How Dollar Stores Quietly Consumed America

How Dollar Stores Quietly Consumed America

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Writing by Sam Denby and Tristan Purdy
Editing by Alexander Williard
Animation led by Max Moser
Sound by Graham Haerther
Thumbnail by Simon Buckmaster


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51 Responses

  1. Yang Xiao Long says:

    My family owned a grocery store in rural SD and I can confirm, Dollar General drove us to bankruptcy in 2018. These dollar stores are both brutal to the local economy and inhumane to the people that both live and work there.

    • At says:

      Im on your side but its not inhumane

    • Ushio01 says:

      Yet the population will flock to them to save money.

    • Travis Harper says:

      @Ushio01 oh buddy you’re ALMOST there. Maybe they need to save money as a necessity because they’re paid shit wages by shit corporations? nah, couldn’t be that.

    • peterinbrat says:

      They cut prices on pantry goods with very little space for frozen or refrigerated. The mom and Pop supermarkets pay more for wholesale and they need around six times as much sq footage with at least ten times as much refrigerated and frozen food and perishable produce. An ALDI’S would be even worse than a Dollar General, but at least they pay their workers MUCH more than Dollar General.

    • SincerelyFromStephen says:

      @Atshoveling unhealthy foods to a captive market isn’t inhumane?

  2. Alyse the Star ⭐️ says:

    I grew up in a tiny town. The grocery store was essential since anywhere else was an hour away. Many years, the grocery store was a break even business, but the owner kept it open because he new how important it was to the town. It was the only fixture for the town, aside from occasional rodeos and school sports.

    Now, these dollar stores have figured out they can extract that little last bit of local wealth. It’s rare I go through a small town that doesn’t have a dollar store.

  3. kam2244 X says:

    Our local grocery store closed soon after a Dollar Tree was opened. Thankfully a larger regional (non-grocery) company bought the plaza and reopened the store by contracting the operations out to another grocery store owner. Dollar Tree has since opened another store 5 minutes further down the road so now people coming from both directions pass one before getting to the plaza. Hopefully the grocery store will survive. It was remodeled and they put in a large alcohol section with a walk in beer cooler. They also have good prices on meats, dairy, and frozen food.

    • Mangos28 says:

      Make sure you shop there for all your needs and not at either DG.

    • P RO says:

      Don’t hope they do well- help them do that. Spend your money their and encourage everyone else you know to do the same. When you’re thinking about going shopping ask that friendly neighbor if they’d like to ride along. Build community, not corporations.

    • Mitchell Horn says:

      Dollar Tree or Dollar General? I don’t see Dollar Tree being the cause of a grocer going out of business, let alone having 2 within 5 minutes of each other, especially in a small community. DT has never been viewed as a go to for shopping for groceries, but DG has been

    • Chompy the Beast says:

      Take direct action against the dollar stores like those two teenagers mentioned in this video. Fight back

    • Mangos28 says:

      @Mitchell Horn a.k.a “Which kinda apples: Golden or Red Delicious? It makes a difference!” 😂

  4. funby says:

    As a Canadian who just drove from Buffalo to Myrtle Beach, SC last week – I kept noticing these dollar stores in TINY rural townships. I went from wondering how they survived to now understanding that they actually thrive. Sad reality but thank you Wendover for helping me understand.

  5. Dayvit78 says:

    Had a similar situation when I worked in a drug store. There was no supermarket nearby so we got all the elderly people and others with mobility issues doing their grocery shopping here. I was actually the manager in charge of the food department and when I noticed this, I requested more shelf space and more variety – including fresh fruit. Can you believe it? Fresh fruit at a drug store.

    • KitsuneRogue says:

      I mean the saying does go “an apple a day…” Am I right?

    • Dosadoodle says:

      Good on you for caring about your customers over what is easiest for the store or purely maximizes profits.

      We need to figure out a carrot or stick to ensure companies that are purely focused on profits — without true care for the long-term health of their customers — are also motivated to do the same kind of thing. First thought is that a tax on stores that offer food but where only a small fraction of sales are on fresh produce could be one such stick.

    • Alex's Google Account says:

      Were you able to persuade them to stock the fresh fruit?

    • P RO says:

      Almost none of the well-known national brand stores of any kind allow ‘stocking to order’ anymore. The corporate office decides what you may (and WILL) stock, where it will be displayed, and what the pricing will be. You can’t do anything else except ask for more or less of something and hope they will listen. All that store managers do now is manage the staff; the corporation runs the store without them.

    • blastbottles says:

      Canada has those

  6. Oliver Robinson says:

    As someone who’s worked a small convenience store in the UK with around 10 staff and 2-3 of us at most on staff at any one time whilst being paid minimum wage – I can attest that the model works for bosses but not the little guy and it is hell on the floor especially if it gets busy enough for your 2nd/manager to jump on the tills too as all scheduled stuff is thrown out the window and you have to keep working at the same pace after everyone leaves to just maintain the store.

    I left in July after being told I’d get disciplined for a bad back they caused by overworking me.

  7. TIXE RIGHT says:

    The joke in the South is if you build a trailer-park or RV park anywhere Dollar General will put up a store right next to it.

    • AntiqueHealbot says:

      I think that’s not a joke😂

    • nope says:

      Don’t forget the ghetto.

    • Charles Davis says:

      This I’m certain isn’t a joke. A Dollar general will put a dollar general next to a dollar general

    • Barf says:

      Yeah probably not a joke. In my country, companies simply follow mcdonalds. If McDonald’s opens a branch in a location, they rush to open one there too.

      It means the clown has a good team & it is cheaper to bet on locations his team has chosen than to invest in your own feasibility study.

