A week after a now-viral video was released showing an altercation between a Buffalo Dollar General Manager and a customer over digital coupons, the manager is sharing his side of the story.
“My life is destroyed over coupons and because we both got frustrated,” Ken Dudek told News 4.
Dudek says the situation in the video is not what it’s being made out to be on social media, and he says Dollar General carries a lot of the blame for what happened.
“If they would have investigated fully, they would have seen that the problem is in the way that they address their security and the way their coupon system works,” he said.
Dudek says both issues were at play when Buffalo teacher Madonna Wilburn visited the store he managed on Genesee a couple weeks ago, and tried to use digital coupons from the store’s app while checking out.
At some point during the interaction, Wilburn begins recording the situation. In the video, Dudek is heard saying, “You’re just trying to take advantage of the system is what you’re doing, and I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.”
Dudek says, what you see in the video is only a small piece of the full picture. He says he had been working with Wilburn for half an hour to get her coupons to work, but the store’s system wouldn’t accept them.
“We couldn’t figure out. Two of us couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t coming up on the register, so we’re both getting frustrated,” he recalled. “She’s getting frustrated because this should be simple. My employees are getting frustrated because they can’t figure it out either. And she had all the coupons correctly.”
Dudek said he tried multiple times to override the store’s system, but even as a manager, he was unable to, and he says, he was never trained to troubleshoot problems with the coupons.
“Their coupon system is strange. We always have issues with the digital coupons,” he explained.
He says he eventually told Wilburn to contact his boss, because his hands were tied. He says she refused to leave the store after that.
Dudek says he followed company policy in that case, and lifted a phone to be connected with the store’s off-site security company. In the video, he’s heard asking for police to come deal with a customer who’s causing trouble and filming him without his permission, something he acknowledges now, she was allowed to do under New York State law which only requires one party to consent to a recording.
Dudek says he was encouraged often to utilize the store’s security program, which allows someone offsite to see and hear what’s going on inside his store.
“I followed Dollar General’s procedures,” Dudek said.
Dollar General fired Dudek, and released a statement, saying: “We always strive to deliver the best possible customer service and are disappointed anytime this doesn’t occur. Based on our investigation we believe that certain aspects of this matter including the involvement of law enforcement were not handled in accordance with our policies and expectations.”
Dudek says Dollar General did not fully investigate what happened, and did not contact him for his side of the story.
“I don’t fault Ms. Wilburn,” Dudek said. “It’s unfortunate that this incident happened, but I think it’s a product of the environment that Dollar General sets for us.”
Dudek says he’s brought up several concerns about the company’s policies, especially when it comes to security at his store on Genesee. He said his request to repair exterior lights on the building for customers’ safety was denied, and he says, he was attacked by a man with a knife inside his store in February, but his request for a security guard on site was not granted.
Now, in the wake of Wilburn’s video being released on social media, Dudek says the safety and security of his family is at risk. “We don’t park in our driveway right now because I don’t want people to slash my tires,” he said.
Dudek and his family have received numerous threats from people who have seen the video across the country, including one that listed the names, addresses, and phone numbers of every member of his family and said “You will get cut.”
Even as Dudek was sitting with our News 4 team Thursday morning, he received several harassing phone calls.
Wilburn says she’s received backlash from the video, too.
“Actually it’s been really depressing. The racist comments, more so, that people are making, ‘She must be poor because she’s black’ or ‘she’s couponing because she’s poor,’ ‘she’s couponing because she’s black,'” Wilburn told News 4.
Dudek says nothing about the situation had anything to do with race, and he’s sorry for what Wilburn is going through now.
He says he’d like to sit down with her and talk about what happened, to hopefully make peace.