyone is taking the same precautions.

      1. professor*

        grabbing your own pen doesn’t help, you still have to touch the paper/clipboard and you’re in close proximity to an unmasked person. I don’t want to be within 6 feet of a MASKED person…

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I mean, they’re coming to the OP’s home. There’s a lot that can go wrong if someone wants to be malicious. If not at the time of confrontation but afterwards, they know where the OP lives…

      I agree that you generally should gently correct people or just avoid doing things, verses calling in complaints over some minor details. But yeah, let’s not forget the security guard who died because he told someone to wear a mask, they left and came back with someone who shot them in the head for it. That’s extremely unlikely to happen but we’re in a very stressful and wild time right now, I just ignore knocking tbh. They’ll eventually go away. *shrugs*

      1. Remote HealthWorker*

        Or the teenage cashier whose only “wrong” was to kindly inform them that the Burger King lobby was closed.

        1. Scarlet*

          One could argue that it was only a matter of time until some of these people snap.

          It could be someone saying the lobby is closed or it could be someone else asking them what time it is.

          1. DFA*

            No. It’s the perceived “disrespect” of being told no. That’s what is setting people like this off.

            1. Scarlet*

              Can you stop stalking my comments?

              And yes, that is essentially what I was saying – telling them “no” in any context (whether it be with masks/social distancing or anything else), is what is setting them off.

              1. Serafina*

                You’re really hung up on arguing that there’s absolutely no risk in asking people to wear masks despite being presented with multiple examples from multiple locations that there IS a risk. Are you one of those people whose narrative can’t be swayed by facts?

                1. Scarlet*

                  Did you mean to respond to my comment? Because I’m not sure what you’re on about. I didn’t say anything in my comment about masks specifically – I was talking about people who snap and assault others in general – which was actually in reference to a comment Remote Healthworker made – “Or the teenage cashier whose only “wrong” was to kindly inform them that the Burger King lobby was closed.”

                  But I will say “Are you one of those people whose narrative can’t be swayed by facts?” is inflammatory, unnecessary and breaks the rules of AAM, so I’m not really sure why you said that.

    6. vlookup*


      Your risk of getting COVID from a momentary, outdoor interaction with a delivery person is very, very low. The delivery person’s risk from doing their job every day is comparatively very high. They’re risking their health and the health of their family so you can stay safe at home, and they’re likely doing so while underpaid and without adequate protections from their employer.

      Wear a mask when you go to the door, wash your hands after, put a sign on the door, do whatever you have to do. But please try to show some compassion for essential workers and don’t call their manager to complain that they handed you a pen.

      1. Scarlet*

        THANK YOU.

        In this economy, people can. not. afford. to lose their jobs. I can pretty much guarantee OP that the delivery person is not being malicious by not wearing a mask or handing over a freakin pen, they’re stressed to the max (as delivery drivers are a lot of the time anyway) and just trying to get their jobs done so they can go home.

        It’s as if compassion, kindness and understanding are lost on OP, who actually wants to escalate a pretty minor transgression to their company. OP can say their grateful all they want, but how about some actions that back that up?

      2. Mahkara*

        Agreed. I’ve seen so many people become incensed that grocery store workers/delivery people/fast food workers/etc. Aren’t Doing It Right.

        Their risks of becoming ill are astronomically higher than those of us who can afford to shelter in place until we feel safe emerging. They’re also being paid very little for those risks. I sincerely doubt they’re Not Doing It Right (according to one particular definition, anyway…) because they want to get people sick. More likely, they’re stressed/uncomfortable/unable.

        (One example – a friend was convinced that grocery store workers should sanitize their hands between every customer. When I pointed out that this might cause dry and cracked skin, and that she could just, y’know, wash her groceries if she was that worried, she pooh poohed me because, ~*of course*~ the customer is Always Right.)

        1. Meepmeep*

          Well, that doesn’t get the OP any less sick if one of these perfectly blameless strangers gives her COVID. She wants to protect her health in a global pandemic. A mask less delivery person puts her at risk.

          I’ve actually handed out masks to delivery people because I’m aware that not everyone has a sewing machine and access to PPE. But I refuse to apologize for my distancing policy. I won’t come close to a delivery person who is not wearing a mask.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. Assume they are underpaid, overworked, and as independent contractors their employer provides no PPE of any kind. Then be kind. It’s easier for you to sanitize/wash down than for them, running around on a tight schedule. It’s hard for low income people to source masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

      4. Ermmm*

        And make sure to tip twice what you normally would, considering the delivery person is risking their health MUCH MORE than you are.

        That, or go to the grocery store for your needs.

        1. Meepmeep*

          At the grocery store, OP would expose the cashiers and salespeople to a lot of germs. It’s not helping. It just increases her risk.

  5. Princess T*

    I have unfortunately had to have work done on my house during this time due to bad timing of stuff breaking (appliance repair! a plumber! the mold guy! the other mold guy! a third mold guy! a locksmith!) The first set of workers I had were great: masks, gloves, shoe booties. And then a plumber barged in my house by closely following my husband in from outside. I was displeased.

    There’s now a sign on the front door that says, “Welcome to our home! We wear masks and social distance, thank you!” This way, if I have to ask someone to stand back/mask up/wait for me to open windows they have been forewarned that it’s house rules, and it doesn’t come across like I’m accusing them personally of being a Germy McGermface: they know I would make that request of everyone. It helps make it less awkward.

    1. Choggy*

      Yup, we had two guys come over to fix a leak on our shower doors, one guy wore a mask, the other did not (said it was in his truck), my (nurse) husband told him to go get it and come back wearing it. Of course they also tracked dirt onto our carpets and tile…sigh.

    2. Clorinda*

      We had to replace the water heater. The workers were not masked, bur I didn’t mind it because they were doing hard physical labor and masks are so uncomfortable. We just left them to their business and sanitized the laundry room afterwards.
      We can’t reasonably expect hospital operating room standards in the whole world. But unless OP needs to pay he delivery people in person (unlikely; aren’t most of these deliveries being paid for via app?), s/he can call through the door, “just leave it there and I’ll get it, thanks” and wait for them to leave.

  6. The Original K.*

    I’ve ordered food a few times during the pandemic and had a few people call me to tell me they had my food, intimating that I should come get it. I always specify a no-contact delivery, so I just tell them to leave the food and I’ll be right down – “you can go ahead, thanks!” And then I just wait a couple of minutes and get the food. If delivery people are knocking, why not just say through the door that they can leave the food, and then wait for them to go? Odds are good they’re not going to wait that long – if they’re doing it through an app they’re paid per delivery, not per hour.

    FWIW, I have a friend who is doing courier food delivery and he said he’s encountered a lot of people who say on the app that they want no-contact delivery (which he actually prefers) but then show up and open the door and take the food from him when they see him coming, which is really frustrating for him because he’s taking his health seriously too. He says he tries to put the food on the ground at some distance when that happens, but if they’re standing there with their hands out he feels weird about it.

      1. KD*

        Likely this. People feel less inclined to tip with a no contact option because they don’t have to interact with the delivery person and see the person they are screwing over. It’s horrible because a time like is when people should be tipping a higher percent than ever!

        1. The Original K.*

          In the cases I’m referring to, it’s the customer who is breaking the contactless delivery by making contact, though, not the courier. The courier sees contactless delivery instructions on the app and is prepared to follow those instructions, and then when he gets to the location, the customer will come out and take the food from him, negating the customer’s own request.

        2. Perse's Mom*

          I’ve always tipped well and I tip even *more* now! Previously it was often just something to splurge on, now it’s basically an essential service and I know they’re not getting paid their value for what they do.

        3. Ermmm*

          Anyone who isn’t tipping ANY type of delivery person (especially now) needs a kick in the behind, minimum.

      2. Clorinda*

        If you’re going no-contact, you’re paying electronically and that should include tipping electronically too. I don’t know; I haven’t used these apps but it seems like it would make sense. Or slip $5 under the door if that’s the only option.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yes, all of my contactless delivery apps allow you to tip within the app – there’s no need to give cash.

        2. The Original K.*

          Every delivery app I’m aware of or have used allows you to tip via the app.

          1. Eliza*

            Unfortunately, depending on jurisdiction, tipping via the app may not guarantee that the actual delivery driver gets the tip; it sometimes goes into the company’s pocket without the driver benefiting from it.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              I think it depends more on the company. Whether it’s Uber Eats, GrubHub, Instacart, etc. They all seem to have their own standards for it.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      I always specify no-contact when ordering food these days, but people often don’t do it. I’ll hear my doorbell ring, figure they put the food on my doorstep and left…but then open the door to find that they’re still standing there holding the bag. And I’m like “uh…?” But there’s not much I can do at that point.

  7. Allison*

    I’ve also had instances where I’ve selected “contact-less delivery” and the delivery person will still insist on me meeting them at the door and handing me the food. I don’t know if maybe their end of the app is vague and they don’t see that they’re supposed to leave it there, or if it’s just a force of habit, or they’re worried someone will steal the food if it’s left too long, or if they’re hoping for an extra tip (we already tip at least 20% when we order the food) or what, but I usually shrug it off and go about my day. It’s not worth complaining about.

    We live in an apartment and we don’t have our own entrance, so a sign asking people to please leave the food on the doorstep isn’t an option for us.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Some of this is also the employers guidelines sadly.

      Domino’s instructs their drivers to place it and then step back, then wait for the person to come collect it. Damn, it makes me feel like a freakshow to be watched around the corner and I’m crouching to get my grub. I stopped getting food there because I’m not cool with the vibe.

      The other chain though, they just drop it and bounce. Just the way I like it. Never had an issue with that one.

      It’s partly in the name of “Customer service” but also their “insurance” that you got your delivery. So if you had someone snatch it from your doorstep, they can say “No, we made sure the resident picked it up.” In these times, you take the risk you have to remake an order and eat the cost of another delivery if that were to happen. It’s so rare, it’s not worth the stress on both driver and customer! But some management teams…suck.

      1. Maeve*

        I have directed every delivery person to put the food down, back up six feet and wait for me to come get it. If food was left outside the door of my apartment before I came down to get it, it would 100% be stolen by the time I got down the stairs.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I know some locations are certainly like that, so I think it’s a case-by-case basis.

          Kind of like UPS/FedEx require signatures in areas known for porch pirates but they just leave my packages outside my door. I’ve never lived anywhere that someone would take my food but if they did, damn they really needed that sandwich, such an odd thing to steal from a porch in the matter of moments!

