As a general employee of Dollar went viral on TikTok
In January 2021, Mary Gundel received a letter from Dollar General’s corporate office congratulating her on being one of the company’s most successful employees. In honor of her effort and dedication, the company gave Ms. Gundel a lapel pin that said “DG: Top 5%.”
“Take it with pride,” the letter said.
Mrs. Gundel did just that, placing the pin on her yellow and black General Dollar uniform, next to her nameplate. “I wanted the world to see it,” he said.
Ms. Gundel loved her job managing the Dollar General store in Tampa, Florida. It was hectic, unpredictable and even exciting. He especially enjoyed the challenge of calming belligerent customers and chasing thieves. He earned about $ 51,000 a year, much more than Tampa’s average income.
But the job also had its challenges: delivery trucks that appeared without warning, leaving boxes piled up in the hallways because there weren’t enough workers to unpack them. The days she spent running the store for long periods on her own because the company only set aside so many hours for other employees to work. Irritated customers complaining about out-of-stock items.
So on the morning of March 28, between running the search and tagging her clothes, Mrs. Gundel, 33, backed up her iPhone and got the record.
The result was a six-part critique, “Retail Store Manager Life,” in which Ms. Gundel uncovered working conditions within the fast-growing retail chain, with shops that are common in rural areas.
“Talking about it is really a little bad,” Mrs. Gundel said as she looked at her camera. “Technically, it could have a lot of problems.”
But he added: “Whatever happens, whatever happens. Something needs to be said, and some changes need to be made, or they will probably end up losing a lot of people.”
His videos, which he posted on TikTok, went viral, including one that has been viewed 1.8 million times.
And with that, Ms. Gundel instantly transformed from a lieutenant loyal to the Dollar General leadership to an open dissident who risked her career to describe family working conditions to U.S. retail employees.
As Mrs. Gundel had predicted, Dollar General soon fired her. They let her go less than a week after posting her first critical video, but not before inspiring other General Dollar store managers, many of them women who worked in poor area stores, to talk to TikTok.
“I’m so tired I can’t even talk,” said one woman, who described herself as a 24-year-old store manager but did not give her name. “Give me back my life.”
“I’ve been so scared of posting this so far,” another unidentified woman said as she passed viewers through a General Dollar store as she commented on how she was forced to work alone due to job cuts.
“This will be my last day,” he said, quoting Ms. Gundel’s videos. “I don’t do that anymore.”
In a statement, Dollar General said: “We offer many avenues for our teams to make their voices heard, including our open house policy and routine participation surveys. We use these comments to help us identify and resolve doubts. improve our workplace and better serve our employees, customers and communities We are disappointed whenever an employee feels that we have not met these goals and we use these situations as additional opportunities to listen and learn.
“While we do not agree with all of the statements that Ms. Gundel is currently making, we are doing so here.”
Prior to March 28, Ms. Gundel’s TikTok page was a mix of posts about hair extensions and her recent dental surgery. It is now a daily collection dedicated to fomenting revolt in a major American company. She is trying to build what she calls a “movement” of workers who feel overwhelmed and disrespectful and is encouraging General Dollar employees to form a union.
Almost every day, Ms. Gundel announces to TikTok a newly elected “spokesperson,” each a woman who works for General Dollar or has recently worked there, from Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and elsewhere. These women have been assigned to answer questions and concerns from fellow employees in these states and most keep their identities hidden because they worry about losing their jobs.
Social media not only provides workers with a platform to ventilate and connect with each other, but it also allows grassroots workers like Ms. Gundel to become job leaders in the post-pandemic workplace. Ms. Gundel’s viral videos surfaced when Christian Smalls, an employee of Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse that the company ridiculed as “unintelligent or articulate,” last month organized the first major union. the story of Amazon.
“Everyone has their breaking point,” he said in a telephone interview. “You can only feel unappreciated for so long.”
