Michigan AG Warns Menards About Opportunistic Business Practices Amid Virus

This is the second time in two weeks Menards has been warned by Dana Nessel's office.

WWJ News
April 01, 2020 - 10:00 pm

(WWJ) -- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office is again warning Menards over its business practices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A week after Nessel sent a cease and desist letter to the home improvement retail store over complaints of price gouging, the attorney general now says Menards is enticing customers to come to the store with marketing and sales practices designed to increase customer presence, despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order.

Officials say they have received numerous reports that the company's stores have been engaging in those business practices, which might endanger the health of customers and employees during the pandemic.

Nessel's letter demands that Menards "cease any and all activities that run contrary to the spirit and intent of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order," which requires businesses to temporarily limit or suspend on-site operations to only those necessary to sustain or protect life. In turn, the number of workers on-site should be reduced to only those needed to perform those specific operations, according to Nessel's office.

"The current climate should not be viewed through the lens of business opportunism where dollars drive decisions over the good of the public’s health,"  Nessel said. "We have asked that Menards cease any and all practices that run contrary to the spirit and intent of the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, including marketing sales to draw large numbers of the general public into their stores for non-emergency purposes."

Menards, like many other home improvement retailers, is currently allowed to remain open to the public to supply essential goods that fall under certain provisions of the executtive order. Such stores are only allowed to sell items that are "necessary to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation and essential operations of a residence." 

Stores are also ordered to have as few employees as needed to support those sales.

The attorney general's office sent a cease and desist letter to Menards last week at least a dozen complaints said the company was selling items such as face masks and hand bleach at unfairly high prices. The company responded with a public apology related to its sale of face masks, but the issues raised in the cease-and-desist letter remain a topic of ongoing discussions with Menards, according to the AG's office.

Willful violations of the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order can result in a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each offense. Violations should be reported to law enforcement agencies overseeing the jurisdiction in which the alleged offense occurred. 

>>> Coronavirus In Michigan: What You Need To Know On Wednesday, April 1