Cancel OK

Disrespect from dollar stores

dollar general produce

What is it with dollar stores?

Dollar Tree has yet again been hit with a fine for safety violations.

The culprit in this case was a store in Pewaukee, WI.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “found merchandise blocking aisles and exit routes, creating trip and fall hazards and preventing workers from leaving the location safely in an emergency,” according to an OSHA press release dated June 8.

richard smoley produce blueprints

OSHA is proposing a fine of some $98,000.

“OSHA inspectors repeatedly find Dollar Tree employees exposed to the risks of injury from stacked merchandise, and blocked aisles and exits,” said OSHA area director Christine Zortman in Milwaukee. “They need to develop and follow a company-wide safety and health program for its stores to eliminate these well-known hazards and protect the safety of their employees.”

Dollar Tree is not unique: many other dollar chains have faced similar charges (not to mention numerous sanitation violations). I wonder if their corporate reports have line items for fines.

I won’t cite any previous instances. I simply suggest you Google “dollar store violations” to provide yourself with a long list of distasteful reading.

Dollar stores certainly perform a necessary function, but everything about them suggests little respect for either customers or staff.

I contrast these stores with their ancestors: the five-and-dimes of my childhood in the sixties. (They were still called that, although they had long given up selling only items that cost a nickel or dime.) They weren’t fancy, but they were decent and clean, and shopping there was enjoyable. I ate many pleasant meals at the lunch counters. By contrast, the thought of eating a meal at a dollar store makes me reach for a wastebasket.

Although some of these establishments are beginning to stock fresh produce, one’s first thought is to wonder about the quality of the items they’re offering.

At a recent seminar, a dollar store executive bristled at this insinuation. “Look,” he said. “Nobody expects to find good produce at a dollar store, so I have to get it right the first time. I only have one chance.”

Whether the dollar stores will do that, in my opinion, remains to be seen.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 13 books.