It's about our community and our spirituality!

Family Dollar In The Black Community

My neighborhood has changed over the years and in most respects, not for the better. From a capital investment point of view, most high profile companies have pulled out of the area as more white people pulled up stakes and moved away. Sears had an anchor store that they abandoned decades ago. The Chevrolet dealership, the Pontiac dealership, and the Buick dealership closed up shop and moved out into the suburbs. For the most part, the only things we have left with anything resembling a high profile corporate presence are franchises like fast food restaurants and gas stations. Burger joints and fried chicken joints are doing quite well. But other than that, you’re not going to see much of corporate America investing in my urban, black community.

The south side of the city, with some neighborhoods that are still practically all white, enjoys a much healthier relationship with the corporate world. Home Depot, Target Stores, Sears, Kmart, and more have built new box stores and are anchoring strip centers that attract a number of other retailers to serve those communities so far away.

There are two notable exceptions to this trend. One is Walgreens. The pharmacy retailer has flexed a little corporate muscle and expanded its stores into the black community. Not too long ago, a trip to the pharmacy meant you were going to travel a few miles to get there. Walgreens opened a store within easy walking distance for most, about four blocks away. And in the opposite direction there’s a store about a mile and a half away to serve that neighborhood. And while I appreciate the convenience of having a pharmacy so close, the people who work the Walgreens pharmacy are often so unprofessional and so rude that more often than not, you’d rather go the extra miles to reach a store where the employees aren’t so hostile to their customers.

The other exception is the Family Dollar store chain. Family Dollar opened a store just three blocks away just a few short years ago. The site sat abandoned for a number of years before Family Dollar cleared the land and built their store. But shortly after the store opened it quickly took on the typical customer service dysfunction that has employees abusing customers that so many people think is acceptable for the black community.

Earlier in the year, the misses was in the store shopping, trying to get some laundry detergent. An employee in the aisle didn’t bother to get out of her way so she simply reached over the employee. The employee didn’t appreciate being reached over and rudely snapped something like, don’t you see me trying to stock over here? This misses snapped back, don’t you see me trying to shop here? She continued with, seems to me if I wasn’t shopping you wouldn’t have a job so I suggest you shut the hell up. The manager of the store saw the exchange and laughed. The employees checking customers out at the two cash registers in the front would hold conversations as they rang up customer’s orders. The lack of professionalism of the store was so abysmal it made the employees at the Walgreens look like a class act. The store always seemed grimy. There was always trash and litter in the parking lot. The place simply did absolutely nothing to invite people to shop there. Therefore, we stopped shopping there.

But instead of just becoming a dirty haven for poor customer service, Family Dollar took steps. One day, the store simply started to change. One day we noticed that the parking lot was cleaned up. Curiosity piqued, we returned. The inside of the store was cleaned up and looked new again. The employees were different. No longer were the employees holding personal conversations over the heads of customers. The employees were actually focused on the customers, welcoming people into the store, thanking them for their purchases, and wishing them a good day. And most noticeable, the lame manager was gone, replaced with a manager from the corporate management team.

The corporate representative wasn’t interested in just making a buck and letting things slide. The corporate manager was focused on whipping the store back into shape so that it would once again be an environment that welcomed people to shop. Family Dollar could’ve simply thrown their hands in the air and blame it all on black people just being black people. The corporation could’ve followed the lead of so many other retailers that don’t see much of a point in investing in the black community. But thankfully, somebody at Family Dollar prefers not to make a distinction between their stores in the black community and their stores elsewhere. If neglected, if allowed to be improperly managed, given enough time, any store will fail.

On behalf of the rest of my neighborhood, I give thanks to Family Dollar for having the corporate common sense to correct the mistakes they made in their initial choice of employees. And for their support of their stores in the black community, we’ll do more business with this particular store and the rest of the Family Dollar chain to help assure their success. One hand washes the other. Hopefully, we will have a future of mutual success. Now if only Walgreens and the other corporate citizens can learn a thing or two about improving their business relationship with the black community.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Thoughts

1 Comment »

  1. This scenario seems painfully familiar. I actually thought you were referring to the FD located about a mile away from my home….until you made a reference to the parking lot as our Family Dollar doesn’t have one.

    I wish I knew why “our people” were so complacent with poor customer service. Just imagine what a few complaints would do every now and again. *sigh*

    Comment by ImOffTheAir | Thursday, December 3, 2009 | Reply

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