In-N-Out Burger is more rational than US Hospitals

July 20, 2023 in Columnists, News by RBN Staff


By  Vinay Prasad

The chain bans masking out of preference, as a logical person would have done post vaccination

In-N-Out Burger has now banned employees from wearing masks, unless they have an explicit doctor’s note to do so. The logic is simple. Masks diminish the experience of customers, and offer no benefits to a healthy worker. The worker likely already had covid, masks don’t delay the time till you get COVID (kinda a big deal), and the worker will surely get COVID anyway— masks or no masks— at the exact same time anyway (this is the key point).

In fact, the best time to ban masking among healthy workers— the rational moment— was post vaccine in 2021. After the initial vaccine dose, the risk of bad covid outcomes was as low as it would be. The mask, an intervention that has no data it slows spread in community settings, became not only unproven, but illogical.

In-N-Out is a rational company. It is balancing the workers’ psychological comfort in an unproven intervention vs. the actual loss of experience to customers. It would be like In-N-Out banning burning incense sticks burning on the counter to ward off bad omens— something they surely would do. As far as I can tell, it is not controversial at all.

And yet, it is controversial because masking is not about evidence or data or logic, but a bizarre culture movement that seeks to minimize risk (even with theatric, unproven props). People view In-N-Out’s decision as further evidence of worker exploitation, but ironically it is the best thing they can do for workers struggling with illogical thoughts.

I was recently in an In-N-Out and honestly the policy will affect very few people. The place was packed and a few employees wore thin surgical masks. It is not clear what their actual motivation is. Among the youth, masking is one way to avoid social interaction, or hide one’s appearance. Sometimes it behooves others to push people out of their delusions.