Dollar store

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Almost anywhere you go these days, you can find a dollar store.

They have different names but the concepts the same: everything sells for around a buck.But does getting it cheap mean you're getting a good deal?

The dollar store industry rakes in billions and not all of the customers earn a small income. The lure of saving money is attracting an increasing number of families from all income levels.

Need light bulbs? You can get two for a buck.Reading glasses? It's $1 a pair.This is the best place for party supplies and gift wrapping.The gift wrap section is one of the best dollar store deals, hands down, especially since most gift recipients simply tear up the paper and throw it away.

Party supplies are another winner. There are streamers, hats, balloons and party favors for a $1 pack. School and office supplies also get a thumbs up. We found chalk, rulers, pushpins and a four-pack of invisible tape all for a buck each.

How do the store do it?

They buy a lot of overruns. A lot of closeouts. They also have very good relationships with brokers. If the brokers have product that the sales aren't as fast as they ordered for, They will be able to pick those items up. Consequently we can sell those for a dollar, or two for a dollar.But not all products you see on the shelves are leftovers. In some cases, outside manufacturers make products specifically to be sold at dollar stores.

As for brands, where processed food is concerned, most of the major packers own or have trademarks for some 20 different brands by labels.So if they're producing a Libby's product, for example, and at the end of production there's more product than can go in the labels, they'll change to a secondary label.Most of us have heard of "Nalley's", "Armour" and "Chef Boyardee."But you probably haven't heard of "Thank You", a canned vegetable brand we found on the shelves at a Dollar Store in White Center. A closer look at the label revealed "Thank You" is made by "Bird's Eye."

But selection and quality of what you'll find in a dollar store is as varied as the stores themselves.

The phrase "dollar store" is generic. There's " Dollar Store," "Dollar Tree" and "99 Cent Plus." We found one store called the "Super 97 99 Cent Store."

And just because you're getting it cheap doesn't mean it's a good buy.

Consumers Reports researchers did some testing for its Shop Smart Magazine, and found some deals are dicey.

Think twice about vitamins. Consumer Reports found you can't always be sure of the ingredients. Stick to brand names.

Be careful about toys for children under 3. Many safety recalls involve cheap, imported toys with dangerous parts and high levels of lead.

You should also think twice about $1extension cords. Consumer Reports found some cords may have faulty wiring that could cause fire. Even with safety labels it's hard to tell what's real and what's counterfeit.Zaske swears by dollar store batteries. Others complain they leak and don't last.

For Example , you purchased four identical $1 flashlights, and 4 sets of batteries -- 3 from different dollar stores, one major name brand from Walgreen's.

Right off the bat, you discovered one of the flashlights had no bulb or seal ring.

You replaced the bulb, and the switch on the same flashlight malfunctioned. You loaded the batteries, mixed up the flashlights, then numbered them from one to four. You lined them up, turned them on and let them burn.

Here are the results:

Flashlight number 3: 40 minutes
Flashlight number 4: 4 hours and 3 minutes.
Flashlight number 1: 7 hours and 25 minutes.
Flashlight number 2: 10 hours 43 minutes

Which is which?

The fourth place flashlight had a $1 battery by Sunbeam. It also had the bum switch and no bulb or seal ring.

Much to our surprise, the third place flashlight had the Energizer batteries from Walgreen's.

When you opened the flashlight that came in second place, liquid dripped out of the chamber; one of the batteries had leaked! That's what ruins equipment. It was a $1 Samsung brand called Pleomax.

The winning flashlight also had $1 dollar batteries made by Panasonic.

Lesson learned: When you pay a dollar for a flashlight, don't expect high quality. And $1 batteries are a real crapshoot.

If you're looking for real dollar deals, you have to be picky. Inspect it, read the labels, feel it, shake it, and evaluate the quality and durability against the cheap price.


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