Working at Dirt Cheap/Hudson’s

My name is James DePaolo. Today, I wanted to share my story about my time with Hudson’s/Dirt Cheap. Thank you in advance for reading this.

Dirt Cheap aka Hudson’s was a company I knew very little about before I worked there my first time in 2018. A friend called me, “ James, Dirt Cheap just dropped all this music in their store”. So, as I went into the store there was this long line of people at the door in front of a sign saying, “ Now Hiring All Positions”. I passed them by to get in the store to get to my music. As I was putting music in a buggy this voice behind me said, “ James DePaolo, holy crap is that you’? I turned around and it was someone I managed at WalMart a decade earlier. He hugged me and was bragging on and on about me. He said, “ James come here you got to meet someone”. So, I walked with him and it was the Dirt Cheap manager whose name was Robby. “ Robby, this is James DePaolo and this is who you need as a manager”. My plan was just to buy music. Robby told me that I really impressed his friend and he trusted him. So this chance meeting turned into a job interview. He made me a ton of promises and offered me more money than my current job was. A long story short, after my first week and that first check, a lot of those promises were not shown in my pay. I told him that day, “ I cannot work for this. I am so sorry this was not our agreement and I am going back to my other job”. I think Robby took it personally because he did not want me to leave and mentioned “ You are so loved and popular”. I told him, “ I did not agree to this and if I knew this was what was happening, I would have never applied”. 

In 2021, I decided to put my resume in their company site to return. The day of my mom’s funeral, I had a phone call from Rachel (who managed the store in the festival center) and I never returned the call. The reason was, the next day I got a phone call from Maurice who was the manager of the other location who knew me. I never had a potential company do their homework on me. This man knew about my google reviews and all my awards. The man also knew I had a website and podcast. Our paths crossed  a decade plus earlier when he managed Sears and I was a manager at Best Buy. The offer he made me, “ I will start you as my highest paid assistant manager and within 90 days promote you to M.I.T and put you on salary. I know all about you and know that you rock this role. I told him about my past and he pulled out a contract that laid down everything that we both signed so I would be not lied to. 

Dirt Cheap as a whole, in my first few months I really loved it. Maurice let me have free range to do what I wanted because he trusted my vision. This man talked me up to customers, employees and anyone who would listen. When we got off work, we would be in the parking lot just talking about things. Dirt Cheap has what they call “inventories”. They have people take drives to other stores and make some money counting inventory. . I enjoyed certain aspects of the inventories. The main one, I got to have headphones on and listen to music the whole time. This is also when my problems with the company began. There are alpha females who only exist to show people how great they are and how bad they can treat others and get away with it. I was being nice to a customer as I was working in an aisle and I was told in private, “ You are only here to count inventory”. The customer overheard the exchange and put the stuff down and just walked out the store. This opened my eyes as to what the future would hold for me. 

As I said earlier, we would drive to other stores. We were told we would get our gas money for the trips. Everyone got their money in days, I got mine 5 months later after I had to literally beg them for it 13 times. 

On March 17th, my life changed. I was helping a customer light a furnace to see if it could work. The customer hit his buggy and an air conditioner fell out of it and cracked my skull. I was knocked for a few seconds till the customer revived me. I was dizzy and bleeding. My coworkers took me in the office and were crying and praying for me as they put tape with a band aid to stop my bleeding. My doctor told me that it was bad and my concussion, I have to be off for a while till he can re-examine me. I begged him to let me go back to work and that I will be ok. I mean, Maurice just quit and I felt this was my time to show them I am the best pick for store manager. 

