Area food bank to get funds from Dollar General deception settlement

$750K of $1M settlement must be distributed to food banks in every Ohio county.

A Butler County shopper prompted a lawsuit against Dollar General for deceptive practices and now Attorney General Dave Yost is distributing a portion of the $1 million settlement to local charities.

Shared Harvest Foodbank will receive $1,000 — and maybe more — from the agreement, which Executive Director Terry Perdue told the Journal-News is unusual but fitting.

“I appreciate the assumption of the Attorney General’s Office that it is predominately low income people who shop at Dollar General stores, because that is a truth,” Perdue said. “Many locations where there are food deserts or what we call nutrition deserts, there’s places like Dollar general that these low income families depend on, so the effort to make them whole is very much appreciated.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost took Dollar General to court in Butler County a year ago after his office received a complaint from the Butler County Auditor’s Office and others that prices on the store shelves were lower than at the registers.

Yost reached a $1 million settlement with Dollar General in September and the agreement stipulated $750,000 must be distributed to food banks for the purchase and distribution of food and/or personal-care items. He tasked county auditors with determining which organization in their county would receive the funds and told them so at a recent meeting.

“In every county there is at least one Dollar General, and there will be a $1,000 minimum check for that first store — so every county gets at least $1,000,” Yost told the auditors. “The remainder of the $750,000 is going to be divided up and distributed based on how many stores you have in your county.”

Yost’s office couldn’t be reached for comment about how much the county will be allocated based on store-count.

Butler County Auditor Nancy Nix picked Shared Harvest, which supplies 40 pantries in the county. She said there are 20 Dollar General stores countywide, so Shared Harvest may get even more money. There are more than 980 stores statewide. She said the attorney general told them the pantries would have cash in hand before the holidays.

Perdue said when he heard about the settlement he reached out to all five counties in their network, because they can get more bang for the buck than singular pantries can.

“Because of what we do we can obtain a lot due to the principle of economy of scale,” he said. “We can purchase a lot at lower costs and distribute that to our network of more than 100 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.”

He said the $1,000 stipend will buy approximately 2,272 units of canned food, which unfortunately doesn’t go far these days.

“Honestly that could go to a pantry and last them a week,” Perdue said. “Just because the need is so substantial right now, the same time last year we were seeing about 32,000 people each month and we’re up to 48,000. Inflation has really driven things up substantially.”

He said so far Butler County is the only county to choose them to receive the funds. Preble County refused, Miami County submitted their name and another pantry to the AG’s office and he hasn’t heard back from Darke or Warren counties.

Last October the auditor’s office was notified by St. Clair Twp. resident William Anderson the prices on the shelves at the Dollar General at 950 S. Main St. in Hamilton and the amount cashed out didn’t match. It is the auditor’s job to test commercial devises like gas pumps and store scanners.

They began conducting price verification checks at all the Dollar General stores on Oct. 14, 2022. The results showed double-digit error rates up to 88%. A store is allowed only a plus or minus 2% error rate.

Anderson told the Journal-News after the settlement he was happy to be a whistleblower but the settlement amount wasn’t adequate.

“That seems too low because they’re still overcharging, it should have been $10 million or $20 million after all; here they were overcharging all the time...,” Anderson said.

Dollar General must also take measures to ensure the pricing errors don’t recur and pay $250,000 in penalties and reimbursement for investigative costs.

Dollar General told the Journal-News the company “appreciated the constructive approach” Yost’s office took in the matter.

“Dollar General is committed to providing customers with accurate prices on items purchased in our stores, and we are disappointed any time we fail to deliver on this commitment,” the statement read. “When a pricing discrepancy is identified, our store teams are empowered to correct the matter on the spot for our customers.”

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