        2. Essess*

          Agreed. I learned the hard way not to let my groceries sit unattended. I went to get my grocery delivery and watched a neighbor walk her dog past my stack of groceries in my lobby and her dog lifted his leg and peed directly on them. She wasn’t even paying attention and tried to walk away with my groceries sitting in a pool of pee.

          1. Amaranth*

            Now I’m also wondering how many puddles she’s allowed her dog to make in the halls and lobby.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I had one the other day say right upfront that she hadn’t wanted to leave it because she thought my neighborhood was sketchy. Some of my neighbors were out playing in their yards and I guess she thought they’d steal the groceries, and yeah, I was pretty sure race was involved in her suspicion. It was gross.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Was this comment made to your face!? I’d send someone packing back to wherever they came from if they ever tried to play the “oooooh sketchy neighborhood.” “oh yeah, how so? What’s sketchy about it? Enlighten me?”

        But I love to play with my food before I eat it. *chomps teeth*

      2. Joielle*

        That is awful! In addition to being almost certainly racist, it’s also just a rude thing to say to someone. “Hey, you live in a shitty neighborhood!” Great! Thanks for your opinion.

    3. Asenath*

      I live in an apartment, and I think I’ve seen one delivery person since this thing started. My instructions are, ring the apartment, I’ll open the lobby door, come in and upstairs and put it by my door. By the time I open my door, they’re usually gone, although I think one or two looked back through the window in the fire door at the end of the corridor, maybe to check to see if I open the door and take in the delivery. It’s a bit weird, but it’s certainly contact-less.

    4. LabTechNoMore*

      I live in an apartment, and actually had a sign to do exactly that. I would leave a sign saying to leave food on the tray with an arrow, and leave out a little white food tray, and trot out the sign/tray after I placed the order. When I was sick with (suspected) coronavirus and didn’t want to risk exposing the building by going through the hallway to retrieve my food from the front door, the sign/tray lived outside of my unit door. I would buzz the delivery person up, thank them through the door, wash up, and after they left, quickly retrieve the food and close the door. (For anyone wondering, I didn’t have any groceries in the house so delivery was a necessity for those two weeks.) After quarantine, I would place the sign/tray outside the front door to the apartment, but the delivery person usually just ignored it. (Maybe it wasn’t placed as obviously as it could be?) They would either just ignore the contactless delivery option, or be buzzed in and leave in the hall by the front door.

    5. londonedit*

      I’ve had the same (I’m in London). My block is already difficult to find, so I always add on instructions for the delivery driver anyway, but it’s hit-and-miss whether they actually read and follow them. And it’s been the same with contact-free – most delivery services are now contact-free as standard, but I’m still adding a note to my instructions saying ‘Please ring bell and leave order at door of flat 27 (ground floor)’. Most delivery people have done that, but I’ve still had people ring the bell and then stand there wanting to physically hand me the bag, I’ve had people asking me to come to the main door, and I’ve had the usual drivers who still can’t find the block and who call me and make me go outside to meet them. When that happens I do always say something about how they shouldn’t be asking people to meet them at the door, but they just shrug it off, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

  8. merp*

    I read something a little while back about what “exposure” really means, how many particle and how much time it takes to be at risk for becoming ill. I am not in any way suggesting that anyone ditch any precautions they take, but hopefully to ease a little anxiety? Some research (that I can’t find anymore, argh) suggested that short interactions like those with someone delivering something are unlikely to produce enough particles to put you significantly at risk unless they are actively sneezing and coughing, especially if you then shut the door and wash your hands, wipe down or get rid of the outside surface of what they delivered, etc.

    I think Alison’s point about the fact that postal carriers and others may not have the supplies they need is a really important one, as well. Complaining to their company isn’t going to do much good if the company is the problem in the first place for not providing enough masks, gloves, etc. Talking to the person (even through a door!) may get you more information that would be helpful, like if they truly don’t care or are doing their best with what they have.

    1. Ali G*

      I think you also need to put it in context with where you are. In my area, masks are only mandatory inside public spaces (like stores), or when you can’t maintain 6 feet distance. So, it doesn’t bother me if a delivery driver, or postal person bringing my mail isn’t wearing a mask (I live in a SFH. Obviously in apt buildings if they enter the building they should wear a mask). Also gloves aren’t recommended at all, so I wouldn’t expect anyone to be wearing them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to clarify, the public health recommendation is masks AND distancing (6-10 feet apart). I know you’re just talking about what your area mandates, but I see a lot of confusion on that point so wanted to note it.

    2. Atalanta0jess*

      Yes, this. It is sounding from recent research like what we really need to be concerned about is less surfaces and quick, incidental exposures, and more prolonged (<10 min-ish) sharing of air.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        The primary mode of transmission of the virus causing covid 19 is respiratory release of infectious particles. Breathing, talking, singing, yelling, all release particles at different intensities. Larger particles can linger in the air for minutes. Exposure does not instataneously cause nfection, an individual must be exposed for a long enough time for the virus to ‘catch”, if you will. Being outdoors helps clear the air faster. As do effective air filtration systems. So yes, the more humans you are exposed to, and the longer you are exposed to them, the higher the risk of infection. Oddsmakers haven’t come up with actual probabilities of becoming infected during different scenarios, but given the dearth of testing, along with asymptomatic/presymptomatic infected people, I am very cautious with everyone. Fomite transmission (via surfaces) is though to be much less a source of infection, but I clean stuff anyway as coronavirus is just nasty. People need to read and educate themselves, and certainly not be anti-science. A happy unintended side effect of increased hand washing and mask wearing is a reduction in flu. These are good public health measures all the around.

        Off soapbox now, but this is an urgent matter and ignorance/resistance to factual information can kill right now.

      2. Falling Diphthong*


        Alison is dead on about the tragic lack of leadership on this issue, and the result is a stew of over and under guesses about risks and safety.

      3. JSPA*

        All those studies, of course, were done in the context of the WHO and the CDC drumming it into people that they needed to wash their hands and sanitize surfaces. You’d expect that to cut way down on surface-based transmission.

        We don’t actually know what the major mode of transmission would have been, if the first directive had been “masks,” but not “surfaces.”

        We also don’t yet know what the shift in spike protein stability means, as far as remaining infectious airborne or on surfaces; some of the earliest / best data on mode of transmission likely comes from before that mutation outcompeted the original strain.

        (Note the re-introduction of the virus in China is causing great consternation, and their current focus is at least partially on surface-based contact. They got the procedure right with the original strain; I’m not going to bet on them being all wrong, now.)

        We also still have conflicting studies on the transmissibility of the virus from fecal sources.

        Also on whether (as might Well Be Expected, given the range of human tissues that display the docking protein, as well as the GI symptoms that can be caused by Covid-19) whether there’s an oral exposure route.

        Public health officials need to worry about the most common forms of transmission, because their focus is on lowering the transmission. As a human being who would like to continue to live, you’re allowed to have higher standards for yourself and your exposure.

      4. Scarlet*

        Yes I thought I heard something about a time frame! Isn’t it something like you have to be within 6 feet for x number of minutes to be at risk for exposure? I was trying to find a source but google is failing me- I swear I read this though.

        1. JSPA*

          Well, it’s a question of statistics and inferences, too.

          I’m going to push back a bit.

          Yes, they can track who sat near whom in the bus or on the plane. And there are all sorts of models for diffusion. But they don’t take into account an ill-fitting mask, a single more forceful sneeze, and a particular air current.

          With enough community spread, and without complete genome sequencing of all cases, there are real problems attributing the source of an infection.

          Was it the person on the bus, who sat ten feet away, for two hours? The one who sat 5 feet away, and had a mask but also terrible hay fever, and got off after one stop / three minutes, to blow their nose? Or someone who had a coughing fit in the elevator while alone, and then stepped out as the person in question stepped in?

          And in many environments, people who share air for 15 minutes also share surface contacts (or they may make contact more than once in two or three days). Knowing the moment of spread is rarely possible; it’s is more a question of, “if we assume a certain mode, can we adequately explain what we’re seeing.”

          We can reproduce patterns of spread by a MODEL involving 15+ minutes of exposure. That DOES NOT MEAN that 15+ minutes of exposure is required! It does not mean 10, 11, 12 or 13 minutes is magically safe!

          Different people (with different breathing patterns, different symptoms, genetic differences in how their cells dock, propagate are release viral particles, at different stages and different severity of covid-19 infection) will create different risks in their immediate area. Different people, for a similar range of reasons, will be at different risk of infection, given the same prevalence of virus in their surroundings.

          Also, it presumably must matter whether the local community transmission rate / local prevalence high enough that you’re going to stand near only one, or two / three / four / more infected people, even if you move around and don’t hang out next to any one person for X number of minutes.

          But the number getting not only thrown around, but codified into state requirements here and there, is 15 minutes. It’s totally a statistical, model-based cutoff. But if it makes you nonfunctional to keep part of your brain aware of tradeoffs all day long, then that’s the one we’re apparently currently trusting.

    3. Lindsay*

      Yes, it needs to be about 15 minutes of exposure. Now, if they cough directly in your face, that’s another story…

  9. Colette*

    My first advice would be to think through the scenarios.

    You’re unlikely to get the virus from taking a bag from someone, or from using a pen – as long as you immediately wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face until you do. And gloves in general aren’t recommended here since they will just pick up the germs and carry them around – I wouldn’t expect delivery people to wear them.

    So ask people to step back if you need to, or to leave the bags for you to get. And then wash your hands and follow the steps that are in your control.

    1. ABK*

      This. You do have a right to protect your own health and do things like use your own pen, back up, put a sign on the door, wash your hands immediately etc. But gloves, in particular, aren’t useful right now unless they put them on at your doorstep and take them off immediately when they leave, for every house, which is an absurd use of resources. Masks, sure, they should probably be wearing masks, but they aren’t, so control what you can and have comfort that you are 99.99999% protected unlike all the essential workers out there who aren’t. It might also be nice for YOU to wear a mask when you answer the door to do you part in normalizing mask wearing and maybe that will help influence mask wearing for delivery people.

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        Yes. Wear a mask, distance yourself as much as possible, but expecting delivery drivers to put on and take off a fresh set of gloves for every delivery when they might be doing ten or fifty or two hundred deliveries a day is not only absurd, but wasteful, and not a particularly effective way of curbing spread.

        1. Ace in the hole*

          Yes. I’ve actually been encouraging employees not to wear gloves (unless there’s another good reason, like chemical hazards) because gloves tend to reduce handwashing/sanitizing. It’s much quicker and more effective if they just use some hand sanitizer between every customer vs having to replace gloves each time.