I went back to work two days later, and I knew this was a huge mistake but I also knew I had to do it. Well, I did not get the store manager position. I wish I could say I took it personally but that may be a lie as I do not remember how I took it. I do remember, when I found out that if we were still going forward with my M.I.T in 90 days deal which I was told was off the table for now. That one did hurt me. My new store manager’s name was Christie. A few coworkers told me that they felt she was being “ too nice” to me. I felt she was being awkwardly flirtatious. I tried to distance myself at first. One day, she just ripped into me for something and it just so happened it was the birthday of my late mother which I was already taking hard. I let this woman yell at me about something and I just had enough. I took her to the back of the store where there was no one around and told her, “ I am so sick of all of us hard workers getting screwed over by the trash that is here. You guys praise all these employees while abusing your best workers because you know they need this job”. I made a mention to a previous assistant manager who no called no showed 7 shifts and was caught stealing, that my district manager begged to come back because she was so great. “ You guys think she is better than me. Are all of you that stupid?  No better yet, she is better than me, fire me so I can steal all I want and you guys will beg me to come back in two days like you did her?” Christie said, “ James, I do not understand where all this is coming from”? In front of the employees I said, “ 3 months ago, I was promised I would be M.I.T and I work hard every day no matter what so I can get there and they take it away from me and then praise the trash that you guys talk about behind their backs and not having the spine to say it in their faces. The customers and all of you praise me, but they do not listen to that. That does not matter, they promote their friends and not the ones who deserve it”. It was that day that Rachel from the other store started calling and needing help as her staff was getting thin. Rachel, I had some history with. I met her at her inventory on my birthday and we shared a laugh. The day I got a concussion, she was the one who came to my store so I could go to the hospital. You ever meet that person that you just know from the first second that fate brings you together that there is something special. I got that feeling with her. 

Rachel, asked for someone to help her and mentioned my name. Christie begged me not to go because she cannot afford to lose me. She felt that if I went to that store, since I live a half mile away from it, that I would want to be there. I told Christie, “ Let me do a shift or two and I can help her hire people”. The second I went to Rachel’s store, it was so different from my store. It started off, I did a whole weekend for Rachel. That weekend turned out to be me staying.

This is where I saw the true face of this company. 

As people learn about me, I am all about personality. Rachel once told her bosses, “ James could sell ice to eskimos”. Rachel’s management style is a lot like mine. It is unique and odd but it works. Rachel creates memories. To say she has a big heart does not even touch the surface on how unselfish she is. I feel our district manager loved to push Rachel and upset her. Other managers as well. It was like they understood how fragile she was and took advantage of it. I can remember a manager from Florida called her on the phone and called Rachel a liar so many times and when Rachel proved her wrong, she did not even give her an apology and continued to bully her for other things. That is a good term to describe the company’s higher ups-bullies. Verbal bullies that know who to push and how hard they can push and get away with it. 

This was the meaning of the story. The bullying and abuse in my last few months. It was not an isolated incident and did not stop at one employee or manager in our store. If you ever go to a Dirt Cheap store, most of the store managers are not nice, that is a fact that many customers can back up. When they see customers bragging about management, the company ignores it and figures that the customers were being compensated for it. 

I can go on record, Rachel Ikner and myself for our praises from any customers, never gave them anything more than a hello or goodbye. Well, in my case I would tell jokes or make them laugh. Our store had so much heart. Rachel gave a woman who had 2 strokes and health issues an award for being “ employee of the month”. The woman always said, “ Bay Bay” in every sentence and it would drive me so nuts, that I just named her Bae Bae. I even made a joke when Bae Bae won the award that we did not have enough non managers to give anyone else the award but next month I wanted to go to the fabric store next door and pick one of their employees for the award. I would even ask our customers if they wanted to be our next employee of the month.  That was the fun of our store, we just all made each other feel so appreciated.

Our company would start a facebook page. This page has rules, “ No Bullying or Improper Language”. The joke to this is that two of the administrators are bullies who bullied Rachel and me, and they know how to cuss fairly well. (Some could say they can lie fairly well as well) I would post on this page our deals just to drive business. I would get so many customers who would use that page to brag about me being the best manager in Mobile. That was mentioned to me once by my district manager, that I am telling people to do it. Which Rachel knows is the complete opposite as I tell the customers to tell people that I am the worst. I always thought if you look at who this company holds in high regards as great managers, I don’t want no part of that. I can be the worst. I remember my last day at my old store. Christie took it so personal that the employees bought me presents and hugged me and cried that I was leaving. I told Rachel that story one day during a talk, that if you want to shut the people up that bully you, let them see your coworkers appreciate you and care so much, because for them that is what they will tell you happens, but when you see the reality it is not fact. 

