Shopping at a Dollar Store? Here are Some Things to Watch Out For

by Miranda Marquit · 83 comments

It’s true that dollar stores have improved greatly in recent years. Dollar stores now carry name brand items in some cases, and you can find a wider selection of grocery-type items.

However, just because dollar stores have improved their offerings doesn’t mean that they are a good idea. Indeed, there are some items that it’s best not to buy at a dollar store. If you are looking to save a few bucks, the dollar store can be a good place to start. However, you do need to be careful. You’re not always getting the best value, no matter how cheap something is.

Concerns about Safety

One of the biggest things you have to worry about is safety. While it’s true that you can find some good deals at the dollar store, not all the items have been properly vetted, and not all of them are safe. Some of the worst offenders when it comes to dollar store shopping include:

  • Electrical products: Not all of them have been properly tested. From lightbulbs to extension cords to lamps, watch out. In some cases, a fake certification might even have been attached to the product. You need to be careful.
  • Toys: Watch out for toys with poor construction that could easily break and choke especially young children. Lead in toys is still a concern, and there might be other toxic materials involved.
  • Food: Double check expiration dates before you buy. It’s fairly common practice to stock dollar store shelves with older food items. You want to be careful.
  • Vitamins: Watch out when it comes to vitamins and health supplements. You need to make sure that they are properly identified, and that they are legitimate. If they aren’t you might find yourself buying something useless — or worse, harmful.

While many cleaning products are likely fine, and it’s hard to go wrong with wrapping paper, double check other items that you want to buy from the dollar store. You want to make sure that they are safe.

Problems with Quality

In other cases, dollar store items may not be problematic in terms of safety, but they may be of low quality. Tools, clothing, and some other items bought at dollar stores may not last very long. If you have to keep going back for more, it might not be worth it to purchase these items at the dollar store. (Keep in mind that even stores with the word “dollar” in them might charge up to $20 per item.) Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay a little more in order to get something of higher quality that will last longer.

It’s true that there are many things we don’t need, and that it isn’t always prudent to spend a lot of money on unnecessary items. A dollar store can provide a way to find good deals and support a frugal lifestyle. However, you still need to be careful. In some cases, cheap is just cheap, and that can lead to safety issues, and problems with quality. As you shop at the dollar store, make sure that you choosing carefully.

Bonus Tip:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

JJ August 26, 2013 at 8:07 am

I will never enter another dollar store. There eggs and milk had an expiration date of 8/10/13 when I shopped there on 8/15/13 and I purchased a six pack of light bulbs and only 4 worked. Then 2 of those only lasted two weeks when other bulbs from Walmart lasted over a year in the same lamp.

chris September 12, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I work in retail at a major big box store, and I can tip you folks into a fact –

There’s a REASON the stuff in the dollar store is cheap and often (in perishable items) near to or out of date – it’s old, past clearance stock from the big box places. It goes “salvage” and is pulled from the (usually backroom at this point) shelves and sold directly to a secondary retailer.. aka a “Dollar Store”. The one I work in doesn’t salvage food, that’s donated to a local farm instead, but we definitely salvage department goods.

M September 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Dollar Tree rules! So much in the other stored is marked way up. Not perfect, but provides downward price pressure on other stores.

Alfie Gower September 24, 2013 at 7:06 am

You folks really want something for nothing! What do you pay for milk at the supermarket in comparison to a dollar store? For a dollar it is reasonable to expect the shelf life will be shorter than the same item that costs 3x as much. For someone on a fixed budget, they’ll use that milk in that five day window gladly for the savings. Dollar Stores serve a purpose if you shop them wisely and use common sense. School supplies, party favors, greeting cards, holiday decorations, household cleaning stuff, toothpaste, soap, snack foods and the like, they can save a family quite a bit of money. If you’re super picky or a snob, don’t bother.

Alfie Gower September 24, 2013 at 7:43 am

I can’t believe @Buck is raving about the little kosher mark on food and spreading false rumor about a Kosher Tax! This is an urban legend and has nothing to do with dollar stores or ANY stores. Hey Buck, your ignorance is showing! Try googling what it really means to label foods Kosher and you’ll be surprised. No money is collected from it and certainly not by Jewish organizations or ANY organizations. It’s also used as a marketing logo to let vegans and other dietary restricted people know the item is prepared in a way that is ok for their dietary needs. But good to know your anti-semitism is alive and well yet you’re a ‘good Christian’.

Ggirl October 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

I Agree with Alfie- Some of you folks like MARIA MAREZ need to get a clue. You aren’t special because you are in a hurry and work next door. Why should they let you cut in line? That is a very stupid reason to not shop somewhere because they aren’t breaking the rules for you. People need to be wise about their purchases in general-whether you shop at the Dollar Store, Walmart, or Chanel in Beverly Hills-. Knowledge and wisdom is an amazing thing, too bad most people are severely lacking!

Martha October 26, 2013 at 3:12 am

I purchased some Betty Crocker plastic storage bowls from a dollar store, clearly marked by the manufacturer as microwave safe. After cooking soup with them for a couple minutes, the bottom of the bowl looked exactly like the bottom of a 2-liter pop bottle, and just as dramatic! I now use the others only for storage, not for cooking.

dave pe November 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

you can purchase brand name items from department stores and still catch fire and are unsafe. do not single out dollar stores.

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