    2. Forrest*

      Yes, I was really confused by the glove thing. You have no way of knowing whether someone has just put fresh gloves on or has been wearing them for six hours! Using your own pen and washing your hands afterwards seems like a good idea, but the focus on gloves seems misplaced?

      1. Old and Don’t Care*

        Agree. We certainly can and should expect that the delivery people are following the law and official recommendations but we can’t expect that they follow practices that we make up because they sound good to us.

    3. PlainJane*

      I was going to mention that. I can’t imagine how gloves would be useful in this scenario. Touching a potentially contaminated glove is no safer than touching a hand, and it’s easy to wash hands or use hand sanitizer if you’ve had contact with anything. Gloves may protect the person wearing them if they’re handling a bunch of things of unknown origin and remove and properly discard them as soon as they’re finished, but if you’re wearing the same pair for a few hours, it’s ceased to be useful for anything, and they’re not relevant at all for *other* people, unless the touch is getting a lot more involved than a delivery interaction (eg, surgery). Hand-washing is still the safer bet.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our executive order requires us to have written policy that require people to not share pens. I know it’s rather limited exposure too but sadly it’s literally written that you shouldn’t share writing instruments in the very easy to read terms :(

      Most delivery options just don’t have you sign anymore, which is what I much prefer. The liability that not having someone psychically sign for something is so limited it’s really just not worth bothering with right now.

      But gloves are gross. Don’t wear gloves. That’s a hill I’ll die on.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I actually do wear gloves sometimes, but it’s a pair of cheap marching band gloves. Just pulling them on makes me less likely to touch my face. So, not gross…but not something I’d ask of anyone else.

      2. Alexandra Lynch*

        When I gloved at the grocery store, it was me keeping my skin from the public, not so much me keeping my hands clean. I wiped the cart handles and top with a wipe, and used wipes periodically over the top of my gloves, and took off the gloves and tossed them before I got back into my car to go home.
        I assume that masks keep the public safe from my exhalations, not so much keeping me safe from theirs.

    5. MistOrMister*

      The gloves thing drives me nuts. I saw a guy wearing gloves who picked up a pastry, paid for it and then unwrapped and ate it…all with the same pair of gloves. At least if he hadn’t been wearing them he might have thought twice,and washed his hands or used sanitizer first. Gloves seems to give people a false sense of safety with COVID.

      My suggestion would be to keep a mask at the door and use them when people knock. I don’t think I would contact the company to complain unless the person did something egregious like purposefully coughing on me/my stuff. Otherwise, they probably are doing the best they can.

      1. Inky*

        Yes, exactly. People want to see signs that other people are taking precautions. Honestly, in most situations, you can’t know whether that’s the case. To me, gloves mean there’s a high chance that this person is worried but doesn’t know enough to know that it’s easier and more effective in most cases to wash their hands. I see it as a sign of partial knowledge. It’s not reassuring at all.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          You do know that a lot of people wear gloves to ensure they don’t touch their face absentmindedly, right? And they wash their hands when taking them off. Glove wearing is not necessarily a sign of partial knowledge.

          1. pancakes*


            A person wearing gloves might also have a small cut on their hand they’re trying to keep clean, or they might have a condition that makes gloves advisable. I have lymphedema in one arm as a result of having had lymph nodes removed on that side during breast cancer treatment, and I’m supposed to wear gloves when doing anything that puts me at risk of cuts or infection. Gardening, for example. I wore rubber gloves yesterday when repotting some plants for my windowsill.

          2. Taniwha Girl*

            I think it is if they’re wearing cloth gloves… I see many people out here with winter gloves on. I guess if it helps you remember then that’s one thing but I have yet to see someone with cloth gloves AND properly wearing their mask.

          3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I’m a chemist who wears gloves for a living and it freaks me out to see people wearing gloves in public. Best practices for glove-wearing are only as long as you’re actively working with hazardous substances (or actively touching surfaces likely to contain hazardous substances) because otherwise you get complacent about them and get into bad habits which mean you might eventually touch your face when you absolutely should not. Nobody should get into a routine that involves glove-wearing while going about their daily life. It’s security theater.

            1. Doc in a Box*


              I’m a physician. One of the first things during surgery rotations in medical school is how to divide the world into clean and not-clean. As soon as your (non-sterile) gloves touch either your face or a shared surface like a doorknob, railing, computer keyboard, they are potentially contaminated and should be discarded. So either you go through boxes and boxes of gloves a day, or you wash your hands regularly.

              I’m a little sensitive to the glove-wearing-mania among the general public — we had to lock up our boxes of gloves in clinic because patients were stealing them off the wall.

    6. Joielle*

      This! As the OP acknowledges, it’s entirely possible that by contacting the company they’ll get the delivery person fired. That’s a pretty extreme step, so you should save it for egregious offenses. I think the burden is on the OP to first, thoroughly read the current health advice from legitimate experts and figure out what those egregious offenses are.

      So for example… if you see the delivery person lick your package or if they try to hug you, sure, call the company. If they aren’t wearing gloves or briefly brush your hand with their hand, no.

  10. Lily G.*

    While I think Saul could have been kinder, I’m not sure I disagree. Relying on delivery essentially means you have the economic privilege to outsource your risks to someone else, and the fact that you feel comfortable risking someone’s job instead of just… using your words? really makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s worth sitting with that thought for a moment, OP.

    1. A New CV*

      A great deal of advice could be boiled down to the classic adage we tell to children: Use Your Words. People want an answer that magically and painlessly solves their problems without any awkward action on their part, but that’s just not reasonable.

    2. OP*

      I hope I made it clear that I don’t want to put anyone out of a job! The couple of times that I’ve called the companies, I haven’t provided any names, I’m just assuming they could potentially use my phone number or other identifying info to look them up.

      I am super conflict averse and there have been some scary moments in my community lately, including in my neighborhood, so getting into a conversation with someone about this issue outside my home didn’t really occur to me as a safe option. I like the idea of having a sign on my door to help reinforce delivery instructions and just speaking with people through the door.

      1. Jaguar*

        The less skilled a job is, the easier it is for a company to fire the person and hire someone else (especially when so many people are looking for work), and every time you complain to someone above them, you’re risking that happening, regardless of whether the company should do that or not.

        You being conflict averse doesn’t excuse you from responsibility. You can go out and buy stuff yourself if it’s impossible for you to talk to people. Putting service worker’s jobs at risk should be your last option – and even then, be reluctant to do it.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah, I get that you aren’t trying to get folks in trouble, but, having worked for several of the delivery companies, please just keep in mind that most of these delivery providers are absolutely heartless and cutthroat when it comes to how they treat their delivery employees. They will use any excuse to reprimand or cut pay.

        It’s good not to use names, but I would even shift the narrative a bit, “You really need to provide your drivers with adequate PPE,” rather than, “My driver wasn’t wearing a mask.” That shifts the focus from the driver to the company policies. As you said, if they need to they can look up the driver, but it sort of distracts from them a bit if it really isn’t their fault. Oh, and just as an FYI, the nature of delivery driving makes gloves kind of pointless, they get contaminated way too quickly. Sanitizer is better for folks doing that job.

      3. I woke up like this*

        I get not wanting to talk with random strangers about masking and other precautions, but stating your preference to a low wage worker who depends on tips and will be back to his/her/their car in less than a minute doesn’t strike me as a particularly dangerous encounter.

        1. Amaranth*

          Around here I’d have to catch them, first, because I’ve noticed delivery people don’t want contact any more than I do.

      4. JJ*

        Please consider that you are in an extremely privileged position over your delivery people. Consider how your analysis of the situation might change if you swapped the word “inviting” to “forcing” in your phrase, “the only people I am “inviting” to come near my house…”

        Those people would all stay home too if they could, but they can’t, in part because you aren’t risking going out yourself. That is totally your decision and within your right, and you may not be ABLE to go out for myriad reasons, but do approach the people who do this work for you with compassion and gratitude, and tip very generously.

    3. NYC Taxi*

      Agree fully. As a resident in the city that was the epicenter of covid-19 in the US, I went out for my own food and supplies mostly, but was very grateful for the times I did have things delivered, and gave a generous tip. There’s no way I would have tattled to the business about workers who were out there not conforming to my standards when the rest of us were safe in our homes. This post reeks of self-entitlement and economic privilege.

      1. Jessica*

        Yep..this. in the time it took to decide to call the company he/she could have thought gee i could put up a note, i could wave thru the window and say thanks, I could add delivery instructions in my app, I could have a pen waiting at the door…none of these solutions require a ton of thought…but nope straight to “i need to speak to a manager”.

        It is taking all of my self restraint not to make assumptions about the racial make up of these interactions. But thats my own bias as I am on overload with the entitlement on display and the refusal to recognize or acknowledge privilege in recent weeks.

        1. OP*

          I’m not sure it’s very fair to jump straight to racism! It sounds like I’m not the only one who has dealt with this issue. I came here looking for advice on what to do other than calling companies directly and I got it. I’m thankful for all the helpful responses here.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I think you’re fine. We did have a letter a while back about someone who was quarantined working as a delivery person and a few people claiming that reporting them was wrong because they could lose their jobs etc. It is a sign of the general times I think, this safety versus economics thing.

            I’m a high risk person and if a delivery person rocked up to my door without a mask and refused to just leave the package on my doorstep I’d be very concerned too.

        2. Joielle*

          Yeah, and even regardless of the racial makeup of the interactions, there’s certainly a power differential. I think we’re all currently being forced to confront the consequences of going straight to an authority rather than engaging in a potentially-uncomfortable conversation when someone does something we don’t like. It turns out that going straight to an authority can have devastating consequences. It really sucks that that’s the case – nobody likes having potentially awkward or confrontational conversations and it’s a lot easier to just call the company (or the police, in more serious situations). But I think it’s on all of us who have more power in an interaction to do what we can to get our needs met with the least possible risk of harming the other person.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Whoa. OP specifically asked about
          ” the grocery delivery people who ignore delivery instructions to leave the groceries at the door and insist on knocking until I open the door.”

        4. pancakes*

          I’m not the letter-writer and I’m not sure what their exact scenario is, but I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building so waving out the window would not be an effective way to communicate with someone making a delivery.

