MCARTHUR, Ohio — APRIL 24: Dollar General store, April 24, 2023, in McArthur, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Thursday announced that Dollar General would pay $750,000 to Ohio’s food banks.
It was part of $1 million the chain — which typically locates itself in underserved neighborhoods — is paying to settle allegations that it ripped off customers by posting one price on store shelves and then charging more at the cash register.
Auditors in Butler County found that one store there was engaged in the practice 88% of the time, and county auditors elsewhere in Ohio also found such activity, but less frequently.
“Most people don’t shop at Dollar General because they have a lot of extra money to spend,” a statement from Yost’s office quoted him as telling a gathering of county auditors in Westerville Thursday. “So when a bottle of shampoo that should cost $1 costs $2 at the checkout, that’s a real thing. And you all brought it to light.”
In signing the settlement, Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based Dollar General stipulated that it wasn’t admitting wrongdoing. But critics of the company, which has 980 stores in Ohio, say it does plenty of harm to poor communities — both out in the country and in big cities.
In a June event hosted by the Institute for Self Reliance, panelists said that consolidation in the grocery sector — including by Dollar General — is driving independent stores out of poor neighborhoods and they’re taking healthy foods like fresh produce with them.
One member of the panel, Rev. Dr. Donald Perryman of the Center of Hope Community Baptist Church in Toledo, said that police there compiled statistics indicating that the presence of such dollar stores increased crime. A September report by CBS News found similar problems nationwide.
Workers at the stores aren’t just vulnerable to crime. Retail Dive this summer reported that Dollar General had racked up $21 million in fines from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2017 and had paid just $4 million so far.
A February report by The Institute for Self Reliance also told of what it called predatory, anticompetitive practices dollar stores use to drive traditional grocers away. It described how a small grocer called Dave’s Market was left struggling to survive in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland.
Seven Dollar General and Family Dollar stores popped up within a two-mile radius selling the packaged, processed foods that Dave’s also depended on for much of its profit. But the dollar stores didn’t sell the fresh produce and meat that Dave’s offered. The store closed and took those offerings with it last year.
Then there’s the attorney general’s lawsuit, filed last November, claiming that some Dollar General stores were ripping off customers by pricing items one way on the shelves and then charging more when it came time to pay. Yost on Thursday told the county auditors that each of Ohio’s 88 counties has a Dollar General and food banks in each would get $1,000 for that first store. The remainder of the $750,000 would be divided up based on the number of stores a county has, he said.
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