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5 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-Five Below Employees

If an item was just a few dollars, think twice before returning it.

All the merchandise might be not under $5 anymore (the store raised prices on certain items in 2019 and again in 2022), but Five Below (or fiVe BEL°W) still has incredibly cheap merchandise, from toys and tech to beauty products and pajamas. The retail chain has more than 1,1000 stores all over the U.S. and has become increasingly popular in recent years for its selection of Squishmallow stuffed animals. But whether you're heading in for one of these cute plushes or household essentials, here's some advice you should heed. Read on to learn five warnings from ex-Five Below employees, from why you should reconsider that return to why you're being asked to donate.

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Stores are likely to be understaffed.

inside five below store
QualityHD / Shutterstock

Like a lot of retail chains today, Five Below seems to have reduced the number of employees working at once. So, shoppers should not be surprised if they can't find help or if things are moving slowly at checkout.

"I was on register (it was all self checkouts) and I was in charge of them all, while I also had to recover and do gobacks. It was too much for one person, they definitely need 2 people up there," wrote an anonymous former employee on the job review site Simply Hired.

Likewise, on Indeed, an ex-employee wrote, "I was expected to work 40+ hour weeks and stay late while the SM got to leave early. We lost 4 managers and 8 sales associates in less than 2 months of being open."

You'll probably be asked to do a survey.

five below survey
Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock

On Simply Hired, former employees complained about feeling pressure to get every single person to fill out a survey at the end of their visit. "They constantly stay on you to ensure you are asking people to fill out a one question survey at the end of every transaction," wrote one ex-employee. "This wouldn't be too bad but the store is all self checkout so one person is in charge of 8 registers."

You'll probably be asked to share your email address, too. "You also have to collect emails from every customer so the company can spam them. The manager then prints out your success rate and humiliates those who did not meet the 25% email collection goal," shared another ex-employee on Glass Door.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Warnings From Ex-Dollar Tree Employees.

Pay attention to the greeting you get.

five below outside store
rblfmr / Shutterstock

Five Below employees are told to welcome customers upon entering the store. And you should take note of that greeting, as one of the survey questions is "Were you greeted today," shared a former Support Lead on Indeed. They also say, as an employee, you have to "make sure you're loud and clear," so don't be taken aback if your welcoming is a bit brash.

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You'll also likely be asked to make a donation.

five below store
Retail Photographer / Shutterstock

In addition to being asked to complete a survey upon checking out, you'll also be presented with an option to make a donation to a charitable cause. Like the surveys and email collection, employees have goals they're supposed to hit for getting donations.

Twitter user @NoemyOlmos shared a video that explains how companies get tax breaks for donations, so Five Below's motives may not be as pure as you think. In response, they wrote "I HATED DOING THIS WHEN I WORKED AT FIVE BELOW. AND THEN YOU GET SCOLDED BY MANAGEMENT IF YOU DIDNT ASk."

However, tax break or not, it should be noted that in 2022, Five Below raised $3.1 million for the organization Toys for Tots. In 2020, they partnered with The Kids In Need Foundation (KINF) to donate backpacks, and since 2013, has raised $7.4 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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But the company isn't always so charitable with returned items.

five below store sidewalk
Eric Glenn / Shutterstock

Instead of discounting or donating returned items, Five Below allegedly destroys and trashes them, according to former employees.

On Twitter, ex-employee @TubezTheOne said, "one of the policies was we'd have to break returns before throwing them out?" They continued, "The amount of things we tossed!!! Headphones, cell phone cases, makeup, shoes. Yes, SHOES! Books, small electronics, bedroom stuff!!! So much WASTED!!!!"

Fellow ex-employee @AminatheHag wrote on Twitter, "I worked at five below and when customers would return perfectly good items for stupid s*** like 'it didn't fit' we would be forced to destroy them."

NOTE: Best Life only includes information from social media and job boards when there is corroboration from multiple sources. These comments have not been independently verified, however, and are the opinions of the people who posted them.

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