A top-performing Dollar General manager was fired for complaining about her hellish work conditions on TikTok.
Mary Gundel, 33, began recording her ‘Retail Store Manager Life’ series at her store in Tampa, Florida on March 28.
Her videos saw her allege that the retailer had slashed staffers’ hours and left frazzled supervisors alone to unpack mountains of disruptive shipments with no overtime.
Gundel spoke about how the fast-growing discount chain routinely underfunds its stores, leaving overworked employees to deal with unhappy customers who can sometimes barely walk through aisles filled with boxes with no one to unpack them.
Gundel, who made $51,000 a year at her job, explained how ‘mystery trucks’ show up with unexpected shipments while she’s alone, ringing up as many as 600 customers a day.
She also lambasted the company’s expectations. ‘They don’t give us the budget to operate like a Walmart or Publix, so we’re basically slave driven,’ she said.
She began using the hashtag #PutInATicket, mocking the company’s bureaucratic response to workers’ complaints and inspiring workers and employees to post their own videos of conditions at some of the chain’s 17,000 stores.
Four days later – after amassing hundreds of thousands of views on her confessional-style videos – Gundel was fired when she turned up to work at 6am.
Since 2016, the US Department of Labor has proposed $3.3 million in fines against the retailer for violations including ‘unsafe conditions’ and ‘placing workers at risk of injury.’ In 2019, the New York Attorney General fined Dollar General and other discount chains $1.2 million for selling expired drugs and obsolete motor oil.
Dollar General manager Mary Gundel, 33, was fired after posting a series of TikTok videos exposing the working conditions at the discount retailer
Gundel was inspired after seeing another video criticizing one location’s unkempt appearance. She attributed the messiness to incessant shipments and labor cuts that have left her working 60 hours a week of manual labor with no overtime
Gundel managed a store in Tampa, Florida until she was fired on April 1. She made $51,000 a year for the back-breaking hours, many of which she spent alone. Above, a store in Taylorsville, Kentucky
Tennessee-based Dollar General had revenues of $34.2 billion in the fiscal year ending January 2022. The company has been accused of leasing or buying tons of space in rural communities and creating ‘food deserts,’ where the discount stores are the only nearby option for groceries, according to Business Insider.
In her TikToks, Mary Gundel emphasized that she enjoyed aspects of her job while criticizing upper management.
‘Me talking out about this is actually kind of bad. I could get into a lot of trouble and I could even be fired,’ she said.
Gundel started working for the chain in Georgia three years ago. She has three kids, one who is autistic, with her husband, a defense contractor. She moved to Tampa as a manager in February 2020.
She has wavy, purple hair and often wears hoop earrings in her videos. Her long acrylic nails, which she says she uses to pop open boxes, also draw attention.
In January 2021, Gundel was sent a letter congratulating her for being a top-performing employee along with a lapel pin that read, ‘DG: Top 5%.’
She said her store used to have 198 hours to give out that were recently cut to 130, a slash that amounts to one fewer full-time worker and one fewer part-time worker, the New York Times reports.
Gundel, who is married with three children, was a top-performing manager who was sent a lapel pin that read, ‘DG: Top 5%’
She started the hashtag #PutInATicket, a reference to Dollar General’s byzantine employee complaint system. The hashtag has since been adopted by other DG workers nationwide
Because of that, she often ran the store alone and worked more than 60 hours a week with no overtime, she said.
Her first round of videos were inspired by another video complaining about the sorry state of one Dollar General store.
‘Instead of getting mad at the people working there, trying to handle all of their workload, why don’t you say something to the actual big people in the company?’ Gundel said on TikTok.
‘Why don’t you demand more from the company so they actually start funding the stores to be able to get all this stuff done?’
Some of her videos were filmed as she unpacked the seemingly endless shipments that bogged the stores aisles and back room. She even started using a hashtag, #PutInATicket, referencing the company’s alleged process for handling, or not handling, complaints.
Gundel began re-posting videos of customers who walked in on other disheveled stores nationwide. She was fired days after she began making videos about the conditions at her job
‘You know what they tell you? “Put in a ticket,'” she said.
She got a call from her boss on March 29, the day after she started posting her videos.
‘I was not specifically told to take my videos down, but it was recommended,’ she said in the video. ‘To save my job and future career and where I want to go.’
‘I had to respectfully decline,’ she said. ‘I feel like it would be against my morals and integrity to do so.’
On April 1, her boss and two other managers showed up to fire her before she opened the store.
‘My boss came today along with two other store managers, and they’re gonna clear out that back room,’ she told her followers in a video that has now been viewed over a million times.
‘They were starting to clear behind my register. It’s impossible to get help but, you know, when something like this happens, “Oh yeah, we have all the help in the world to come and do this.”‘
HIGH EXPECTATIONS: ‘They don’t give us the budget to operate like a Walmart or Publix, so we’re basically slave driven’
Speaking to the Times, she said: ‘Everyone has their breaking point. You can only feel unappreciated for so long.’
She has since continued to push for better working conditions at Dollar General and has promoted a nationwide walkout on May 2.
Her videos have kickstarted a movement, with other workers taking to the Chinese-owned social media app to share their disappointment with the company.
‘I am so tired I can’t even talk,’ one employee said. ‘Give me my life back.’
One former keyholder at Dollar General cited Gundel’s gumption as a reason why he’s now speaking out about how the company is run.
‘Everything is true. The reason these stores get in such bad conditions is because they don’t have the hours to give the employees to work them. They don’t allow for us to hire enough people to work our store,’ said one young man.
‘When you work there you do everything,’ he said.
The US Department of Labor criticized Dollar General for ‘its long history of violations and repeated failures to protect its workers from on-the-job hazards’ in a December news release. The agency has hit the company with $3.3 million fines since 2016.
‘Dollar General has a long history of disregarding safety measures to prevent serious injury or death in the event of a fire or other emergency,’ said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.
‘This company’s troubled history of workplace safety violations must come to an end, and OSHA will make every effort to hold them accountable for their failures.’
In 2019, New York Attorney General Letitia James fined Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar $1.2 million for selling expired and obsolete products.
Dollar General agreed to pay a separate $1.1 million in restitution over its sale of obsolete motor oil, which was ‘not suitable for most automobile engines built after 1930,’ according to James.