Dollar stores can be great places to pick up inexpensive items, but sometimes you get what you pay for.
Rather than ending up with a bargain, you could end up with junk or, even worse, something dangerous. Here are seven things we think you should avoid at the dollar store:
1. Electrical cords and other electrical devices
If you would rather not reduce your home to embers, we suggest you steer clear of cords and electrical devices from dollar stores.
That may sound overly dramatic, but dollar stores don’t have a great track record of quality control when it comes to cords and electronics. As far back as 1999, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned about faulty power strips, extension cords and surge protectors being sold at discount stores. More recent warnings have highlighted faulty extension cords, holiday mini-lights and portable heaters.
The problem, to be blunt, is that dollar store toys are junk.
Safety is an issue as a result. Dollar store toys are often subject to recalls because they contain lead or have parts that can break off and present a chocking hazard. You can search for all the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls here.
Beyond that, we suggest that you’re better off paying a little more and steering clear of the tears and frustration.
We’re talking about stuff that breaks if you look at it wrong. The wheels will fall off, the batteries won’t work, or your 3-year-old will snap it in two before you’ve even hit the parking lot. Then, you’ll be left a buck (or two) poorer with a broken toy and an upset child.
3. Shampoo and beauty products
Opinions seem to be mixed on dollar store shampoo and beauty products, but they get a thumbs down from us. Not because of any safety concern, but because they often don’t provide great value.
Dollar stores may sell brand-name products, though some skeptical shoppers do not believe these products to be the same as the full-priced versions sold elsewhere.
Leaving that aside, we find that many dollar stores stock itty-bitty bottles compared with what you get in other stores. So you may not be paying a lot, but you’re not getting a lot either. A better value might be to combine coupons and deals at drugstores for shampoo, conditioner and other beauty products.
4. Kitchen knives
Quality concerns also get kitchen knives placed on the do-not-buy list.
Dollar store knives can be flimsy and dull. Both are bad when you’re trying to cut your food and not your finger.
5. Bathroom tissue
You’re welcome to try dollar store toilet paper, but we don’t recommend it. Often having fewer fibers than other brands, using no-name paper can make for a less than ideal outcome. We won’t elaborate.
As for the brand-name toilet paper, tissues and paper towels at dollar stores, you may find the same problem we discovered with shampoo. Small sizes and fewer sheets mean the dollar store price isn’t much of a bargain. Try checking your warehouse club or otherwise buying in bulk to get the best quality for the lowest per-unit price.
6. Canned and boxed foods
Most dollar stores carry a selection of canned, boxed and bagged foods that may include many brand names. Some stores may even have a full grocery section complete with meat and produce.
While the dollar pricing may seem like a bargain, you could also find many of these items on sale at your grocery store for less. In particular, grocery supercenters such as Walmart seem to win on the price war for canned and boxed foods.
Finally, we come to batteries. In a pinch, dollar store batteries will work just fine, but don’t expect them to run like the brand names.
Rhett Allain, an associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, put Dollar General batteries to the test against Duracell and Energizer. He discovered the dollar store batteries contain significantly less energy and their voltage drops off quickly. Apparently, a major difference between the brands is that Dollar General batteries are not alkaline and likely zinc chloride instead.
If you want to read all the science behind Allain’s experiments, you can head to Wired for his article.
Of course, dollar stores vary widely, but we think your best bet is to stay away from these seven product categories. Do you agree? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.