    4. Lahey*

      Since OP has said that they are trying to flatten the curve, rather than being someone who is more at risk, I absolutely agree that just getting everything delivered is not the best solution. If you order from somewhere that employs their own delivery drivers, I can see how that could diminish the spread of covid. But if it’s a third party delivery service, that just means it’s a different person going into stores and restaurants and risking exposure.

      OP is there a grocery store nearby that does curbside pick-up? I’d recommend using that and wearing PPE yourself.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I’m getting groceries delivered because we don’t have a car. When we were walking to the supermarket and bringing groceries home on the bus, we had to make more trips because we could carry less; having only one person go shopping would increase that.

        There’s also probably more total risk in me, or anyone, taking the bus versus someone driving in their own car, with no passengers.

        (We aren’t quite old enough for that to put us in a “high-risk” group, but of course the risk doesn’t begin at 60, or change only at round-number ages: 54 is a little higher risk than 50.)

        That said, I’m also paying to outsource the risk, and happy to do so.

    5. hayling*

      I came here to say the same thing. Obviously we’re all ordering more things online that we can’t get because stores are closed. But ordering grocery delivery is not “flattening the curve,” it’s outsourcing your risk to someone else.

      1. Anononon*

        That’s not accurate. If a delivery person delivers to ten people, that’s ten people who aren’t in stores/around others compared to just one delivery person.

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, I had trouble understanding this too before someone explained. When you go to the grocery store, the cashier have to be in the enclosed space, there are lines, you risk bumping into people. When people deliver the delivery person don’t have to deal with lines (usually), they only meet each person very briefly, and the different customers don’t meet at all.

          1. Old and Don’t Care*

            But someone has to pick the order and that person is in the store eight hours a day and more likely to become infected then ten people who are in the store fifteen minutes.

            None of this is simple.

            1. Anononon*

              They’re going to be working in the store no matter what (or they wouldn’t have the job, which isn’t better). So it’s better for the store employees to have to be around as few customers as possible.

            2. pancakes*

              That’s not true of everywhere. My grocery deliveries come from Fresh Direct, which doesn’t have any retail stores—it has warehouses that aren’t and haven’t ever been open to the public—and from other sellers and smaller retail shops that are closed to the public but making deliveries via orders placed on their websites.

    6. Liane*

      “Economic privilege.”
      The amount of money required to be considered economically privileged must be pretty low nowadays. Because one of my friends now uses delivery for everything because lives with his elderly parents who have many serious health issues and his only job is caring for them, and he doesn’t want to risk bringing COVID-19 home to them, so doesn’t run errands at all like he did pre-pandemic
      Between the 3 of them, they have his parents’ Social Security & Friend might have some benefits, not sure. They don’t have a car because it is too expensive.
      They are clearly quite wealthy, maybe even On Percenters /sarcasm

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        And depending on your city, a huge number of service sector employers are fully shut down. Delivery jobs aren’t great and they certainly do put that person at elevated risk of catching COVID19, but they’re also creating jobs at a time when 40 million people are out of work and huge sectors of our economy are shut down indefinitely. For businesses that were ordered to close except for curbside pickup/delivery, delivery options are helping keep the business profitable while the shop/restaurant is entirely closed.

        It is not a straight up 1:1 risk benefit trade off.

      2. DFA*

        It costs nothing to get delivery other than the tip where I order from, as long as you order more than $35 worth. I just cut out some things that were nice but not necessary to cover the tip. I guess I’m rich because my weekly shop is more than $35! (Cue 47 comments from people who feed families of 6 on $20 per month.)

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Where I am, there is an explicit delivery fee for any of the grocery delivery services, and the price for item X is now higher than if I went to the store myself.

          That said, Instacart now has on their website that the driver will leave the groceries and text to say they’ve done so, rather than risk touching the doorbell: once in a while someone waits halfway to the sidewalk until I acknowledge having seen the groceries.

    7. Joielle*

      Agreed. At the VERY least the OP should try putting up a sign (“Please leave packages outside the door and ring doorbell.”) before doing anything that could get someone fired.

    8. Gazebo Slayer*

      Well said. I would not complain to the company except in the case of extreme bad behavior (like the aforementioned delivery driver who attempted a hug; they’re just a straight-up creep)

    9. Just Another Comment*

      Completely agree, OP’s privilege, and lack of awareness of it, was the first thing that stood out to me. OP, if you have certain restrictions you want applied to your life, it is your responsibility to make those a reality, no one else’s. I implore OP to truly spend some time viewing this situation from other perspectives, including that of the delivery person, to gain empathy and gratitude for those they are demanding, not inviting (as inviting signals choice), come to their home.

  11. Mid*

    It’s very possible that the delivery people want to take more precautions but can’t. Especially if they’re working through an app, they aren’t provided with gloves, masks, sanitizer, or any sort of support from their employer. I would encourage people, if they can, to offer supplies to their delivery drivers.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      That’s what my mother’s doing. She has about 90 cotton masks that she’s made (and she’s still making more), and every time she gets a package delivered directly to her door, she makes sure to tape a couple to her front door with a sign telling the person to take them.

    2. Sailor Justice*

      I work for one of the apps as a side hustle and it wasn’t until employees protested/demanded PPE that it was sent to us, but it took mine forever to arrive in the mail and honestly it wasn’t that great of quality.

      A lot of delivery companies are dragging their feet with providing PPE.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup, that’s why my mom is giving it out herself. I told her that FedEx hadn’t been providing their drivers with PPE until petitions were signed, and she was furious. So anytime she gets a delivery from anyone, she leaves masks outside. When she had an abundance of vinyl and latex gloves, she handed them out to delivery workers as well. She doesn’t want anyone getting sick on account of her.

  12. FedEx Spouse*

    So, a couple things here from the wife of a FedEx guy.
    1: I’m shocked the USPS is still getting physical signatures. FedEx has instructed drivers not to let anyone touch their powerpad (the thing you sign on). They sign for you, they are only supposed to ensure that they see a real human and get your name.
    2: These are hard working blue collar people who are under immense pressure to get deliveries made on time. They sometimes forget to put their mask back on, not on purpose, just because they’re thinking about addresses and packages and where they have to go next and oh crud I’m gonna have lates. Are some of them cavalier about it? Sure. But a lot of them aren’t, and a lot of them are upset that they aren’t given better protective equipment. My husband has to keep 3 masks on him at all times because they keep breaking. The cloth ones he was given are too small and he can’t wear them. I had to rig extenders for him out of paracord. So take into account that some of them are doing the best they can in the circumstances they have to deal with.
    3: As Alison says, it’s very easy to manage your own situation with signs, your own pen, asking politely, etc. There is no need to “tattle” on someone, unless they refuse to do as you ask or are overtly rude about it. You should also feel free to complain about the companies not giving them what they need (see above). Otherwise please give them the benefit of the doubt. They are stressed, overworked with the extra load, working with inadequate PPE, and still get yelled at for being late.

    1. Anononon*

      I did grocery delivery mid-March, which was a couple weeks before my state’s formal lockdown, and the delivery driver called me to let me know that she was there to drop it off. When I asked her to just leave it at the door, she said they still needed signatures (despite advertising contact-less delivery). I basically was like, “uh…no?” and fortunately she was able to get her supervisor to waive the requirement. I’m sure within a week or so, the rule was completely done away with.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      I’ve been back in my office for about a month now, but our company is very small (4 people total) and we all have individual offices, so we’re socially distant. We’re semi-essential, but not so important that we were in a rush to get back, just that working from home was really tough without our usual equipment. I’m the first office close to the entry door, so I usually accept deliveries. Over the last few weeks we’ve had a delivery almost every day, and not a single FedEx, UPS, or Amazon driver have had on masks, which is a frustrating pattern. It’s usually the same driver every day for the respective services, no masks ever. I live in a state that reopened too quickly, in my opinion, and a lot of people seem to be staunchly anti-masks. Maybe their managers just didn’t give them any…but most public-facing businesses are requiring visitors to wear them, so it’s is really surprising.

    3. Name of Requirement*

      It’s also physically uncomfortable to breathe through a mask if you’re moving quite a bit, so it probably goes off and on a lot of worn over the course of the shift.

    4. Mediamaven*

      I agree with you. I’m super judgey when I’m walking down the street when I see people not moving to the side or wearing a mask. But my delivery guys? They’ve all been great but if one of them entered my space without a mask I would just look the other way. These people have an enormously challenging job because of the mass amounts of deliveries happening right now – that’s why there are so many delays etc.. It’s a HARD JOB. Plus, they have to figure in all this safety crap to go with it. I would just cut them some slack and keep in mind that research is showing that packages and deliveries have very little risk.

    5. Turquoisecow*

      We had a FedEx delivery a few days ago. The guy rang the bell and no one answered (we weren’t home) so he left with the package. My husband called FedEx and asked them to redeliver and specified that he wanted contactless delivery, however the sender (a company, not an individual) requested a signature and we couldn’t override that. The FedEx dispatcher told us he contacted the driver, but the driver was an independent contractor so he had to call someone else and have them contact the driver, and apparently this couldn’t be done by end of day. (He was driving a FedEx truck and wearing a FedEx uniform.)

      The following day we were home and when he tried to deliver my husband was able to tell him through the intercom that he could leave it. Even then, he seemed confused when my husband explained that he wasn’t going to open the door and sign for it because, you know, pandemic? After several minutes of discussion the guy agreed and left the package.

      We’ve also had this discussion with food delivery people a few times where they called from the front door to say that they were there and seemed confused when we told them to leave it. It seems like by now people should understand the concept of contactless delivery?

      We have had far many positive experiences than negative ones, however.

      1. FedEx Spouse*

        Just to clarify, since you made the point, only FedEx Express (the two day or less air service) is corporate employees, all other divisions of FedEx, including FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery, are contractors. My husband works for Express and is a corporate employee, so I can’t speak to what the others have been told to do. I will note that Home Delivery is looked down upon by the corporate drivers… probably because of the kind of thing you’ve experienced.

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          The FedEx corporate drivers look down on the contract drivers who I assume are lower-paid with worse benefits (because why would FedEx do it otherwise?). That’s really gross. I get that’s the way people are but that’s saying the quiet part out loud…

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Corporate employees looking down on contract or temp workers is pretty common across the board. Especially from hiring managers and HR. (Source: I have been a temp or contractor for 10 years.)

    6. Amy*

      Actually, since before everything locked down, the USPS instructed all mail carriers that we are to sign for every package ourself. The package is either delivered at the porch and left or put into the mailbox. Even return receipt letters are signed by the carrier, so either the OP’s carrier isn’t doing their job correctly or the incidence occurred at the very beginning of the Covid crisis.

