Kerri Dennis arrived at a Walmart store in Big Rapids, Michigan on Friday morning to buy groceries and a car seat for her friend, who is pregnant and due to give birth in May.
When she stepped inside, she said she found portions of the store — including the shelves stocked with baby gear — wrapped in yellow caution tape, with signs saying the store was prohibited by the state of Michigan from selling “nonessential” items.
The ban came from an order issued by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which went into effect Thursday evening.
Dennis said she tried to buy the car seat anyway, and was told she couldn’t.
I went to buy one and the cashier told me legally she is not allowed to let me leave the store with it because it was in a taped off area, she told Business Insider.
Dennis posted her experience on Facebook along with photos of baby gear wrapped in caution tape, and her post was shared thousands of times. By Friday afternoon, the caution tape around the baby gear had been removed, apparently, because of backlash from shoppers, she said.
An employee who answered the phone at the Big Rapids Walmart store said she couldn’t comment on the incident, and referred Business Insider to Walmart’s corporate office.
“Michigan customers are able to purchase baby car seats, baby furniture and other infant products at their local Walmart,” a Walmart spokesperson said in a statement.
We are reiterating this direction with store management to ensure consistent service to our customers across our Michigan stores. Customers are also welcome to purchase these items from the convenience of their home through Walmart.com.
Dennis’s experience highlights some of the confusion around what products are considered essential and nonessential as some states and local governments enact restrictions on the sale of nonessential goods in stores
In Michigan, the ban specifically stated that stores more than 50,000 square feet must close areas dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, and paint. For reference, the average Walmart supercenter is roughly 180,000 square feet. The order did not ban the sale of baby gear.
Some shoppers have criticized restrictions on “nonessential” items on social media, and several lawsuits have been filed over the outright closure of some businesses deemed nonessential.
Whitmer, the Michigan governor, on Sunday addressed the confusion over baby gear on Twitter.
The National Rifle Association has filed lawsuits against several states, including New York, California, and New Mexico, over the closure of gun stores. A small business in Pennsylvania that makes handballs for musicians has also filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that closure orders are violating its employees’ rights, according to Market Watch.
Restrictions on sales of nonessential goods in stores does not affect online purchases. Customers can still purchase goods from restricted areas of stores online for home delivery.