How a Dollar General Employee Went Viral on TikTok

In January 2021, Mary Gundell received a letter from Dollar General’s corporate office congratulating her on being one of the company’s top executive staff. In honor of her hard work and dedication, the company honored Ms. Gundel has a lapel pin that reads, “DG: Top 5%.”

“Wear it with pride,” the letter said.

Ms. Gundel did the same by pinning his black and yellow dollar general uniform next to his name badge. “I wanted the world to see it,” she said.

Ms. Gundell loved her job running the Dollar General Store in Tampa, Fla. It was also fast, unpredictable and exciting. She especially liked the challenge of calming down quarrelsome customers and chasing shoplifters. She made about 51,000 a year, much higher than Tampa’s average income.

But the job also had its challenges: Delivery trucks that would appear undeclared, the boxes would be rolled up in the wing because there were not enough workers to unpack them. Long days spent running the store because the company only gave other employees hours to work. Cranky customers complaining about out-of-stock items.

So on the morning of March 28, between running the register and tagging the clothes, Ms. Gundel, 33, propelled his iPhone and set a record.

The result was a six-part critique, “Retail Store Manager Life,” in which Ms. Gundel highlighted the working conditions within the fast-growing retail chain, which had stores that are common in rural areas.

“It’s really bad what I’m talking about,” Ms. Gundel said as he looked into his camera. “Technically, I could get in a lot of trouble.”

But she added: “Everything that happens happens. Something needs to be said, and some changes need to be made, or it will probably lose a lot of people.

Her videos, which she posted on TikTok, went viral, including one that was viewed 1.8 million times.

And with it Ms. Gundel was soon transformed from a loyal lieutenant in dollar general management to an outspoken dissident who risked his career to describe working conditions familiar to retail employees across the United States.

As Ms. Gundel predicted that Dollar General would soon fire her, less than a week after she posted her first critical video. Not before being inspired.

“I’m so tired I can’t even talk,” said one woman who identified herself as the 24-year-old store manager but did not name him. “Give me back my life.”

“I’ve been terrified of posting this so far,” said another unidentified woman as she discussed how she was forced to work alone because of labor cuts while taking viewers to the Dollar General Store.

“This will be my last day,” she said, quoting Ms. Gundel’s videos. “I don’t do this anymore.”

In a statement, Dollar General said: “We offer our teams a number of ways to make their voices heard, including our open-door policy and regular engagement surveys. We use this feedback to identify and resolve concerns, improve our workplace and We do this to better serve our employees, customers and communities. Whenever an employee feels that we have not lived up to these goals we get frustrated and we use those situations as additional opportunities to listen and learn.

“Although we do not currently agree with all the statements made by Mrs. Gundel, we are doing it here.”

Before March 28, Ms. Gundel’s TikTok page was a mix of posts about hair extensions and his latest dental surgery. It is now a daily digest dedicated to the uprising in a large American company. It is trying to call it a “movement” of workers who feel overworked and disrespectful, and the dollar encourages general workers to form unions.

Almost every day, Ms. Gundel has announced a new “elected spokesperson” on TikTok – every single woman who has worked for or recently worked for Dollar General – from Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and other locations. These women have been assigned to answer questions and concerns of fellow employees in those states and most of them are hiding their identities because they are worried about losing their jobs.

Social media is not just a platform for workers to connect and connect with each other. Gundel will become a labor leader in the post-epidemic workplace. Ms. Gundel’s viral video appeared on Staten Island as Amazon warehouse employee Christian Smalls, who was ridiculed by the company as “not smart or clear,” organized the first major union in Amazon’s history last month.

Ms. Gundel – who frequently dyes her hair pink and purple and draws long nails that she uses to cut open packaging at work – looks like this, as other workers find themselves in it.

“Everyone has their breaking points,” she said in a telephone interview. “You can only feel dissatisfied for so long.”