      Trailer parks are probably the McDonald’s of the dollar store industry.

    • TheKeeperofChaos says:

      “If you build it, they will come”

  8. rayden54 says:

    One thing this video doesn’t mention is that while Dollar General might exacerbate the issue, they’re not the only thing causing the loss of small town grocery stores. They’ve got a lot of the same problems as a lot of other small businesses–the owner. Even if the town’s lucky and the store’s got a good owner that doesn’t mind running a business that’ll never be particularly profitable (the one’s near me that went under was not), if they can’t find someone to take over when they retire the store still ends up closing. To make things worse, this is the sort of place where the people who can escape, do. So that’s even more likely. The truth is, a lot of these places are already in a death spiral.

  9. Light Spirit Blix says:

    I went to college in a small town where the university was around half of the town by landmass, and lo and behold, there was a dollar general within walking distance of campus. But what was alarming to me is that, on the 60-minute drive from my home to college, there were three other dollar generals on the same road, all within 10 or 15 minutes of each other, on top of another two in different directions, one of which was built during my time at college just out of nowhere. I thought the huge number of Dollar Generals in such close proximity was just a weird quirk. The more you know

    • TheRoosterMart says:

      Same exact scenario for my college lol

    • BandomBeviews says:

      Same here as well. There is a small grocery store (it’s called community market, I don’t know if it’s a chain, a do it best type of situation, or locally owned) but it’s more expensive than a Walmart or even a kroger

  10. AngryAnt says:

    As a small independent shop owner in the uk, in a village, i found this really interesting, thank you for producing it.
    Sadly the big box stores as you called them have made life very hard for the local community shops. Take the pandemic as a prime example, our footfall increased 400/500% with people never having come into the store since we moved there (about 8 years ago). Soon as the restrictions were taken away, they all went back to shopping in the bigger supermarkets, comments like “It’s cheaper” and “they have more varity” floating around. They might be cheaper, but the petrol to get there is never taken into account, coupled with as you said in the video, the money goes to investors, rather than say a gift voucher to the local school, or paying for the car to be repaired at the local garage etc.

    Sadly the trade isn’t as ‘good’ of a life as it was 20 years ago, it’s still there just about. There always used to be a gentlemans agreement so to speak, with the big supermarkets staying in their lane and leaving the smaller areas but with the big boys buying up smaller stores or now franchising other brands without people realising (and slowly plastering their logo on them), it’s very much a case of use them or lose them. I really hope the push backs in the US work and people understand that while a tomato might be 10% more expensive at a local shop, it’s fresh, not been shipped half way across the country and the $£€ stays within the community, sadly though I can’t see that happening.

    Sorry for the long ramble,
    TLDR : Thanks for the video! It was very insightful!

    • Thalanna says:

      I really wish it was something more heavily taught yeah. That $2 invested in the local community will end up being “cheaper” than $1 invested in a big box store, since a great part of those $2 will end up coming back your way.
      Indirect benefits are not really taught about well, even in countries that use it profusely. Like France, where “cotisations” taken on salary end up feeding what used to be an extremely profitable social security system, retirement fund, and way more? For those 300-500 you ‘lose’ per month, you’ll EASILY gain those back over time (and probably way more, if something happens to you). But… they’re described as “charges” burdening workers, so people think this money disappears.
      It’s a similar difficulty with investing in local shops and such. It might be more expensive, but in the short-mid term the money comes back in some way or form. Sadly… most people don’t know about it well. And when you’re in a situation of extreme poverty? Even if you KNOW about this, you still may not be able to really afford it 🙁

    • bla blup says:

      @Thalanna It is not only that those big stores are cheaper.
      Many of those smaller stores don’t even have what you want / need.
      It is already some years ago, as internet shopping wasn’t that omnipresent. Was looking at TVs at the local tech Store.
      The TV there were the older models and even though those models were older, they were still 30% more expensive than the newer moldes at Media Markt….
      And later on it was the same with the internet. You just get better stuff for much less.

    • Ushio01 says:

      Erm unless the Tomato is grown locally the local show is still shipping it across the country.

    • theMoporter says:

      Nah, blaming the consumer is not it.

      I can’t speak to your community today, but it’s not how I experienced shops in a village 10-20 years ago.

      From my experience: It wasn’t 10% more expensive, it was 40%-80% more expensive. Then the produce itself would be a gamble – local farmers don’t have the scale for quality control (while industrial farms can recycle less nice produce into goods like sauces or tinned tomatoes), nor the scientists to engineer the most optimised fruit. Sometimes you’ll get the most delicious tomatoes you’ve ever had, and other times they’ll be smaller and bitter-tasting. You’re paying extra to gamble. And all the “fresh” food is a week older than the stuff in Tesco because there’s no quick turnover.

      Tesco are The Bad Guys because they exploit workers and treat animals badly and extract money from a community. On the other hand, the “big brand” Co-Op ships goods across the country with fairly standardised products, at a lower cost, while giving customers a say where their money goes. Somehow, I find that more valuable than the several shop owners I knew that put their profits towards house flipping and had the gall to blame their neighbours when the credit crunch hit and they couldn’t afford expensive, rubbery “fresh” food.

    • موسی 7 says:

      You should specialise. The successful small grocery shops in London aren’t competing with the likes of ASDA, because they sell different things. We have Middle Eastern shops selling Arabic and Pakistani spices plus all kinds of halal meat (they have a butcher in the shop), and they have Turkish delight and Persian nuts and spices, etc.
      There also are Indian shops selling things like sugarcane.
      It might be best to pick up a book about whatever seems to be the most fashionable foreign culture in your area so you can carve your own niche and avoid being destroyed by the big box stores.

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