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Mark Cuban’s secret shopper study finds most Dallas businesses not complying with reopening guidelines

Mark Cuban. Photo: Gage Skidmore
May 13, 2020

Some businesses in Dallas, Texas are permitted to reopen as long as they follow certain guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but almost none of them are complying with those guidelines, according to a secret shopper study funded by billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

Cuban hired a research firm to conduct the study in order to see how well the restaurants and retail stores were abiding by those guidelines, which made several recommendations for how they can keep people safe and their stores clean, Dallas Eater reported. The study found that 96 percent of eligible businesses were not complying with the reopen guidelines the Texas governor implemented.

Those guidelines include keeping the social distancing policy in place, wearing face masks, having single-use condiments available, contactless payment, and more.

“I wanted to get an understanding of what opening meant to businesses around Dallas. Were they opening? What precautions were they taking? Were employees in safe environments? And bigger picture, I wanted to know if these are places that I would feel safe taking my family to,” Cuban wrote in a blog post explaining his decision to conduct the study. “So I hired a company that specialized in this type of project, https://shiftsmart.com/, and asked them to let me know how Dallas businesses were responding to the Open Order for Texas.”

Dallas businesses were allowed to reopen on May 1 to help limit the coronavirus-induced recession, which has so far resulted in 20 million jobs lost in the United States.

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The research firm, ShiftSmart, used a team of secret shoppers to conduct research the stores were implementing Texas governor Greg Abbott’s Open Texas guidelines. They called about 1,000 stores to see if they were open. According to the study, only 36 percent of all businesses included in the study were allowed to reopen.

The team then visited about 300 of those stores to “assess compliance against state reopening protocols.” While the study did not specifically name the stores, it did note the type of establishment it was, such as “a steakhouse chain.”

Of the 36 percent who were allowed to reopen, the study found a whopping 96 percent were “non-compliant across all mandatory protocols and all locations.” Secret shoppers noted that restaurants were more likely to comply with parts of the guidelines, such as separating tables and asking employees to wear masks, than others, such as offering single-use condiments or contactless payment.

“On average, ~60% of mandatory protocols were followed and ~54% of all suggested protocols were followed,” Cuban noted.

He also said that he will be conducting the study “a couple more times so we can learn what the trends are and try to learn from it.”

There are more than 1.3 million people infected with the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data. Of that, there are 6,123 people infected with the virus and 145 deaths in Dallas.

Cuban has been a vocal opponent of reopening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, recently telling Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that it was too soon for stores to reopen.

“The reality is the state and the federal government need to put together protocols that define what’s necessary to protect not only the customers coming in, but the employees as well,” Cuban said.