Ms. Gundel planned a long career at Dollar General when he started working at his first store in Georgia three years ago. She has three children, one of whom is autistic and her husband works as a defense contractor. She grew up in Titusville, Fla., Near Cape Canaveral. Her mother was the district manager at the Waffle House restaurant. His grandmother worked in a gift store at the Kennedy Space Center. Ms. Prior to the epidemic, Gundel Dollar moved to Tampa in February 2020 as general store manager.

She said the store had about 198 hours a week to accommodate a staff of about seven people. But by the end of last month, she had only 130 hours to allocate, which was the equivalent of a full-time employee and a part-time employee when she started.

Not having enough hours to give to her staff, Ms. Gundell often had to run the store himself for long periods of time, usually working six days a week and 60 hours a week without any overtime pay.

Ms. Gundel’s protest was sparked by a TikTok video posted by a customer complaining about the dilapidated condition of the dollar general store. Ms. Gundel heard these complaints from his own clients. Why does the box block the wing? Why aren’t the shelves full?

She understood his frustration. But the blame on employees is wrong, she said.

“Instead of being angry at the people who work there, instead of trying to handle all their workload, why don’t you tell the real big guys of the company?” Ms. Gundel said on TikTok. “Why don’t you demand more from the company so that they actually start funding the stores so that all this can be done?”

Ms. Gundel soon joined a network of fellow employees, some of whom had already gone public about the challenges at work. They include Crystal McBride, who worked at Dollar General in Utah and made a video showing her store dumpster overflowing with trash that people had deposited there.

“Thank you, friends, for adding more dirty work for me,” Ms. McBride, 37, said in her post.

She said in an interview that Dollar General fired her earlier this month and that her manager had warned her about some of her videos. “I wasn’t afraid of losing my job,” she said, as she walked out of an abusive relationship with “just clothes on my back” and lost her 11-year-old daughter to cancer in 2018. “I wasn’t going to calm down.”

Neither Ms. Gundel. As her online followers grew, she kept posting more and more videos, many of them getting more and more angry.

She talked about a customer who pulled a knife at her and a man who reached the store parking lot in her car and tried to push her out the window.

She said the company’s way of avoiding serious issues was to bury them in the bureaucracy. “You know what they say to you? Put the ticket,” she said.

Ms. Gundel began using the hashtag #PutInATicket, which other TikTok users have tagged in their own videos.

On the night of March 29, Ms. Gundel posted a video saying that his boss called him that day to discuss his video. He asked her to review the company’s social media policy, she said. She told him she was well aware of the policy.

“I was not specifically asked to download my video, but it was recommended,” she said in the video. “To save my job and future career and where I want to go.”

She closed her eyes for a moment.

“I had to respectfully refuse to remove the videos,” she said. “I think it would be against my morals and integrity to do so.”

Ms. Gundel also received a phone call from a senior executive who sent her a “DG: 5%” PIN of which she was proud. Ms. Gundel insisted on recording the call to defend himself. The executive said he only wanted to speak through Ms. Gundel’s concern, but he didn’t want to record. The call ended politely but quickly.

On April 1, Ms. Gundel reports to work at 6 a.m. “Guess what,” she said in a post outside the store. “I just got fired.”

She added, “It’s very sad that a store manager or anyone in their store has to go viral on a social media site to get some help.”

Ms. Gundel continues to post videos regularly and has recently started driving for Uber and Lift.

When Ms. Gundel’s integration effort could be an ups and downs attempt, with some saying she has already made an impact. In a recent TikTok video, a woman shopping at Dollar General in Florida spotted Ms. Gundel forced the company to increase the number of stores it buys from.

“Look at the refrigerators – there’s everything in stock,” the woman said as her camera panned on the wing. “They have toilet paper on the roof, all of you.”

“Thank you, Mary, for going viral and holding your ground and standing up for the corporate and losing your job, because it didn’t go in vain,” she said. “I’m proud to be in Dollar General now, because look at that. Look at that. “

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