January 25, 2017
Have you ever taken the wrong exit on the interstate, and suddenly realized that you were on the wrong side of town? Well, that is a pretty fair way to describe my first month at Family Dollar.
As many of you know I was fired from CVS back in early December, and while I did manage to enjoy some time off from both work and university I was also getting a bit stir crazy.
My former store manager Ruth’s husband Robert had been trying to get me to come work for him for quite some time. So after my termination with CVS, I went ahead and accepted his offer to become his assistant store manager while declining a couple of other standing offers with other companies.
Okay so a few things to note:
I had never been to his store nor did I really even know where it was. Turned out to be a twenty-five minute drive with no traffic.
I had absolutely no knowledge of Family Dollar, I more or less just assumed that retail is retail, and really the only differences would be subtle.
I also had no knowledge of Robert’s labor hours or staffing.
One could say that I essential went in blind. I had initially planned on starting during the first week of January, and meeting up with Robert at the store prior that way I could get a feel for the staff, store, and the district.
Well so much for plans, because on the morning December 29th I get a message from Robert telling me he is short for the evening shift and that I should come in and my first day would be moved forward.
I later learned that my drug test had just come in that morning so the timing was great for the store. My first night there essentially all I did was a quick five minute rundown of the register functions and then worked as a cashier the rest of the eight and a half hour shift.
Let me show you what I first saw upon entering the store, absolute filth! I cannot blame his management or his team. He is running the store on a skeleton crew and yet he has one of the most profitable locations in the district.
This is how I learned what the true bad side of town really is. For example, my store is on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. I don’t know about every city but usually, when you turn onto Marting Luther Kink Jr Blvd you lock your doors and hide your wife.
This is a monumental shift in my life. I have grown up in a middle-class family in a really sought out neighborhood, I have never really experienced such disparity in my life.
That first night I admitted to Robert that I needed to go home and bleach my nose just to get the smell of Marijuana out of my nostrils. The next morning I had to immediately do laundry as my entire room smelled of marijuana just from the clothes I had worn to work the night prior.
The second day I worked was similar to the first, however, I learned how to unload a DC truck delivery essentially by hand. No fancy pallets, or pre-packaged totes for Family Dollar. Just good old boxes of merchandise. Any given week we will receive eight hundred to twelve hundred separate boxes of merchandise. We do have a couple of items that come in on totes, but that is in addition to everything that comes in as boxes or crates.
Overall a few key experiences since my first day at Family Dollar are as follows:
Found a bag of weed out in the parking lot.
Yelled at for not accepting food stamps as payment for cigarettes.
Had a stray dog come into the store and take a dump on our floor.
Had a customer tell me that she wish tax was “not invented” because she had to pay tax on her $2.00 shirt that food stamps would not cover. (I don’t think she understands how her food stamp card is paid for)
McDonalds next door to us had their windows shot out and a man went in and robbed them at gunpoint just ten minutes after I left the store
Another Robbery at McDonald’s just two days later, again at gunpoint.
Found half a box of Hot Pockets. (Customer shoplifted the other half)
Had a “gangsta” drop his gun in the middle of the store. (refuse to tell my family about this one)
The Department of Corrections brought a few juvenal inmates to the store for “good behavior”
Fifteen-minute “break” regardless of your shift. (although you are often interrupted because your cashier needs approval)
Found a few roaches in the backroom.
Had a prostitute offer to do me a “favor” on my lunch break if I do her a favor and pay for the cigarettes she was unable to pay for.
Had a guy ask if he can buy dog food on food stamps. ( I should really set up a separate series just to talk about what people try to buy with their food stamps)
All of this seriously has me questioning what I am even doing there, while I appreciate the job, I cannot help but question if working for Family Dollar is a good fit for me. The benefits are minimal, and mind you they do not even offer their employees a discount!
Another reason I doubt Family Dollar is the fact that I have never worked for a company that so openly expects employee theft! The cashier have to have a managers approval for even basic things like refunds, prepaid cards, or VOIDS! This is immensely frustrating when you are on break. At first, I tried to get around this by going out to my car while on break, and they would come out and get me. So now I have taken to driving down the road just to get a few minutes by myself.
As someone who has experienced as much retail and customer service as I have, I have never seen such a backward company. Again this has nothing to do with our store manager, but with the company as a whole. We could take actual lunches if we had a proper amount of labor.
Something that I think is unheard of is the fact that the stores safe is literally in plain view of all customers. While it is located behind the counter, so are certain high-theft products and customers regularly go behind the counter to get said items. I simply cannot fathom why the safe was positioned where customers have access and can see instead of a more secure area such as the office, or backroom.
The reasons I chose to work with Robert instead of taking more favorable positions elsewhere is because I know the family and the experience as a whole is eye opening. I knew that writing about a dollar store would seem more interesting than an Office Depot or a Fed Ex.
I am not one to quit a challenge, and working at Family Dollar definitely, falls within that criteria. So, for the time being, I will stick with it. Maybe the experience will get better, maybe not, but one thing is certain; the content I generate working at Family Dollar will be on a whole new level compared to what I was able to generate while working for CVS.
Until next time, with much love,