In my town, if you mention Dollar General you might get a dirty look. It’s like you made a deal with Satan. It’s second only to shopping at Walmart. Everyone does, you’re just not supposed to mention it in a positive way. But why? Dollar General is a competitor of Walmart. It’s a viable option for cheaper goods. But apparently, from conversations I’ve had, people around here believe both should not exist. Why?
Say I live in a small desert town and there are two options nearby for shopping necessities (a gallon of milk, loaf of bread, as my husband so often says). These two stores are small “Mom & Pop” establishments that also pump gas. A loaf of bread at this place costs $5. That’s kind of steep for a family of four. Our family usually uses about two loaves a week, $10 a week, $40 a month, for bread.
I could drive down to the bigger town ten miles away if I had a car. There’s a big Walmart and two grocery stores there with $1.99 bread. That cuts my cost to less than half! Maybe I wouldn’t need to be so stingy with the bread. $4 a week, $16 a month. I have to add in gas now but I’d probably get more than just bread and I’d probably do it once a week. But what if I didn’t have a car? Or I shared one with the whole family? I’d have to take the bus down to town. That creates a grocery store run that takes most of the day. It takes the bus approximately an hour to get from our town to the next. Shop, only buy what you can carry on the bus, and another hour back home.
So then I hear that a Dollar General is planning on opening up in our little town. I’m pretty excited. My cost of living will go down. I’ll have money for other things. It will be easier for me to feed my family. Some people in our area may have the opportunity for some work close to home. But then I hear people (who mostly don’t live in my neighborhood) are signing a petition to stop Dollar General from building.
I’ve heard some reasons that those people would object. One is that Dollar General will drive out small businesses, like that little grocery next to the gas station. I can understand that sentiment. But it is sentiment, a feeling or emotion. I like our little rural town but I also like to have a job and eat. The little store in our town doesn’t hire new people very often. And I can’t afford the nice bread and meat they offer. I’m not buying their products. People who can afford their stuff will still shop there because they can and like to. Those that are poorer because they have to buy the higher priced goods will be richer because now they will have a cheaper option.
I see one problem and that’s “light pollution”. Desert dwellers tend to cherish their night skies. A big bright sign and parking lot lights will cause grief. I bet they could work on that. Hire a security guard and turn off the lights after 10pm. There are probably other ways.
Another positive is that it’s competition for Walmart. I feel like Walmart used to be pretty darn great to get as big as it has, but it has few competitors now and is getting lazy. Their service is getting poorer and products are TOO cheap. But they have no incentive to do things differently because you have no other place to shop. Dollar General changes that. It’s the same with the grocery stores. Walmart’s grocery department is unimpressive. It is cheaper at times, but they don’t have all the options I’d like and I’d have to wait way too long with groceries in my cart due to the lack of open registers. So I go to the grocery store instead. For some, it’s the cost. They don’t have the money for higher prices at Vons, so they go to Walmart. Choices are a good thing!
I’ve never seen an ugly run down Dollar General. They pay to have the street modified so that you can turn into their parking lot safely. They landscape and keep their part of the neighborhood clean and pleasant. And they offer much of the same merchandise Walmart does at a competitive price. And in our town they just created several jobs to be had by local people.
What more do people want?