I have been to Florida many times to shop, and I heard horror stories about their manager. That is where I feel Rachel and I excelled. We made the customers feel appreciated and the employees feel wanted. Rachel bought them food every day and I always made sure we always had drinks. 

I keep going off track, and I apologize. With me, I was promised time after time by my district manager that the M.I.T position was coming. As I was promised that my raise was coming. I also felt that the two of us had a bullseye on us. That the company was always out to get us. We hired another assistant manager. I will not divulge her name, but she is there today working. This girl in her first week, called out sick twice and when she was at work took her time.doing time sensitive projects. The issues with her started when she was not following rules that Rachel laid down for us. She would come to work and leave when she wanted. One shift she just left her keys in the safe and we assumed she quit. Next shift, she did a 300.00 refund but when we watched the tape it never showed her giving back cash or taking back product for it. When she was questioned about it, she threw another worker under the bus who was nowhere near her when she did it. When we wanted to do an investigation on it, she quit. Then, she came back again. This time, she decided she wanted to do payroll and she cut out that coworkers overtime that she threw under the bus. Then, we found money in a safe in a bag that looked like the one she brought to work with her lunch filled with cash that equaled the refund money. We were going to question her about this with the district manager there, but she quit again. It has been discovered that after we quit, she was rehired and got a raise on top of it. 

So, I had to work a day off ( which was the normal for me) and it so happened my diabetes was bad. Rachel told me on the phone to stick around and she would be there asap. It so happens that my district manager came in that day. Did she thank me for coming in sick on my off day to open the store? No, she threatened to fire me because the store was not up to her liking. I told her that we are so short handed and we are working day and night to fix the issues. The funny part of this story, we were working with no air conditioner in a building that was about 90 degrees. This was happening for six weeks. Customers complained and employees were getting sick, the company ignored us in favor of the other stores getting theirs done immediately. 

Our district manager would always tell Rachel that I should be fired. Rachel said, “ Why, James works so hard and everyone loves him.” Our district manager would refer to me as a “ Drama Queen”, which was so odd. The one and only conversation I had with her in person she wanted me to throw Maurice under the bus, and I told her he was a good dude. So she had to find another associate to do the honors for me. No actually, there was another time. I worked at another store in another state as a favor to her. She told me in front of the other associates, “ I know your deal is customer service but I am not about that right now. So, just do your job”. I asked myself silently, “ Well, I am a manager, that is my job”? 

So, as I said earlier she told Rachel to fire me. Well, she would tell me on the phone that Rachel was trying to get me fired. I did not have the nerve to tell her that I was silently listening to her phone calls when she was telling Rachel to fire me. I feel if I exposed her right there and then for lying, that may not be a good way to be a store manager. That is like your lover kissing you and you saying, “ I have had better”, there are some things you just know and you do not share. 

So, the week that we quit was hard. We were being bullied and pushed past our brinks. I have had a clear record and never really got in any trouble. I also had a very big mouth and could not let things happen without having to open it. Rachel’s husband had a heart attack. As you can guess, this is a big deal. We had to come up with a plan. So, as we were thinking our district manager refused to give me overtime and if I went over it would be very bad for me. We got a new assistant manager, so I begged to get her numbers so she can be alone to open and close. She was refused. So, the stage was this: Rachel had to work with her husband in the ER. What choice does she have? Our district manager was not letting anyone take her shifts and was wanting her to be there. So, Rachel had to quit to be with her husband. A woman who fought daily for her job and sacrificed all she had to be there, could not sacrifice her husband’s life for the job. This created a ripple effect as other employees also quit in defiance of what they saw. 

I was in a record store in our neighboring state when I got the phone call to rush back to Mobile by my district manager. I got back to Mobile 2 hours later, and was told that my overtime was approved now and that the other assistant manager will get her numbers tonight. Then, my district manager went on and on about Rachel. Rachel had some tools at work that belonged to her husband that my district manager did not dispute but refused to let me take them to her. Told me that “ Rachel needs to talk to me about those tools”. 

