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Dangers and Benefits of Dollar Stores

This article was written by in Consumer, Shopping. 6 comments.


My girlfriend is a fan of some dollar stores, notably Dollar Tree, while I can take them or leave them. In a good dollar store, you can find everyday items with high enough quality to be sufficient at a price you don’t mind spending.

At the other end of the spectrum, dollar stores are able to keep low prices because the quality of some products is quite substandard. In June, some dollar stores were carrying the tainted toothpaste with a fake Colgate label.

dollar storeAccording to Marshall Loeb at MarketWatch and Consumer Reports‘ Shop Smart magazine, some multivitamins don’t contain the nutrients advertised on the bottles and electronic items often have inadequate gauge wiring.

We’ve purchased computer paper, shelf liner, baskets, and birthday cards at quality dollar stores, but items like pens, pencils, index cards, and other school supplies can be found for less money elsewhere. Surprisingly, we’ve even found wine glasses nice enough for outdoor entertainment; if they break en route, then they’re easily and inexpensively replaced.

On the other hand, one of my coworkers will never have any interest in dollar stores. I think dollar stores have merit, but you have to be a careful shopper and avoid some of the more substandard items and those items that can be found elsewhere for less money.

What are the best dollar store deals you’ve found, and what should you avoid?

Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published July 30, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Chris

I only buy sunglasses at the dollar stores. They typically sell the same glasses that Walgreens and department stores sell for $12-$17, for a buck. With the rate I lose/break sunglasses, the dollar store is gold.

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avatar Isaac

About a year ago I was buying Belkin USB 2.0 cables at the 99 cent only Stores and then reselling them to my computer repair clients for $5 which they thought was a great price compared to what Best Buy or Circuit City was charging.

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avatar Lise

The real danger with dollar stores, I think, is the siren call of “I don’t really need this… but it’s cheap!” Somehow I ended up with two bright yellow dusting cloths and a scrapbooking paper crimper this way (nevermind that I don’t scrapbook or dust).

Our dollar store also offers the 25′ rolls of name-brand aluminum foil. I checked the grocery store price, and found I was saving 17 cents, but I’m not sure it’s a real bargain if you look at the unit price of the larger rolls.

That said, I have had good experiences with kitchen tools purchased from dollar stores.

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avatar Dani @ Living Behind the Curve

Kitchen serving ware (platters, bowls, etc) – I used to do feasts in the SCA, and almost all of the local group’s servingware came from dollar stores.

This past Christmas, one of our local dollar stores had a huge selection of full-sized scented bubble baths, lotions, body washes, etc. I made a number of large baskets (also from the dollar store) and gave them to cousins, aunts, etc. They were all impressed, and it was so much cheaper than it would have been at a place like Bath and Body Works. ($1/bottle vs. $7!)

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avatar J at IHB and HFF

Hello. Most cheap electronics at any store use dubiously lightweight components (that is partly why they are inexpensive) but might still meet the UL standard and many do the job as well as anything else.

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avatar threadbndr

kitchen gear and everyday dishes & glassware, body wash and shampoos, cleaning supplies, papergoods and party supplies (wrapping paper, gift bags, cards, etc), baby clothes, towels for camping use.

I tend to stay away from the food at all but one of the local stores. That one has some name and regional brands that are good, but you have to watch the stale dates.

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