June 10, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
They advertise some of the lowest prices, but if you didn't know any better, it would appear the Dollar General Store on North Huntington Street in Sulphur is trying to save on its air conditioning bill.
"It is suffocating in the back you can't stand it. It's so hot. You can't breathe, can't breathe in the back," remarked one customer.
For more than two months, the store's air conditioner has not been working and according to acting Store Manager Kevin Lewis, nor has anyone come to fix the problem.
"I talked to the district manager and she said they are working on it and we was asking if we could close and she said, 'No put fans up,'" said Lewis.
Despite several box fans around the store, the heat is unbearable. Customers continue to shop, doing whatever it takes to stay cool. The store is one of only two on the north side of the railroad tracks in Sulphur that offer nearby convenience for residents -- a majority of the regulars being elderly customers, who depend on the store.
"I am more concerned about the customers than myself," said Lewis, "because I have customers coming in here and they turn around at the door. I have customers that start shopping and they will leave their baskets in the middle of the aisle because they are complaining about the heat up in here."
"I come in here in the heat and I start getting the shakes, and my heart starts pounding real fast because the heat gets to me because of my medication - I am a diabetic and stuff. So I can't shop in here very long," said customer Lynn Carpenter.
"They've been having problems with this air conditioning unit since Easter. But you should have been here during the week whenever the heat index was up and it was in the triple digits. You can't hardly breathe," said LeeAnn Virgadamo.
Sunday was actually one of the cooler days. Around 2 p.m. the thermometer read a steamy 98 degrees. But to give you a better idea just how hot it is inside the store, all of the chocolate candy bars have melted. Meanwhile, the store's stockroom has remained full of unopened boxes because of the risk of heat exhaustion.
"It's ridiculous. And I spend plenty of money in here and they're not fixing nothing. I'm going to stop coming. They need to shut it down," said one customer.
Fired up, customer Cheryl Singleton started a petition two days ago demanding the air conditioner be fixed. So far more than 300 customers have signed it.
"It's the customers who come in here it's the customers who have to suffer," said Singleton. "This is our store as customers and if somebody doesn't make a stand... We all need to pull together and keep the store... we want it here."
It's likely to be an issue that will only get more heated before it's resolved.