    7. UPS Spouse*

      Ditto to all of that, especially point #2 and the last sentence.
      They are working like it’s Christmas time out there (10-11 hour days are common), and have been for a couple months now. My UPS spouse has had to bring in his own Clorox wipes/spray and hand sanitizer.

    8. IT bad guy*

      This :) I work for a company that handles deliveries – our front line people have been working every single day – we have had 0 cases in my company and we operate in most of the western states, Hawaii and Alaska. My company is providing PPE, cleaning materials (when we were finally able to get them) and reimbursing when we couldn’t – we sent corporate people to work from home – but our employees are tired, stressed, worn out – so please take the precautions for yourself and give some slack to these workers – they are doing the best they can every day.

    9. Koala dreams*

      I’m a bit confused on your third point. You shouldn’t complain to the company, but you should complain to the company? Or do you mean complain about the company to other people?

      1. UPS Spouse*

        Complain to the company that they need to supply their workers consistently with effective PPE, but don’t complain about the individual worker who may not be able to supply his/her own.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      They sometimes forget to put their mask back on, not on purpose, just because they’re thinking.
      I have done this. Just today I walked up to the door, saw the mask sign, and realized I hadn’t put it on before getting out of the car.

    11. Kindergarten cop*

      I had an electrician come by to do an emergency repair a few days ago. He entered the house when I had my back to him, so I couldn’t see him walk in; when I turned around, to my surprise I saw him unmasked. I pointed this out, to which he responded that the pandemic is “a joke” and that he doesn’t wear masks.

      That electrician will never again get a dime of my business, now or post-pandemic. It’s unfortunate, because it’s a firm of three electricians, one of which I went to kindergarden with — but I have a friend who spent 7 days on a ventilator (and who fortunately survived). Tell him the situation is a joke.

  13. Box of Kittens*

    I work in an essential business and most of us are really good about following all the safety precautions to the extent that we can, but we of course have a few who are way more strict about it than others. In my experience, you might get a few eye rolls for asking someone to back up six feet or using your own pen but most people, especially on the job, will respect that even if they aren’t that strict themselves. (I would hope at least; I know there have been exceptions. Good luck regardless.)

  14. Only Me*

    Let’s not drag politics into it (“national leadership”) or if you’re going to, at least acknowledge that the esteemed Dr. Fauci has admitted to “misleading” the public about face masks.
    People need to take personal responsibility, as you point out, and not wait for the President, Congress, or governors to tell them what to do. We’re not (all) children.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a reason we have a government. National leadership has everything to do with what’s happening. Not going to debate that here.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        Thank you for saying this Alison. National leadership has failed us miserably. We will definitely see at least 200,000 dead in the US, maybe ore, before the pandemic ends.

    2. Pippa K*

      People who advocate “personal responsibility” as the solution to public problems ought to have to consume only food and medications produced in unregulated facilities before lecturing the rest of us about dragging politics into public affairs. Or, to put it in the language of the US constitution, a main purpose of government is to “promote the general welfare.”

    3. Turquoisecow*

      People rely on authority to give them direction about what’s safe and what’s not. If the government doesn’t tell people wearing masks is the best practice, it’s harder for those of us who are wearing masks to insist that they wear masks, because after all, they’re just following the government guidelines!

      We can’t take personal responsibility for a public health crisis when our health directly relies on other people also taking personal responsibility, which they are not doing.

      1. wrong all the time*

        and when there are literally differing opinions even from WHO and CDC on what those practices are?? Seriously?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Which ones are you finding difficult to follow? Be specific.

          Advice changing over time as more is learned is in no way a sign that it was all a vast conspiracy all along.

        2. leapingLemur*

          It’s still a relatively new virus – I think medical experts are still learning about it.

          I do wish they’d have suggested hand-made masks/scarfs earlier though.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        We can’t take personal responsibility for a public health crisis when our health directly relies on other people also taking personal responsibility, which they are not doing.
        This. I so wish we lived in a science-literate and civic-minded society. Communication about what to do re covid would be clearer, people would comply to protect each other (that’s the purpose of a mask, protecting other people if you feel like you don’t have covid but it turns out your feeling is wrong), and not get hung up on gloves. And people like this morning’s OP would be assumed to be maskless for health reasons, which is okay if it’s a small number of people and the rest are doing their best.

        I feel like this is vaccination writ large, where people view transmitting whooping cough as an individual right rather than a public menace.

    4. PB*

      “Personal responsibility” means very little when facing a highly contagious disease. Even the most careful person needs to leave the house sometimes. Increasingly, I’m running into other people who aren’t wearing masks or practicing good hand hygiene. I can control what I do, but, short of holding my breath every time I leave the house, I can’t prevent potential exposure.

      The rules we need to protect us, including stay-at-home orders where needed, use of PPE, quarantining following exposure or when exhibiting symptoms, availability of testing, availability of treatment, contact tracing, and so forth, need to come from the highest levels, and are the tools we need to survive this.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      I am acting responsibly by acknowledging that I am not a doctor or an epidemiologist or anything remotely resembling an expert in how to respond to a pandemic, and so I look to people who are experts to decide how to keep myself safe.

  15. Eukomos*

    This is just a side note, but gloves aren’t believed to be particularly protective against COVID in most instances. The important thing to focus on when you contact the delivery companies is providing masks to their employees and requiring they wear them.

    1. Pennyworth*

      Even pre-covid I regarded gloves as principlally a way to keep hands clean, not to prevent the spread of disease. They are only as safe as what is on the surfaces they touch.

  16. metronomic*

    Since mid-March, I’ve only experienced a grocery delivery person ringing the bell until I came to the door once, so have been lucky I guess. We have signs on our two doors thanking people for delivering but don’t specify to leave things outside – maybe the signs make it clearer to those who might stay and ring the bell that we won’t be thanking them in person?

    Also, as for boundaries in general: I literally just got an invite from my cousin to a birthday party for his mom/my aunt this weekend. It will likely be outside, but it’s in Massachusetts… I’m now in the position of having to tell him that my partner and I are still laying low and avoiding seeing people. It feels awkward because clearly there’re some judgment happening in my declining, even I don’t say it outright.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing a public good by declining and explaining why — not just because of the obvious public health benefits, but because the more of us who do that calmly and matter-of-factly, the more it normalizes it. Embrace your no’s!

      1. metronomic*

        I did say we were “still laying low and avoiding socializing” without specifically saying it’s “because there’s a pandemic (dummy)”. I totally agree we just need to hold our ground and go about our secluded life.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, my mother-in-law wants to have a Father’s Day picnic this coming weekend – outside and supposedly social distanced, but it still doesn’t feel safe to us to gather like that. Thankfully, we’re in the midst of moving, so we can use that as an excuse not to attend, but she already got annoyed that another relative refused on health grounds.

  17. UrbanChic*

    I personally understand your anxiety, and even as things have opened, our family has continued to shelter in place. That said, those doing essential services like grocery delivery, package delivery, and postal workers are usually not that well paid, and many have to work to keep their homes and put food on the table. Who knows why they are not wearing the proper PPE (is their employer even providing it?) Regardless, any exposure you have through a delivery person is likely significantly less than the exposure you would have going to the store yourself. I would tip generously whomever is delivering to you during these terrible times, regardless of the PPE they are wearing, and just ask them to leave the goods at the door through the door (or wear gloves and a mask and use your own pen if you have to answer, as suggested above). I wouldn’t judge what that delivery person is doing, and I for sure would not call their employer. If needed, you can vote with your business and take it elsewhere. Hoping you stay healthy!

  18. Blaise*

    I definitely recommend calling the companies when this happens, to complain about the way the companies are handling sanitation. Do NOT give the person’s name though; this really has nothing to do with them! This has to do with companies not providing their employees with what they need to be safe at work. (Sure, there could be delivery people out there who are Covid deniers, but I guarantee the vast majority are being as safe as they can).

    I love the idea someone gave about leaving supplies at your doorstep for delivery people! Leaving a Ziploc with a mask and mini bottle of hand sanitizer would probably be SO appreciated by them, and it would make you feel better too!

    My dad is a mailman and USPS is completely NUTS right now. Ever since the quarantine started, they took away his day off so he has to work 6 days a week every week, and one week they even forced him to come in on Sunday so he worked for 13 days straight. Every single day he gets to work at 7 am, and most says he gets home around 8 pm now. He has just under a year until retirement- working 13-hour days six days a week in 80+ degree weather makes me nervous for him as a 61-year-old. Please be kind to your mailman!!

    1. HS Teacher*

      This. I filed a complain with Lowe’s yesterday because they’re offering curbside pickup but didn’t bother to staff it, forcing me to go inside the store. Most people in my neck of the woods aren’t wearing masks or even doing social distancing, so I’m trying to avoid going into retail establishments.
      I’m already boycotting Home Depot; if I have to also boycott Lowe’s, I’m running out of options for hardware.

      1. The Helpful Hardware Person*

        In my area, Ace is offering curbside pickup as well. The selection isn’t as good as Lowe’s (I don’t shop at HD either, so I can’t compare there) and both times I’ve done it the (maskless) guy has smirked at me while loading bags of topsoil into my trunk, but I suppose that varies by location. There’s another Ace closer to the cool part of town that is probably less smirky.

    2. Auntie Social*

      I leave a cold water for my carrier every day (sometimes two on hot days). I have a skinny insulated bag that hangs on my mailbox. My new carrier likes one water and one Coke, I can make that happen. This route is tough.

  19. Lady Heather*

    Can you put a note on the door and then just not answer? I’ve had good luck with notes pre-covid: “Please leave my package on the porch under the blanket” and even “I use a wheelchair, thank you for your patience”.

    If you know the time of delivery, you can even consider taping a tip to the door as both a ‘thanks for complying’ and as a way to ‘finalize’ the interaction, but that is very much up to you.

  20. Whatev*

    How about purchasing one of those video doorbells. You can talk to the person on the porch through the app on your phone if you have a smart phone.

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    This week I visited my favorite booze shop that I’ve gone to for 20 years… and told them I would not be coming back for the foreseeable future because of the mask situation. That was right after the cashier pulled up his neck warmer over his nose, after one of the delivery people pushed past me without even a bandana around his neck, and I had to go to opposite ends of the aisle to get past the guy with headphones & no mask.
    I made a point that the $130 I was dropping on wine & birthday gifts was not unusual…this weekend I put it in writing for the owner.

