Family Dollar has a big rodent problem

Photo: Wikipedia/Michael Rivera
May 03, 2022

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge last week filed a lawsuit against Family Dollar Stores that alleges the chain and its parent company, Dollar Tree, knew for years that it had a rodent infestation at a distribution center in the state and did nothing about it. As a result, according to the suit, the retailer wound up selling unsafe products at hundreds of stores in Arkansas as well as in five other states.

The suit brought by Ms. Rutledge followed a Food and Drug Administration inspection earlier this year that tied infestations at 404 Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee to the warehouse in West Memphis. The chain was forced to temporarily close the stores in connection with the infestation.

The FDA issued an unsafe product alert for Family Dollar going back to January 1, 2021 covering food, cosmetics, medical devices, over-the-counter medications and pet food bought from the retailer.

AG Rutledge cited the FDA’s findings in announcing her office’s suit against the company. The FDA’s inspection of the plant found “live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting and rodent odors throughout the facility, dead birds and bird droppings, and products stored in conditions that did not protect against contamination.”

A fumigation of the warehouse in January turned up more than 1,100 dead rodents. Thousands more have previously been recovered, according to Family Dollar’s internal records.

“In many rural communities of Arkansas, families rely on discount stores like Family Dollar for essential products such as food, medicine or pet food,” said Ms. Rutledge in a statement. “Family Dollar has had knowledge of this dangerous and massive rodent infestation for over two years, yet they continued to sell and profit from potentially contaminated goods. Consumers lost money and could have lost their lives.”

The Arkansas AG is suing Family Dollar under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The state is seeking up to $10,000 for each violation of the act and is seeking to revoke Family Dollar’s authorization to conduct business in the state.

“We don’t want to wipe out a source of groceries and medicines, but if those groceries and medicines are not safe, then we need someone else providing that service,” said Ms. Rutledge as quoted by The New York Times.

Family Dollar has not issued a comment.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How does a situation like the one at Family Dollar’s West Memphis distribution center continue for so long? What can the chain do now to repair its reputation in the affected states and beyond?

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"The rodent infestation is one symptom of a lack of control, operating discipline and willingness to spend money to resolve problems."

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12 Comments on "Family Dollar has a big rodent problem"

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Neil Saunders

Family Dollar is a mess and has been ever since Dollar Tree acquired it. The rodent infestation is one symptom of a lack of control, operating discipline and willingness to spend money to resolve problems. Dollar Tree management needs to get a much better grip on the business before even more damage is done to its reputation.

William Passodelis


Bob Amster

Someone fell asleep at the switch. It is hard to believe that this was willful misconduct by a company so large, and in the 21st century. Heads will roll.

Bob Phibbs

Turning a blind eye is nothing new. Getting your name associated with rats and the food you carry in over 400 stores is. “Now with less rats” probably won’t work but saying how clean they are will just draw more attention. I would suggest suspending any food rollouts for awhile.

Rich Kizer

A perfect re-positioning strategy and statement, Gary.

Gene Detroyer

Really? They knew for years that it had a rodent infestation at a distribution center in the state and did nothing about it? Simply, this defines an operation that is fully out of control. And one that has no sense of protecting their customers. There is no way of fixing this reputation.

Dick Seesel

There is a lot of blame to spread around here, including the Arkansas AG who needed 15 months after the FDA action to file a lawsuit. Clearly most of the responsibility belongs to Family Dollar and its parent Dollar Tree, by allowing this problem to spread unchecked to hundreds of stores and by allowing its warehouse workers to work in unsanitary conditions. Just an appalling story.

Rich Kizer

This lack of attention falls directly on management. Staffers surely had mentioned the problem, joked about it and the only way not to know would have been to stay home or ignore it. What can the chain do now? This place has become radioactive to customers by now. Literally, their only step is a complete reconstruction with an outside company. This boat is 80 percent under water. This is a huge public relations nightmare.

Ryan Mathews

How does this happen? Easily — nobody was watching what was going on and even fewer cared. I have to believe the employees at the distribution center knew about the rats and had to say something to somebody, who obviously did nothing. I don’t know many people that fond of working around rats outside of a laboratory. As to damage control, it’s a little late for anything less than a few very public “executions” of fall guys and an abject admission of wrongdoing, followed by promises that it will never happen again. That said, whatever they do will be way too little, way too late. This is unforgivable.

Ricardo Belmar

I can think of few PR scenarios worse than this for any brand. Recovering from such a blatant disregard for health and safety at a time when consumers have heightened sensitivity to these topics due to the pandemic will be a monumental task for Family Dollar and Dolar Tree’s corporate communications teams. They should be in full crisis management mode over this situation and looking for heads to roll in management. Nothing less will help to reassure consumers Family Dollar products are safe to buy. Management clearly needs to change the corporate culture to repair the damage that has been done to the brand and to foster a new consumer relationship.

Craig Sundstrom


Honestly — and with all due respect to George — the question “how do we repair our reputation? is exactly the wrong one to ask (and why problems like this go on): the question to address is “how do we fix our problems?”

John Karolefski

Obviously, someone is responsible and needs to be fired. Then management should trace the lack of steps that should have been taken to correct the problem, and then correct it. Bad news like this spreads. It will take years to restore the reputation of the stores.

"The rodent infestation is one symptom of a lack of control, operating discipline and willingness to spend money to resolve problems."

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