On my way home, my phone lit up with more employees quitting and even more quitting. It was to the point that I would be the sole employee. I decided that since it was promised to me in the past that I should now get the raise or my promotion. I talked to my district manager and she refused to do either, and I felt if it did not come now it was never coming and I could not do the abuse and bullying anymore. So, I quit as well. 

We decided after we quit, that we needed to turn in our keys and get Rachel’s tools back along with Dianne’s heart medicine. So, we went down to the store with only one customer in the store and we politely asked for the tools as I handed in the keys for the assistant managers. I talked to the other employees as they came from my old store to cover the shifts. We were told that we could not get the tools back. Rachel decided to call the police as she needed her tools back for her husband. Since we gave them back everything we had, we seem to think it was fair. We went outside to avoid any trouble and awaited the cops. We would get the tools back. 

The weird thing is that the employees in the store were forced to write reports about what they wanted corporate to believe about what happened. We were being accused of stealing and telling customers that we want them to steal. Thank god, the employees did not agree to that and wrote truthful statements that got trashed. So, I felt at this point that we should not have been put in a position to quit and I decided to voice an opinion to the HR of the company. (HR is Human Resources Manager)

We sent in 8 statements, one or two by current employees and were told “ You are not the first people to make these accusations and we take them so seriously”. Well, when the HR woman called me, she gave me one hour to speak. 30 minutes of the call she decided to tell me about her hands being a health issue and that she has some kind of arthritis. Every time I describe an incident she would cut me off and go in another direction. I would try to get back to the point, and it felt like she was not even paying attention. I wish I would have said, “ So, Liz what did I just say”? I feel the HR for this company is pro job and anti ex employee. I brought up that two of the statements are current employees. So, let me change my last statement, the HR is pro-higher up management and anti-employee who they view as faceless nobodies. I made the comment on the phone to HR, “ How many of these people who poured their hearts into these statements, do you even know their names”? So, I started to call them on the phone, “ Faceless person according to you”. I think when she mentioned that they had over 8 employees speaking out on the same issues with the same people being called out, that I knew we were going to be ignored. I wonder if I abused or bullied a district manager or another store manager, how many complaints would it take to fire me or even get me suspended pending an investigation? I noticed for them after 8 this month and numerous others in the past, that they keep going as business as usual with nothing said. 

Word came out after we left, our district manager called back the employees that we either fired or quit and offered them more money to return. Who cares that most quit because we had proof that they were stealing. Who cares that they quit when they felt they would be fired. I felt that since they are getting these 4 and 5 dollar raises to come back, what about me? I had a clean record and only quit because I wanted more money and what was promised to me. I was polite about it. I did not get my job back. Did I want to go back to the bullying and abuse? I am not sure, but to get more money I feel would help the words go down better and actions feel not so bad.

No one wanted to quit that day. Not one of us woke up that day with the feeling that we were leaving. We wanted to be there badly. Rachel was the giving tree. That company took it all to the stump and she was so proud to give it all to them. We all gave it all to them. I would work 7 days a week and be so happy to do it. The customers and my coworkers made that experience a time in my life that I will cherish. I did not want to leave, but the abuse and bullying by my district manager and other store managers made it not tolerable. Though, I thought about returning since they are paying more money now. Which, I feel after my statements and now this, I would be better asking Crane for the paper to make hundred dollar bills. This I feel will be viewed as an ex employee who is bitter, getting retaliation. Retaliation means zero to me, I want justice for what happened to all of us. 

In closing, thank you to every person who read this. To every customer who smiled or laughed at my personality, thank you so much. You can thank the people I worked with basically for that personality. They made me so happy to be there. Bae Bae, Dianna, Kerria, Tammie, Cori, Christopher, Darius, Toyoci, Darren, The twins-Gerri and Jerri, Destiny, Molly, Lamarion and most of all Maurice.and Rachel. I cannot believe this is the part I would get the most emotional over. I hope each of you know how much I truly appreciated you. Thank you so much for letting me tell my story. 

James DePaolo

1 Comment

  1. This was a powerful statement and I was proud to be work with you and all of our Dirt Cheap family. United we stood!!

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