  22. blackcat*

    We have a note on the door + a plastic tub on the porch with hand sanitizer and cloth masks.
    Note says
    “Please leave deliveries on the porch and ring the bell, and help yourself to a cloth mask or hand sanitizer if you or a family member needs one!”

  23. K*

    I work for an app-based grocery delivery service (though I’m not making the actual deliveries) and it has absolutely been my experience that the company I work for is both very bad at making sure ideal COVID-19 prevention standards are strictly enforced, and very bad about giving us the resources (gloves, hand sanitizer, etc) to follow those standards of our own volition. (Where I work, we generally do okay, but it’s almost all stuff that we’ve put together by ourselves, not things that the company has provided or enforced.) This is very bad for both us workers and the customers who are depending on us, but unfortunately that’s the way it is at the moment and it feels like the company doesn’t have much motivation to change because they have a constant supply of both customers and people needing jobs due to the current situation. I second (third? etc) the suggestion to make your preferences as clear as possible with a sign at your door, even if you also say something when you make your order. I understand why people may be uncomfortable about speaking up, but personally I would never take offense at a customer politely asking me to step further away from them, etc. If you do make a complaint, please consider approaching it as a general concern instead of wrong-doing on the part of one specific worker. (For example, if your delivery person isn’t wearing gloves, it’s likely that either they haven’t been provided with gloves and/or the company has not been telling people to wear gloves, not that that particular person just decided not to wear gloves.)

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      This is why I leave out masks for delivery people.

      Also, hanging a fresh mask from your inside doorknob makes it convenient for *you* to mask up when getting deliveries. You could even hang a little bag with gloves there for convenient access.

  24. DeeEm*

    If you don’t already have a small table in front of your door, put one there. It helps. You can ask folks to leave the clipboard there and step back – then you can pick it up, sign it, and return it to the table. It’s also a handy place for smaller deliveries. If you put a sign right over the table, that helps as well (near the door bell, if possible, I find to be most effective). You will, of course, always have people who don’t read the sign. The simpler / more conciser the sign is (with large font), the more attention it’ll get. I made the decision to buy a cute one off Amazon and only about 1/3 of the people read it (but most are ring and dash deliveries, anyway). I did have one very cute food delivery person who adorably followed instructions. I’d left a little goodie basket of hand sanitizer and unopened, individually wrapped surgical masks near the beginning of the pandemic with a thank you note. I told them to just leave the package on the table and wave to the video doorbell. I’d get notified. The guy carefully read the sign, placed the bag on the table, inspected the goodie bag, carefully took one of each (there were also a few individually wrapped / unopened piece of chocolate). Waved to the doorbell with his items clearly in his hands, and said, “Thank you!” waved up the items as if to say “this is all legit, right?” and then “Thank you so much” once more before he left. It was cute and brought a smile to my face (hopefully his, too).

    1. Pippa K*

      This is a nice thing to do! These little pleasant interactions where we indicate that we appreciate one another or we’re trying to help each other out seem even more valuable to me now.

  25. blink14*

    I just keep telling myself and my family is that the best we can do is the best we each can do individually and we can’t control what other people are doing during this time period. If someone is ringing your doorbell to drop off items – simply tell them through the door “thank you, please leave the items in front of the door”. If you need to sign for something, ask if you can step inside your doorway to do it- that will provide some distance, and if they say no, use the script in the response to ask them to give you space.

    It’s harder to do this out in public at a store or a restaurant, but given that this is at your own home, you have more power to control how you interact with people.

  26. Kisses*

    I was laid off from Brusters for the second time in all this- no masks were required there. She also didn’t supply us with enough gloves.
    I’m actually kind of thankful, even though I’m in Florida and I still haven’t gotten unemployment from the FIRST layoff.
    She was scared ‘antifa’ we’re going to raid her store. And then she said she would never deny service to anyone, whether they were “BLM or Nazis”SAY WHAT.
    I really wanted to leave then, but I’m (was) the sole earner. I don’t think I’ll be going back even if she recovers (doubtful) because the small white priveledge-y comments were becoming too much. Why is it every small business owner I’ve worked for supports… the wrong side of history?

    1. pancakes*

      Some people start their own small business because they can’t or don’t want to get along with others.

  27. fposte*

    OP, depending on the waters there you may find “I have to quarantine” more effective than “I’m quarantining.” It makes it sound more immediate as a concern rather than just a household practice.

    1. Bloopmaster*

      Yeah, especially given the potential for virtually anyone to be an asymptomatic (or pre-symptomatic) carrier of the virus I don’t see anything wrong with heavily implying–or even outright stating–that you’re avoiding contact with them in order to prevent exposing them to the disease. Cough loudly when you answer the door. Leave a sign on the door stating that due to potential Coronavirus exposure in the household you will not be answering the door in person for at least 14 days. If your state or local health department has issued relevant guidance, post it up by your doorbell. Maybe caution for their own health will help persuade them they don’t need to be in your physical presence….

      1. K*

        Ooh, as someone who does this kind of work, I really would not enjoy it if someone was coughing in their interactions with me, even if we were maintaining 6 feet of distance and so on. (If you are genuinely sick and can’t help coughing, that is one thing, but maybe don’t fake a cough.) Also, I think that if someone is genuinely oblivious about safety measures, passive-aggressive coughing may not get you the results you want. Agree about the very in-your-face signage, though.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t do this kind of work and think it’s a very bad suggestion as well! Faking a cough is absolutely not necessary, and will almost certainly come across as needlessly insulting. Alison’s advice to the letter writer is much more direct and much more polite.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Please do not fake cough! You could have the virus and be asymptomatic, and coughing will spread the virus more than normal breathing/talking will.

    2. Joielle*

      I’ve noticed a couple of houses in my neighborhood have signs up that say something like “STOP! DO NOT ENTER! A member of this household has health complications and we are under strict quarantine. Please leave deliveries at the door.”

      It does make the need seem more immediate – might be a good way to go.

  28. M2*

    Also, you had to sign? I had FedEX, UPS, and USPS all deliver things that needed signatures and they all just needed to see me through the window and asked me if I was name on package. They said I did not have to sign because of the virus.

    Also, if you are getting these deliveries I hope you are giving an excellent tip as these people are putting their life at risk to do YOUR shopping. There are plenty of stories online on how little people are paid and how they rely on tips. Many of these companies aren’t (although they say they are) providing masks, gloves, or sanitizer to their staff. If you have the means leave out masks and sanitizer for them. I have travel sanitizing wipes and leave them out with a “thank you” note whenever I get them from the store.

    When I go out for my weekly shopping I don’t wear plastic gloves because it was easier for me to Purell and wash my hands instead of changing my gloves and put them in the trash (to those of you who throw them on the ground you are GROSS). I always wear a mask, am in and out and don’t grab multiple items and put them back. If you pick it up put it in your cart!

    1. Aggretsuko*

      The only person that checked me for anything was Safeway, because I ordered alcohol. Even UPS doesn’t force signatures now in my experience. Everyone knocks once and runs away.

    2. Pennyworth*

      I wash and reuse my gloves, soap destroys coronavirus. Having to turn them inside out to get both sides dry is a bit annoying, but I hate throwing out anything that can safely be reused.

    3. Anonymity is overrated*

      The having to sign is so strange. As part of my job I accept hazmat shipments. I was pretty weirded out by not having to sign for those. If I don’t have to sign for that….. I can’t think of anything that you should have to sign for

  29. Dottie*

    From time to time a delivery person asks me to sign for a package. Every time, I ask him to sign my name for me. They always do.
    No one can read the signature anyway, and it allows me to get my package and the guy to be on his way. I figure it complies with the spirit of the rule, while keeping us both safe.

  30. Check your privilege before you call the manager*

    Do not call the company!

    These people are risking their lives so you don’t have to, for way too little pay. YOU put on a mask and gloves and say thank you. There is so much (often, white) privilege in being able to pay for other (often BIPOC) people to take the risk for you.

    1. K*

      I would say that it’s ok to call the company if you can do it in a way that isn’t singling out a specific worker, but other than that, I second this. As I mentioned in another comment above, I work for a grocery delivery service, and while I understand that customers have very real and reasonable fears for their safety (especially customers who may be older or otherwise statistically more vulnerable to being seriously affected by COVID-19), at the end of the day you are paying us (and not paying us very much) to expose ourselves to danger so that you don’t have to. Please try to keep that in mind in your interactions with us.

    2. Kindergarten cop*

      I completely disagree with this. It is not “white privilege” to ask that people wear masks. Where I live, major plumbing companies, electricians, etc. give their people masks. And very few deliveries require you to answer the door.

      1. JJ*

        The privilege they are referring to is others doing their shopping/taking the risk so they don’t have to.

        Due to the systemic racism of the US, many of the folks who are able to stay home and afford this are doing so on the backs of their “mostly white” (as the commenter said) privilege.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I’m physically disabled. When it was just me and my wife, I hired a cleaner once a week. The workman is worthy of the hire.

          It’s not exploitation to hire people to do work for you. It becomes exploitation when an employer screws people out of a fair wage and benefits.

    3. Economics 101*

      In better times, I employed a cleaning service. I exchanged money that I earned doing other work to pay someone for their work in cleaning my home. I paid what they asked, so I assume they were satisfied with the deal; and I was happy to have a clean place to live without triggering an asthma attack. Two willing parties, exchanging goods and services, to the benefit of each.

      Certainly, I was paying for them to do tasks they probably did not enjoy. But I paid for this with money that I earned doing work that I did specifically to earn money, and by foregoing other purchases.

      Now, I pay to have someone deliver my food and groceries, or at least bring them to my car. I pay what is asked, plus tipping. (Where allowed: some stores forbid tipping employees.) The delivery person has money they did not have before. I have groceries. How is this more exploitive than hiring a cleaner, or someone to mow the lawn or clean the gutters?

    1. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

      They already touched your package, and so you’ll be washing the same germs off your hands if you touch the pen as well. You are trying to be as careful as possible (which is great!) but these people literally can’t do the same, because of the void they’re filling in your life. I get the frustration and social awkwardness of having to ask for what you wish they would just do, but I don’t think you’ll find you’ll need to do more than ask once or twice, smile a bit under your mask, and you’ll be on your way.

  31. JSPA*

    it’s so, so easy to take control. You use your words.

    “Hi, I’m high risk. That’s why i’m getting this delivery. Please leave the bags by the door. There’s a tip in an envelope under the mat.”

