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Editorial: Keep confusion to a minimum with signs

It’s time for some new material.

Months ago, a task force comprised of local agencies formed to help businesses reopen safely. There were members from the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Commission and Tourism Development Authority.

A key part of its tasks involved distributing information kits that included floor decals, hand sanitizer, face coverings, posters and other information. Particularly as the governor’s initial stay-at-home order ended, it was a good packet to help small businesses adapt to rapidly changing times. Some of those items are timeless, but the “we’re open” sign on display at many local businesses is not.

The sign made sense when restrictions were first lifted, as businesses were still prevented from reopening and others made the choice to stay closed as a precaution. Now, though, the list of businesses prevented from operating is few and far between, with bars and theaters as notable examples. But there are a number of others that have been allowed to open since the initial closure.

The “we’re open” sign might sit among several other pieces of paper on the front door of a business and close to an actual sign used to indicate when doors are unlocked and ready to welcome in customers. Lights are often dark and doors are locked at night even as “we’re open” signs are posted. It’s understandable how things might be confusing for a customer.

Importantly, businesses need to avoid signs that confuse customers. There’s a task, too, for the Economic Recovery Task Force.

The continued work of the Economic Recovery Task Force, as it was named in May, should involve distributing more and simplified material that indicates the current state of affairs. That includes something to replace the “we’re open” sign and indicating any updated guidance for business operations. Suffice to say, things have changed significantly since May, and because the state of affairs may change again shortly if Cooper decides to dial back restrictions or tighten things down again, any public-facing material must be simple.

A good alternative should encourage customers to shop local and support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic so they still exist afterward — a message that falls well within the mission of the organizations who form the task force.

Keep confusion and fine print to a minimum.

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