View Full Version : Dollar-Store Deals... and Rip-Offs

July 30th 09, 02:14 AM
Dollar-Store Deals... and Rip-Offs

Beth Pinsker-Gladstone


Marlene Alexander

Dollar stores -- discount retailers that charge about a dollar for
each item -- are popular in this tough economic climate. But not
everything they stock is a good deal. Some dollar-store products are
poorly made, and others could be purchased elsewhere for a better

Steep inflation in recent years has made it difficult for dollar
stores to provide as much as they once did for $1. These stores really
canít raise their prices -- they wouldnít be dollar stores if their
merchandise cost more than $1 -- so they must resort to subtler ways
to charge more, such as reducing the quality or quantity of their

Example: A dollar-store package of paper napkins that once provided
100 napkins for $1 now might provide just 50 or 75... or it might
include 100 napkins made from lower-quality paper.


A dozen products that tend to be excellent deals at dollar stores...

Cleaning products. Cleaning solutions, clothing detergents, furniture
polish and other common household products often cost less at dollar
stores than anywhere else.

Exception: Dishwashing liquid. Dollar stores typically sell name-brand
dishwashing liquid in 11-ounce bottles. You can find 32-ounce bottles
at supermarkets for as little as $2, a lower per-ounce price.

Dishes and glassware. To find these at $1 per piece at other discount
retailers, you would have to purchase prepackaged sets of 16 to 30
dishes or glasses. At a dollar store, you can buy only what you need.
Quality and styling are comparable to what you would find at Wal-Mart.

Gift wrap. A roll of gift wrap might cost $5 at a stationery store or
$3 at a standard discount store. A dollar-store roll is a deal if it
contains at least the standard 12.5 square feet of paper. Dollar
stores also sell colorful gift bags that can be used instead of
wrapping paper. The $1-per-bag price is a fraction of the $2 to $5 you
would pay elsewhere.

Greeting cards. Most dollar stores offer nice greeting cards at two
for $1. Comparable cards can cost $3.50 each at other retailers.

Grooming tools. Dollar stores often stock basic manicure sets that
include nail clippers, tweezers and cuticle scissors, all for $1.
These items are likely to cost at least $1 apiece anywhere else. Emery
boards, hairbrushes and hand mirrors also are good dollar-store buys.

Kitchen accessories. Dollar stores offer a wide range of kitchen
implements, such as ladles, spatulas, dish racks and can openers, that
typically cost several dollars or more elsewhere. Dollar-store kitchen
tools generally are reasonably well-made, but donít expect fancy
extras, such as ergonomic grips.

Exception: Avoid dollar-store kitchen knives. The low-quality blades
dull quickly.

Mops, brooms and scrub brushes. Donít expect to find a large push
broom for $1, but if all you need is a simple broom or mop, you wonít
beat the dollar-store price.

Picture frames. Most dollar stores stock a wide variety of picture
frames up to 8x12-inch and occasionally even larger. Quality is
comparable to frames costing several dollars or more at other stores.

Plastic storage bins. Many dollar stores feature a selection of
stackable plastic storage bins and small plastic garbage pails,
bargains at $1 each. Donít expect to find large storage bins or
garbage pails, however.

Holiday decorations and party favors. Most retailers offer great deals
on seasonal merchandise only during end-of-season clearance sales. At
the dollar store, you will find holiday decorations and other seasonal
goods at $1 apiece when you need them.

Example: Christmas tree ornaments for $1.

Simple tools. Tools are much cheaper at the dollar store than the
hardware store. With most tools, it makes sense to pay extra for
higher quality, but with certain basic tools, dollar-store quality is
good enough.

Examples: All-metal 10-inch claw hammers... 16-foot measuring tapes...
pliers... and putty knives.

Socks. Dollar-store socks often are just as good as department store
socks that cost $2.50 per pair or more.


A dozen product categories best avoided at the dollar store...

Baby food. Most baby food sold in dollar stores is perfectly fine, but
some has been found to contain trace amounts of dangerous chemicals.
The savings are not worth the risk.