    “Hi, I’m high risk. Can you sign for me? if not, I’ll need you to give me some extra distance. Can you put the clipboard on the ground and back off about 8 feet? I have my own pen. Thanks so much.”

    “Hi, could you step back so we can maintain distance while I put this package on the counter? I’m tucking $10 under it. That should be a little bit extra; put the change in the coffee fund.”

    Note: People are taking risks–or have already been sick–while you (and I) stay home. I figure that so long as I’m eating fancier than rice and beans, and getting deliveries other than the strictest essentials, by definition I have enough to leave a tip / leave the change.

    1. Red Wheelbarrow*

      These are great scripts! Personally, I wouldn’t find them easy–I tend to cringe and feel ashamed in this kind of interaction, and also to panic and lose my words when I hear insistent knocking at the door. But with practice, this or similar language could be a big help.

      1. JSPA*

        People have been really great, so long as I was clear about what I needed, and that it was a ‘me’ thing, not a ‘you’re doing it wrong’ thing. It’s shaming or anxiety, exacerbated by lack of clarity and the sound of incipient panic that sets people off, more than anything.

        I even managed to go to a berry U-pick, pick up a (new) box (asking for it to be placed on the ground, not handed to me). I chose to pick a sour type of bush-berry not much in demand locally, which meant there was nobody within 2o feet of me. Then do the “weigh and pay” without getting within 10 feet of anyone.

        Wore my mask throughout, cooked all the berries, showered after. It felt really good knowing that neither me nor anyone else had been put at risk picking, packing or transporting that small quantum of food.

        There were a lot of people crowding the strawberry rows, trying for 6 feet plus masks, others giving each other a bare three feet, with masks, others doing six feet and no masks. So no strawberries for me, and that’s fine. There will be other years and other berries.

        Basket handers were masked, counter people were masked if they were working (but others hanging out just behind them, not necessarily).

        Plenty of people not asking for space at basket pickup or the weigh and pay counter, but nobody seemed nonplussed to have someone ask for what they needed, clearly and with good cheer.

    2. OP*

      Thank you, this is really helpful language to have! I’m also making to sure to leave big tips, since I know that’s the best way I can thank people right now.

  32. Arctic*

    I will never understand why people are so insistent on gloves. I can wash my hands or use sanitizer if washing is unavailable. You can’t do that with gloves. And most don’t have access to the quantity of gloves needed to change after every contact. You are insisting on something that is less safe.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yeah if you touch someone’s gloved hand you’re still exposing yourself to whatever they have touched. Better just to wash your hands after contact and avoid touching anything until you do.

  33. NotJennifer*

    I just asked a local restaurant if they have a mask policy for delivery people, because we got a delivery yesterday that was without mask, and they also insisted on handing the food to me instead of placing it by the door. We’ve ordered from them before, recently, and they used proper precautions, so I was totally unprepared. I don’t want to get the delivery person in trouble, but I also want to know if they don’t have policies in place to keep their community, customers, and employees healthy. Because if they don’t, I am happy to order elsewhere. (I didn’t tell them all that, but am patiently waiting for an answer to my simple inquiry about their mask policy for deliveries…)

    1. pancakes*

      I’m not sure it’s worth trying to pursue an answer on that because, as another commenter pointed out, even if the employer has a firm policy on masks, it’s so easy for an employee to momentarily forget to put their mask on, or to forget to put it back on after having removed it for comfort. The thing to do, I think, is wear a mask yourself when you come to the door and try to keep a good distance.

      1. JSPA*

        This is basically a game of chicken, except in reverse. As many times as they say, “come get,” you say, “no, I need you to put it down.”

        Maybe they hope that if you are face to face, you’ll remember to tip. Maybe tips sent electronically don’t get to them. Maybe they’re unclear on the concept. Maybe they’re just jerks. Regardless, “I paid for this food and I need you to deliver it per my instructions” is something you can stand pat on!

        If they say they’re instructed to put it in your hands: Sorry, that won’t be possible. Do you need me to call the restaurant to have them confirm that you should put it down?

        This is wonderful training for all the other times you need to give clear instructions and stand behind them. And the stakes are a lot higher than “darn, now I have to send an email to clarify.”

  34. pcake*

    To the best of my knowledge, Fedex and UPS haven’t required a signature in months. They sent out emails about this saying that the delivery person could sign for you, and they did even when we’ve had boxes arrive requiring signatures.
    I’m not sure about the USPS, but I can tell you that we’re high risk and have been home since mid-March, and everything we get is delivered. We will not open the door for health reasons, but we have communicated with delivery guys from UPS, USPS and Fedex, and not one has ever asked us to open the door.

    I totally agree with Alison about the signs, but if you’re home anyway, you can yell through the door like we do to communicate further.

  35. The Helpful Hardware Person*

    I’ve had service people in since our building reopened, and many don’t wear masks. One of them called during the lockdowniest part of the lockdown (which in my state was more like a suggestion) and tried to set up a sales call; I put him off till June, figuring we’d be back by then, and accordingly, he showed up last week. I had forgotten about it completely. He had no mask and kept TOUCHING things. At one point I practically ran to the other side of my desk to get away from him, which he took as an opportunity to use my keyboard and mouse. We had a bit of a discussion about that–he’s not one of the “COVID is a hoax” people, but he is clearly used to doing things a certain way and is finding it very hard to adjust.

    I didn’t call his company about it. It’s a major national company and I *know* they are taking more precautions than he showed, but at the same time, this would be a tough time for a salesperson to be without a job. As soon as he was gone I sanitized EVERYTHING and also bought a box of masks. I put them on a table squarely in front of the door with a big sign that says to take one. I put a bottle of hand sanitizer on it too. So far it’s working–one guy stood at the table and yelled to me across the office about how mask-wearing was “a matter of opinion” but he did NOT advance past my sign. :-) A couple others have stopped and taken a mask or put on one they were carrying but not wearing.

  36. nep*

    This is such a great response by Alison. Truly, responses to the current situation are absolutely all over the place.
    Excellent tips. We really have to act as if a) everyone is infected and b) no one is going to take any precautions to protect us.

  37. ORLY*

    The ppl delivering things to you are under so much more risk than you are. They are going to multiple places all the time. Your tiny little risk is nothing compared to theirs — & the company they work for doesn’t care about them & probably doesn’t provide masks/gloves/etc. for them. Check your own privilege & don’t be so cruel.

  38. Becca*

    In Hong Kong, the pandemic has been largely contained because of the actions of the people. We haven’t been into total lockdown because people take it upon themselves to where masks to protect others, they have naturally social distanced, take extremely high measures to keep each other clean. Even with no almost zero community transmission cases people continue to take it seriously. They learned from SARs and as soon as there was a hint of an epidemic individuals took it upon themselves to stop the spread of the virus. Governments can say and do what they like but I genuinely believe it’s community/group action that will make the different. I wish this could be adopted more widely and I agree with Alison’s tips. Do what you can to protect yourself.

  39. Lainey Lake*

    As others have said phoning the company is unlikely to be helpful, except for the highest (coughing, licking, hugging level) breaches. The kind of company that doesn’t give it’s staff adequate PPE is also the kind of company that is likely to respond to customer criticism by making their staff’s lives worse, not changing in useful ways, e.g. they will provide no better equipment but make the most minor breach an automatic sacking offence. A lot of the shortfalls you have seen are likely linked to the ridiculously punishing targets staff are having to meet (literally punishing, if they fail to meet them they at best loose bonuses they need to make their wage even vaguely liveable and quite possibly face disciplinary action or dismissal). Their companies may well be giving them bare minimum quantities of low quality PPE but using this effectively will slow down their work and cause them to miss targets – e.g. driving in a mask is unpleasant and possibly dangerous (fogging issues for glasses wearers using low quality masks etc) but putting a mask on every time you get in and out of the van takes time. Likewise remembering to always step back, waiting patiently to see if someone comes rather than ringing the bell repeatedly to hurry them up etc all take time and time to think their bosses don’t allow. These companies whole business model is based on these unrealistic targets so they will blame staff rather than extending them/providing better equipment.

  40. Frustrated*

    I’m on the opposite side of this. The experts are still conflicted on the masks, and the recommendations change frequently. I refuse to wear a mask. I’m claustrophobic, I get anxious and my nose runs, and I can’t breath. I think it’s basic instincts to not want something covering your mouth and nose. Have you ever tried to put a muzzle on a dog?
    To be honest you don’t know your delivery drivers reasons to not wear a mask. Those reasons are none of your business. There are a ton of legit medical and OSHA reasons to not wear a mask. Wear your mask and gloves if you want to, but you can’t demand other adults to wear one.

    1. jay*

      when you refuse to wear a mask, you take away my consent as a disabled person to not be exposed to your germs that could kill me and nearly did already. the experts are not conflicted; you are seeking out experts who tell you what you want to hear.

      1. Frustrated*

        You don’t have to be around people who refuse to wear masks. You can take your business elsewhere, you can tell your employer that you would prefer not to be scheduled on the same days, switch working stations and in day to day activities walk away from people who aren’t wearing them and not associate with them. Business have to make accommodations for their workers if it’s reasonable on both sides of this argument.
        Personally, If a business tells me I need to wear a mask or they refuse service I leave and take my money elsewhere. You have the same power to do the opposite. I don’t blame you if you do. You have to make the best choices for yourself. My whole point is, you can’t make health choices for strangers because you don’t know what their reasons are for not wearing a mask and it’s not your business. Do you really need to know all about the fed ex delivery drivers deviated septum he got in a hockey fight when he was a teenager for his reasons for not wearing a mask? The only thing you can control in most situations is yourself.
        OP can try leaving detailed delivery instructions, I know a lot of online portals have that as an option.

        1. Joielle*

          The problem is, though, that YOU are making health choices for strangers by exposing them to your germs. You can argue all day that your comfort is more important than someone else’s, but just know it’s a crappy, selfish opinion and people will judge you accordingly.

          1. Frustrated*

            I really don’t care if people judge me for not wearing a mask. But it’s impossible for you to know what some strangers reasons for not wearing a mask. Unless you ask them, which can be personal stuff they don’t want to talk to a stranger about. I refuse to wear a mask because I can’t breath, it makes my heart race, and I starting sweating, I think it’s a panic attack. But once I take it off I’m fine.

            1. Mahkara*

              If you can’t breathe in a mask, just think about how much harder it will be to breathe if you catch COVID.

