The truth about dollar stores

dollar storeSince I started shopping at and writing about dollar stores more than four years ago, I've heard many complaints about dollar store merchandise. Some of the criticism may be deserved but mostly, it's simply the old prejudice that anything that can be sold for a buck must not be worth the plastic bag you're given to carry it home in. Let's look at a few of the most common fallacies:

Fallacy: Anything from China is junk or worse, unsafe and, since that's all dollar stores stock, they must bear the brunt of these accusations.

Fact: Every year, China exports billions of dollars worth of merchandise to the U.S. and Canada. Even excluding all of the machinery, electronics, and other expensive items, I don't think dollar stores could possibly be the only ones selling Chinese merchandise. Heck, even the princess figurine I brought back from Disney World a few years ago was made in China, as are most of this American icon's souvenirs. Bottom line: If you are concerned about food or plastic products from China at the dollar store or anywhere else for that matter, don't buy them. However, it's simply not fair to classify all dollar store products as junk. There is much to choose from that comes from China, Turkey, Germany or even the U.S. and Canada that is exceptional value for a buck or two.

Fallacy: Brand name cookies, crackers and other packaged foods that end up in the dollar store are bound to be stale.

Fact: Dollar store buyers develop relationships with many different manufacturers and are on the spot to snap up overstock. If you've be stung before, do what you would do in any other store; check the best-before date.

Fallacy: Dollar store chocolate bars and candies must have been sitting around for a long time before they got to a dollar store.

Fact: I love my Hershey bars and jujubes and I've haven't come across anything stale from my dollar store yet. Consider: how long would customers keep buying the candy, if everything they bought turned out to be stale?

Fallacy: You can't get good batteries at the dollar store.

Fact: While this may have been true in the past, the dollar stores I'm familiar with now sell brand name batteries like Panasonic and Sunbeam. Since adding products up to $2, I've even seen Duracell batteries at Dollarama. Again, if you're leery, check the best-before date, which is printed in bold on the lower right-hand side of the package. Speaking from personal experience, I have been extremely satisfied with dollar store batteries.

Fallacy: There must be something wrong with a brand name shampoo, facial product or household cleaner that ends up in a dollar store.

Fact: I recently spoke to a representative of Unilever Canada about a Dove Energy Glow product I purchased recently from my local dollar store and, from the product code I gave her, she confirmed that it was indeed their product, made in Canada. Again, dollar store buyers are always on the look-out for deals from the big manufacturers and sometimes nab some amazing products.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.

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