Bagged candy. Youíll get more for your money if you purchase economy-
size packages of candy at a discount store, such as Wal-Mart.

Batteries. Target and Wal-Mart usually offer better deals on
batteries, assuming that you are willing to buy in quantity. If you
need four or fewer batteries of a certain size, dollar-store deals
could be competitive. Buy only name-brand batteries.

Bottled water. Dollar stores typically sell water in packs of four
16.9-ounce bottles for $1, which is 25 cents per bottle. Similarly
sized bottles of water can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Costco and other
discounters for less than 15 cents per bottle if you buy in cases of
24 or 35.

Childrenís toys. Dollar-store toys often break easily. They even can
be hazardous (if the broken pieces are small enough for a child to
swallow). Some dollar-store toys, including toy jewelry, contain lead.

Better bets: It is safe to buy coloring books, name-brand toys and
toys for kids old enough to know not to put them in their mouths.

Disposable plates, cups and napkins. You are likely to find better
deals on paper, plastic and Styrofoam kitchen items at Wal-Mart or
other discounters, assuming that you buy them in large quantities.
Better bet: Dollar-store cloth napkins are a good deal, though perhaps
not high enough quality for when guests visit.

Extension cords. The low-quality extension cords like those typically
sold at dollar stores can short out or even cause fires.

Off-brand food. Food packaged by obscure food companies could be of
poor quality, or it might be sold in smaller-than-standard quantities,
meaning that it is not really the bargain it seems. Food from well-
known companies might be a good deal, but make sure it isnít past its
expiration date.

Pet food and toys. Pet food from obscure manufacturers might lack
nutritional value or even contain unsafe ingredients. Off-brand pet
toys might be made with chemicals dangerous to animals.

Better bet: Pet collars and other pet items that will not go in the
petís mouth can be good deals.

Resealable sandwich bags. A dollar store might sell a box of 13
resealable sandwich bags for $1, a per-bag price of eight cents. You
could find the same bags for less than five cents apiece if you bought
them in larger quantities at Wal-Mart, Target or similar retailers...
or as little as two cents apiece at a discount club, such as Costco or
Samís Club.

Toothpaste. Dollar stores typically offer 2.5-ounce tubes of name-
brand toothpastes for $1. Discount stores offer lower per-ounce prices
on larger tubes. Supermarkets and pharmacies might offer better deals,
too, if you wait for sales. Dollar stores sell larger tubes of off-
brand toothpaste for $1, but dangerous ingredients have been found in
some off-brand toothpastes. They are not worth the risk.

Vitamins. Studies of off-brand vitamins, such as those sold in dollar
stores, have found that they donít always deliver the vitamin content
that they claim.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Beth Pinsker-Gladstone, editor of
AOLís WalletPop.com

, a personal finance site, and Marlene Alexander, the dollar-store
expert for the site who also writes about dollar-store decorating
ideas on her Web site, www.dollarstorestyle.com


The Real Bev[_7_]
July 30th 09, 07:41 AM
Ablang wrote much stuff, generally true...

> Toothpaste. Dollar stores typically offer 2.5-ounce tubes of name-
> brand toothpastes for $1. Discount stores offer lower per-ounce prices
> on larger tubes. Supermarkets and pharmacies might offer better deals,
> too, if you wait for sales. Dollar stores sell larger tubes of off-
> brand toothpaste for $1, but dangerous ingredients have been found in
> some off-brand toothpastes. They are not worth the risk.

The 99-Cents-Only Stores sell standard 6- to 8-ounce tubes for a buck. Name
brands. Big selection.

Name brand sunblock too. I've seen No-Ad, Coppertone, others I've heard of, in
BIG bottles or tubes for a buck. Not out of date, either.

They've started carrying more raw fruit and vegetables. You can't beat the
price for those little round seedless 'personal' size watermelons!

Foreign-brand food: Some is awful, some is interesting, some is good.

Cheers, Bev
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