    2. Penelope*

      The advice on mask has changed. . . once, two months ago, assuming you’re in the US.
      There are legitimate reasons some people can’t wear masks. But if you can, you should wear one. It will save lives.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If you can’t wear a mask, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are always giving people at least six feet of space. The city near me that is being strictest about masks also emphasizes every time that this is “unless you cannot for medical reasons, in which case social distancing is even more important.”

      I understand asthma–I have a friend who literally didn’t leave the house for two and a half months because she can’t breathe with a mask on–but social distancing is the primary recommendation, and one we all can and should take.

      If I walked into a business and saw a sign saying “please wait behind the yellow tape, the accountant can’t wear a mask for medical reasons,” I would respect that. If the person at the front desk, or store entrance, was maskless and standing where I had to pass close to them, I would leave and tell them why, because nobody in the world has a medical/disability need to stand near me without a mask.

  41. SarahTheEntwife*

    I nth the recommendation for putting a clear sign on your door. Depending on how the delivery service works, it’s possible the actual delivery person isn’t always receiving the special instructions, or just plain loses track of which house had that instruction in it since they’ve been processing orders all day.

  42. jay*

    OP, this is a legit emotion, but “the only people I am inviting to come near my house right now may not be taking this pandemic seriously” ain’t quite it, and I would like to invite you to be gentle with yourself and also the people who are making it possible for you to stay inside in the first place.

    Look, I have OCD, am immunocompromised, have asthma, AND got COVID back in April (at the grocery store, for the record), so that anxiety is very real but it feels like you’re projecting your intentions on people who probably get paid minimum wage to do twice as much work as before. Their employers may also not be doing a great job at modeling the behavior or explaining the expectations; knowing when to change gloves, for example, is a whole process (I only know because I’m a middle-aged queer person and thus many of my friends lived through the 80s and had to get some high-grade medical education in order to survive watching their friends die of AIDS, and I say that not to be dramatic — it’s complicated, keeping track of what you touched and in what order and where to store your new gloves so they don’t get contaminated and how to change gloves without contaminating your hands and then the new gloves, etc. etc.).

    Another example: if the delivery person is ESL and the boss is not, they may not be communicating effectively what needs to be done. And that’s assuming their boss even provides them with enough PPE in the first place, which they are almost certainly not doing because almost no one is, at least that I know of.

    The average delivery worker (I used to be married to someone in the restaurant industry so I know a lot of delivery folks, if it helps) is probably not doing this *at* you. They’re at WAY higher risk than you are for exposure, and they often have families who are then also at risk. They just may lack better options, which is the fault of the system and NOT of the worker, and I think it will be easier on everyone if you treat them like people who get paid minimum wage to constantly have to be outside and exposed to the plague and don’t have the equipment or education they need.

    Try to refocus that energy, if you can. I’m salaried and working from home. If a delivery worker making BS dollars an hour can’t afford PPE? I sure as heck can.

    So I got a box of masks (the paper kind you can get at the drugstore) and a box of medium-sized non-latex gloves (a LOT of people in food service and delivery jobs have latex allergies because you can develop them through latex exposure). I used masking tape to create a “handle” for both, so you didn’t have to touch the box. And then I used magnetic hooks and hung them from my front door along with a sign that said something like “PLEASE TAKE ONE/A PAIR/SEVERAL IF YOU NEED THEM” in giant bright red letters.

    The number of people who have hollered through the door to say that they were taking something and thanking me for having it available because they didn’t makes me cry to even think about it.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Just today my roomie reported that one of our “take one if you need it” masks went to it’s new home. If I manage to get another box of gloves, I may put those out as well.

      It’s actually hard to get gloves, Amazon is out or not selling to the average joe. With a household of 5 at-risk people, it’s an issue.

  43. Jennifer*

    Yeah, calling and complaining about their practices instead of singling out one employee seems like a better way to go.

  44. Scarlet*

    “For instance, the mail delivery person who needed my signature for a package, but wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves and made skin-to-skin contact when passing me the pen.”

    Oh for goodness sake, OP. Tell them to leave the deliveries or don’t open the door. Skin to Skin contact? That sounds like an accident, no one’s trying to maliciously infect you. Use some hand sanitizer. Communication with the delivery person will likely get you the results you want. Our economy isn’t doing great right now, are you really going to call someone’s company and potentially put their job in jeopardy?

    1. Frustrated*

      I second this. The delivery person doesn’t know your medical history more than you know theirs. They may have their own reasons for not wearing a mask.

  45. Frustrated*

    I just had a thought I’d like to add. This forum in geared towards people who work in air conditioned offices not people who work outside in all sorts of weather. We can all agree that those masks are hot. People who work outside in the summer are at risk for heat stroke during a regular summer. Add a mask that makes everything hotter and heat stroke exasperated by a mask is a way bigger risk than Covid. I always have cold bottled water for workers around my house in the summer.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      This is a really good idea.

      I one time ended up on a job site in Georgia in June. Think hot and humid. The workers there were doing pain boot work. They had to wear respirators, goggles and bunny suits. That gets really hot. So they took frequent hydration breaks, etc.

  46. toots*

    Skin-to-skin contact doesn’t transmit the virus; wash your hands and that element is a non-issue.

  47. Elizabeth West*

    You’ve got to do it yourself — and you’ve got to be willing to hold firm on your boundaries, even if it feels uncomfortable.

    We’ve had a few repair/service people come out since the thing started. I’ve insisted that anyone coming into the house wear a mask. I made those disposable shop towel masks and they wear it or they don’t come in. I don’t want it and I don’t have any insurance, so I don’t want it either.

    Most of the workers have been outside (concrete driveway slab, and they repaved the street –yay, no more potholes!). They haven’t worn masks, but it’s easy to stay far away from them.

  48. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

    Must be nice to be so safeguarded in your home that you see a delivery person as a threat to your safety because of a 30 second interaction. They have to work with the general public and you turn it into a personal assault. Makes me angry for them, not you. I agree that they should be wearing a mask, but I am also not out there hauling hundreds of packages a day in the heat.

    We have completely forgotten about the risk these workers face every single day and turned them into personal servants. Shame on all of us for treating essential workers this way.

    1. Snuck*

      My issue is that I don’t feel comfortable tipping the delivery people (cash is evil at present) but I am so grateful for what they are doing!

      I am not in a tipping culture, but I wish I knew how to seriously thank them easily… (it’s not like the grocery stores are answering their 1800 numbers for kudos calls right now!).

      I agree with your sentiment, might be a little less strident in experessing it ;) d

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Amusing anecdote: I had some dollar bills go through the wash in a pocket. They’re fine. Money laundering works. ;)

        You can also iron cash. I use hand sanitizer on my change.

        In general, though, handling cash has been an issue for immunocompromised people for a long time.

  49. Snuck*

    Just for reference sake… some countries are doing this stuff well… I’m in Australia, where the following is pretty much par for the course now (normal)…
    – many places politely refuse cash, everywhere asks for tap and go/Apple Pay
    – Post Offices, Pharmacies etc all have ditched the pen – I assume they are keeping their video backup instead of us signing, but I don’t have to sign scripts or to collect parcels etc anymore…
    – Delivery guys don’t ask for a signature anymore – they just take a photo of you/the box at your door (or the bags of groceries etc).
    – Grocery stores/Post Offices/ Everywhere there’s a badly paid customer service person having to interact with people for hours :/ there is a plastic screen now so you can’t sneeze on them.
    – Cafes etc – the barista no longer takes orders or handles payments, that is separated from the making of food
    – Shopping trolleys, ATMs and everything in between is the cleanest it’s ever been, and they have a person at the trolleys wiping them down in between people so they are fresh for each user (handles).
    – Buses have the front few rows taped off, and entry is only via the rear doors. Western Australia has an effective electronic card system, so people tag on/off at the back, this came about after a bus driver was exposed.
    – Stickers on the floor everywhere – even if it’s just crosses of tape – so we all know how far to stand apart from each other. Signs up “Don’t touch unless you plan to buy it” in the produce section. That sort of the sensible stuff (and we’ve got enough British reserve to follow these rules).
    – Handshakes and high fives are banned at school, in meetings etc. We all just automatically lean in, and then remember and lean back. Moment passed, acknowledgement of communal risk shared.
    – Cafes are taking names and mobile numbers for contact tracing, limits are in place how many are in a premesis (1/4m2) and there’s constant wiping down – you can’t clear a table and just sit, it’s wiped before you can.

    Right now Perth is probably one of the safest cities in the world. It’s working. Victoria is getting out of control and has low grade community transmission. South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania are doing well. Queensland and New South Wales are in between.

    It’s all become so normal that it’s jarring to be presented with a pen etc sometimes. I think there’s a collective social responsibility here (WA) with strong political leadership that’s working for us for now. But there’s a social responsibility – we all locked down when we were told, stayed home, didn’t party in each other’s houses… and nailed it. Zero community transmission. Group effort.

    If I had people coming to my door and expecting me to physically interact I probably wouldn’t phone their manager, I’d dismiss it as ignorance, and realise they were so low paid that I cannot put that on them. I know they have to deliver something stupid like 40 packages an hour, for a minimum wage, and they are doing that because they’ve lost their other jobs…. so I would cut them slack. BUT… that package would sit for however many days on a spare table… before opening. Or if it’s groceries… be washed if fresh produce, and rotated through after a week on the table if dry goods. I’ve got high risk kid/self and not going to take chances, but not going to beat up the underpaid delivery guy over it either. He doesn’t want COVID or isn’t educated enough to work out what is sensible… he’s not doing it ‘on purpose’ to you.

    1. Snuck*

      And then… just like that… yesterday evening after this comment… I had a courier banging on the door having a red hot go at me for a parcel I’ve disputed because it never arrived. He thrust a pen in my hand and demanded I sign a random form saying it was delivered (it wasn’t)… 30mins of him having a huge go at me, and me noticing he has cold symptoms (we don’t have community transmission in Perth so I am not worried about COVID, but I have a immune compromised kid having a surgery on Wednesday, we don’t need your cold mate!) and… thus… I’m left debating what to do in this exact situation.

      If we had community transmission I’d never have opened my door to talk to him.
      As it was I just washed carefully after going in, and kept 2m away from him at all times.
      I’m probably going to deal with his manager over all this, but not for cold reasons, but for ‘in your face at 5pm on a Saturday evening over a parcel you didn’t deliver, and how the hell did you come to my house when the post office box is around the corner’ nonsense. 30mins of loud angry abuse in front of my kids in my driveway wasn’t warranted. (It was an amazon item, to go to the post office box…. )

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