top of page
  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

We don’t talk about Bruno (AKA: see no evil)

I’ve posted a couple times on social media about the ongoing saga of the Family Dollar stores and the issues there. If you haven’t heard about that (have you had your head buried in the sand?), strap in, we are going on a wild ride! If you have heard about it, keep reading, we are going to really delve into this here.

First, let’s be perfectly clear: most businesses have had some pest problems at some point in their history. It happens. We provide exactly what pest species want which is food, water, and shelter. So it’s really inevitable that something will happen at some point. The key is to actually do something about it before it becomes a major issue. That’s where it seems like the Family Dollar issue went wrong.

In the official FDA report issued in February of 2022, it actually helps to start at the end and work up. At the very bottom of the report, it states that from March through September of last year (2021) over 2,000 rodents were pulled out of the distribution center. Doing the math that is over 30 rodents a day being pulled out of this site. For six months! And this was just what was being caught, there were likely way more living and breeding at the facility. This illustrates that:

1. Something was very very wrong.

2. No one seemed to think this was a big deal or that it warranted extra attention.

3. Nothing was being done because the rodent numbers were not going down!

Again, reading backward through the report, we come to January of this year (2022). A fumigation was performed to gas the entire space and kill what was in there. After the fumigation, an additional 1,100 rodents were “recovered”. That doesn’t include all the dead rodents that may have been in inaccessible areas like wall voids. If only the story could have ended here.

The only reason the FDA got involved was because of a “customer complaint” in January. I’m assuming this was after the fumigation and kudos to the employee that turned them in to the FDA, otherwise, this issue might still be as bad or worse. The FDA did an inspection that apparently involved half a dozen inspectors and their inspection “concluded” on February 11th. There is no info I can find on how many days they were there to inspect.

Conditions observed during the inspection included 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.”
  • Since they found live rodents, that means the fumigation may not have been done properly so didn’t kill everything. Or it may mean that rodents continued to enter from the outside and re-infest. Or both!

  • Since they found dead rodents, that means there was still an infestation and they were still catching rodents. Or they never cleaned up all the dead rodents from the fumigation. Or both!

  • Since they found all the rest of the pest conditions, that means the place was pretty disgusting.

At this point, the distribution center shut down (I assume voluntarily since I didn’t see anything that said the FDA initiated the shutdown). They also temporarily closed down over 400 stores in six states that were supplied by this distribution center. Because basically, along with all the (contaminated) products they were delivering, they were also delivering rodents to these stores. There were major recalls on “select products” that were purchased from these stores.

It is now March and in a statement, the company said it has lost over 34 million dollars in the recall. I suspect the cost is much higher than that because I think that 34 million dollars is just the products they had to destroy. It doesn’t cover the cost of cleaning the stores and distribution center, the increased legal costs of dealing with upcoming lawsuits, the (hopefully) increased costs of adequate pest control, and loss of customers. There are boycotts being talked about as well which will result in the loss of additional money.

So what happened here? Likely a series of failures. The pest control company servicing this site has not been mentioned yet and if they documented correctly and kept telling the facility of the issues, they may escape relatively unscathed. Ultimately, the problem was allowed to continue. Conducive conditions were not fixed, some pest control measures were implemented but obviously not enough to do anything more than keeping the problem from increasing. The worst part (in my opinion) is the distribution center purposely infested the stores: they knew they had a rodent problem and shipped contaminated goods and rodents on their trucks to the stores.

It doesn’t end with this distribution center and these six states. Other employees are telling stories of their stores having problems in other states. The unfortunate part is that these dollar stores are a staple of low-income areas and people depend on them for inexpensive products. I won’t get off on a socio-economic rant, you can read more about it here.

The moral of this story is you should be talking about Bruno (AKA: pest control is essential). Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and eventually it will catch up with a vengeance. The cost of treatment, cleanup, and loss of customers will be significantly more than investing in preventative controls and dealing with the issue when it is small. I’d like to think this is an isolated incident, but I know it’s not. If you are struggling with pest issues, we can help. Don’t wait until the government steps in and the media picks up the story.

You can't magic this away.

Urban entomology consultants


bottom of page