Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Technically, I could get into a lot of trouble
How someone goes from top employee to posting complaint videos on TikTok in the space of a few months. Plus, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Thanks for all the great emails and comments after yesterday’s newsletter about a very contentious subject. I know many of us disagree vehemently on these issues—to the point that we can’t imagine how other people could feel the way they do.
But I’m proud of how people treat each other with respect around here, even if they think other folks are wrong. Maybe we’re onto something.
We keep hearing about the Great Resignation. (Well, in fairness I keep writing about it; another 4.5 million left their jobs last month.) But I found an unusual job-quitting* story that I wanted to share.
It's about a manager at Dollar General named Mary Gundel. By all accounts, she loved her job, she’d worked there for years, and she was quite good at it. Earlier this year, she got a letter from Dollar General HQ telling her she was among the top 5 percent of the company's employees.
They gave her a little "DG: Top 5%" pin to wear on her store uniform, and she did wear it—proudly, she says.
She was also proud to be making $51,000 a year. I suppose that could seem like a lot or not much at all depending on your circumstances, but it put her well above the median income in her hometown of Tampa.
The past tense above is foreshadowing, because Gundel, 33, is actually now a former manager. She was fired, as opposed to quitting (hence the asterisk above). But as you'll see it's pretty close to a distinction without a difference in her case.
By March 28, Gundel told the New York Times, the job she’d loved became something she dreaded.
She'd enjoyed the challenge of "calming down belligerent customers and pursuing shoplifters."
But, she grew tired of dealing with "cranky customers complaining about out of stock items."
Delivery trucks would "show up unannounced, leaving boxes piled up in the aisles because there weren’t enough workers to unpack them."
And, she said she didn't have authority to hire employees for enough hours to stock the store adequately, which left her working alone for much of the 60 hours and six days a week she was in the store.
So, she did what came naturally in 2022. No, she didn’t quit—not yet. Instead, she took out her phone and began recording the first of six videos that she called, “Retail Store Manager Life,” and which she posted to TikTok:
“Me talking out about this is actually kind of bad. Technically, I could get into a lot of trouble. Whatever happens, happens. Something needs to be said, and there needs to be some changes, or they are probably going to end up losing a lot of people.”
This, my friends, is what we call a trend. Nearly 2 million people watched her first videos, and other Dollar General managers began to reply with their own accounts:
“I am so tired I can’t even talk. Give me my life back.”
“I’ve been so afraid to post this until now.”
“This will be my last day. I am not doing this anymore.”
As the Times put it:
And with that, Ms. Gundel was instantly transformed from a loyal lieutenant in Dollar General management into an outspoken dissident who risked her career to describe working conditions familiar to retail employees across the United States.
Within a week, she was out of her job. Since then, she's been driving for Uber and Lyft to make money, but she has also developed what seems like a new full-time endeavor: Endlessly trolling Dollar General on social media.
In the wake of new union drives at Amazon, Starbucks and maybe Apple, she hopes to spark a similar drive for Dollar General employees. Each day, she promotes a new Dollar General "elected spokesperson," who shares her experience.
“Everyone has their breaking point,” she told the Times. “You can only feel unappreciated for so long.”
I encourage you to watch the videos, at least the first one. She isn’t complaining about low wages, or not enough breaks, or mistreatment.
Instead, at least in the video that started it all, she’s upset about not having enough resources to do her job well, and to make customers feel appreciated.
I think if I were in Dollar General’s shoes—well, obviously I’m not thrilled to see a store manager making complaint videos. But I wonder if anyone actually listened?
We have someone who went from Top 5% and clearly caring about her work, to feeling disempowered to the point of near-despair, in the space of a few months—against a backdrop of resignations and recruiting challenges.
What do we call this? What was that word again? Oh right: a trend.
If it were my business, I might want to learn a little more.
7 other things worth knowing today
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, the most aggressive step yet in its fight against a 40-year high in inflation. (CNBC)
Officials say the U.S. has provided intelligence that has helped Ukraine target and kill many Russian generals who have died in the war. As someone said on Twitter: "What if—hear me out—maybe next time we do this in a war, we didn't say anything about it to the New York Times?" (NYT)
A man is in custody after he ran on stage and attacked comedian Dave Chappelle at the Hollywood Bowl, while armed with a knife and a replica gun. The man was arrested, and everyone pointed out that this is exactly what we said would happen after Will Smith “sucker-slapped” Chris Rock at the Oscars. Chappelle was fine—I hadn’t realized he’s actually a pretty darn tough, muscular guy—and about 10 other people ran out to beat the living heck out of the would-be assailant. (ABC 7)
What could go wrong? NASA says it plans to include pixelated images of a naked man and woman waving, along with descriptions of DNA, into space in the hope of contacting aliens and inviting them to reply to us. (Some might remember that we sent similar images aboard Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 in the 1970s; they're out there, somewhere.) (NY Post)
An Alabama corrections officer sold her home days for well below market value before she disappeared with a prison inmate who was serving 75 years and was awaiting trial on murder charges. Investigators suspect a romantic relationship. (CNN)
Florida flights face their worst delays in years in 2022, thanks to private jets and space launches. (Bloomberg)
Marijuana is legal in many U.S. states—but paradoxically still an illegal drug under the federal system everywhere. Now, momentum is reportedly building in Congress "to tuck key marijuana banking legislation into a larger package aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness, increasing the odds that a significant cannabis bill gets through the upper chamber this year." (The Hill)
Wait. That’s already 7. Oh well, bonus, because I just liked this video: Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hits a giant home run. A fan of the Toronto Blue Jays catches it and gives the ball to a kid in Yankees garb; the kid's reaction makes you realize how much a simple act of kindness can mean to someone. (Twitter)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: TikTok/Fair Use. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.