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What to Buy at the Dollar Store

What to Buy at the Dollar Store

Dollar stores contain both deals and dangers. Make sure you shop safely when looking for bargains.

November 24, 2007 —

There is no question that dollar stores provide bargains and more consumers have started to look toward them for basic needs.  According to George Belch, marketing professor at San Diego State University, there is a "misconception that these stores primarily are located in low-income areas and they appeal to low-income consumers and that's just not the case."

Yet, dollar stores bargains are accompanied by products that may be health hazards.  Consumer Reports tested some of the more popular products bought from dollar stores and found both bargains and dangers.


  • Cleaning products.  Brand names may 1/3 less at a dollar store than a drug store.
  • Snacks.  Make sure the snacks are in tightly sealed, preserved bags. 
  • Hair products.  Non-brand shampoos and conditioners may work just as well as L’Oreal or others.
  • School supplies.  Scissors, crayons, paper, glue, etc.  Similar brands and products as in more expensive stores.


  • Electrical products.  Many of these, especially extension cords, may cause fires and other hazards due to poor standards. 
  • Vitamins.  Vitamin supplements are not regulated, so the labels may not be completely accurate. In this case, buy a brand name.
  • Non-brand toothpaste.  Recalls have been common and dollar store products may expire while still on the shelf.
  • Lunch containers. Concern about lead paint in children’s products means this is one area that it does not pay to go cheap.
  • Kids toys. Products are often made poorly and not correctly labeled.  Also, the concern over lead paint remains quite strong.

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