Mrs. Gundel was planning a long career at General Dollar when she started working at her first store in Georgia three years ago. She has three children, including an autistic child, and her husband works as a defense contractor. He grew up in Titusville, Florida, near Cape Canaveral. Her mother was a district manager at Waffle House restaurants. Her grandmother worked in the Kennedy Space Center gift shop. Ms. Gundel moved to Tampa as the manager of the Dollar General store in February 2020, just before the pandemic.
The store used to have about 198 hours a week to allocate to a staff of about seven people, he said. But at the end of last month, she only had about 130 hours to set aside, which equates to one full-time employee and one part-time employee less than when she started.
With not so many hours to give to her staff, Mrs. Gundel often had to run the store on her own for long periods, usually working six days and up to 60 hours a week without paying overtime.
Mrs Gundel’s protest was prompted by a TikTok video posted by a customer complaining about the cluttered condition of a General Dollar store. Mrs. Gundel had heard these complaints from her own clients. Why do boxes block aisles? Why are the shelves not fully stocked?
She understood his frustration. But employee guilt is out of place, he said.
“Instead of getting angry with the people who work there, trying to manage their entire workload, why don’t you say something to the old people in the company?” Mrs Gundel told TikTok. “Why don’t you ask the company to start financing the stores so they can do all these things?”
Ms. Gundel soon had access to a network of co-workers, some of whom had already made public the challenges of the job. They include Crystal McBride, who worked at Dollar General in Utah and had made a video showing her store container full of rubbish that people had dropped off.
“Thank you guys for adding more dirty work to me,” Ms. McBride, 37, said in her post.
He said in an interview that Dollar General had fired him earlier this month and that his manager had warned him about some of his videos. As someone who had come out of an abusive relationship with “only the clothes she had on her back” and lost her 11-year-old daughter to cancer in 2018, “I wasn’t afraid of losing my job.” , he said. “I wasn’t going to shut up.”
Neither did Mrs. Gundel. As his online follow-up grew, he continued to post more videos, many of them increasingly angry.
He talked about a customer who had stabbed him and a man who had put his hand in his car in the parking lot of the store and tried to throw her out the window.
He said the company’s way of avoiding serious problems was to bury them in the bureaucracy. “Do you know what they tell you? “Put on a ticket,” he said.
Ms. Gundel started using the hashtag #PutInATicket, which other TikTok users tagged in their own videos.
On the night of March 29, Ms. Gundel posted a video saying that her boss had called her that day to talk about her videos. He told her to review the company’s social media policy, he said. She told him she knew politics well.
“I was not specifically told to withdraw my videos, but I was recommended,” he said in the video. “To save my job and my future career and where I want to go.”
She closed her eyes for a moment.
“I had to respectfully reject it” to remove the videos, he said. “I feel it would be against my morals and integrity to do so.”
Mrs Gundel also received a call from one of the top executives who had sent her the pin “DG: 5%” of which she had been so proud. Mrs. Gundel insisted on recording the call to protect herself. The executive said he only wanted to talk about Mrs Gundel’s concerns, but did not want her to be recorded. The call ended politely but quickly.
On April 1, Ms. Gundel showed up for work at 6 a.m. “Guess what,” she said in a post from outside the store. “I just got fired.”
He added: “It’s pretty sad that a store manager or anyone has to go viral on a social media site to be heard, to get help from their store.”
Ms. Gundel continues to post videos regularly and recently started driving for Uber and Lyft.
While Ms. Gundel’s union effort may be an upward effort, some people say it has already had an impact. In a recent TikTok video, a woman buying a Florida General Dollar credited Ms. Gundel with forcing the company to renovate the store where she buys.
“Look at the refrigerators: everything is stacked in there,” the woman said as her camera paced the hallways. “They all have toilet paper on the roof.”
“Thank you, Mary, for going viral and staying firm and standing up to the company and losing your job, because it wasn’t done in vain,” he said. “I’m proud to enter a General Dollar now, so look at it. Look at it.”