PDA

View Full Version : The Dollar Store Economy



pinkytoe
8-23-11, 8:35am
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/the-dollar-store-economy.html?pagewanted=all
I found this article about Dollar Store shopping interesting. It appears that even folks with healthy incomes are now making more purchases at dollar stores as part of a new saving money mentality. Even so, our desire to purchase masses of cheap stuff continues regardless of need as these types of stores proliferate and are actually doing better than Walmart.
We have one in our neighborhood and except for some kitchenware, I have never seen anything in there I would want to spend hard-earned money on. As they are popular for groceries, I would be concerned about the origination or content of some of the products but I guess that doesn't bother most shoppers.

razz
8-23-11, 9:11am
I have read some stories about food items like chocolate that were sent to Africa and then sold in stores in NA plus some other items so generally I avoid them. They are handy if you need a cheap vase for a special occasion bouquet or similar situation.
In fact, I don't find that dollar store items are that cheap when one compares the volume of contents with mainline stores.

creaker
8-23-11, 9:14am
The one in my neighborhood square is doing well - that said there's nothing I want in it. And I've made several trips in there over time just to be sure.

Both these and the Ocean Job Lot stores in my area seem more catered to shopping for "stuff" than for specific items. Which is not the way I shop.

ctg492
8-23-11, 9:15am
I do not shop at these stores. I guess I can understand why people do however. Years ago back in the day when there were Dime Stores and I lived pay to pay, I stopped in each pay day. I would get the roll of TP, small bottle of soap and such. That was all I could afford to spend at the time.

treehugger
8-23-11, 10:18am
Both these and the Ocean Job Lot stores in my area seem more catered to shopping for "stuff" than for specific items. Which is not the way I shop.

That is a really good point and puts into words what bugs me about the few dollar stores I have been in.

I also firmly believe that if one compared the volume and quality of the Dollar Store items to comparable products at other discount stores (Costco, Target, etc.) then the Dollar Store wouldn't look like a good value any more. But clearly their marketing strategy works. Everything for $1 is really irresistable to a lot of people and, I think, gets them to buy things they otherwise wouldn't.

I have found the dollar stores useful once a year to purchase different kinds of candy that I put into gingerbread house kits that I make for my nieces (I bake the house pieces, make up an icing mix, add candy, and mail to them).

Kara

maribeth
8-23-11, 10:48am
I rarely shop there, but I have gotten:

-- Goodies for DD's party bags (coloring books, crayons, stickers)
-- A tiara and wand set for DD's Halloween costume. It's still one of her favorite toys!
-- Random kitchen utensils (potato peelers, serving spoons, can openers). So far they have been decent quality.

ApatheticNoMore
8-23-11, 10:55am
It appears that even folks with healthy incomes are now making more purchases at dollar stores as part of a new saving money mentality.

ok what's the quality of the stuff purchased? Is it just going to fall apart right away?


As they are popular for groceries, I would be concerned about the origination or content of some of the products but I guess that doesn't bother most shoppers.

+1 yea really.

It's a sad commentary on our economy I think. I think it is mostly a reflection of people who are just barely scraping by by buying much of what they need at the dollar store.

If those with healthy incomes want deals fine, but if they have just given up caring about the quality of anything or where their food comes from etc.. Well, their story is not sad so much as I don't know, knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. And really not socially positive.


They are handy if you need a cheap vase for a special occasion bouquet or similar situation.

Vases are readily available everywhere, thrifts have more than they can deal with. I got all the vases I own now free (mostly at really free markets, though I've found vases when taking things to be recycled etc..).


I also firmly believe that if one compared the volume and quality of the Dollar Store items to comparable products at other discount stores (Costco, Target, etc.) then the Dollar Store wouldn't look like a good value any more.

Yea, in the cases where you can use the quantity.

Lainey
8-23-11, 6:55pm
I buy wrapping paper, cards, crossword puzzle books, Chiclets, and a few other misc. items. Probably shop there a few times/year.

I think they've hurt our local Hallmark store's business more than any other because they sell pretty decent wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper and cards for just $1.

iris lily
8-23-11, 7:24pm
Vases really are NOT everywhere for a good price at the thrift stores. At my Goodwill they charge $2 - $3 for the mundane clear glass florist's vases that everyone and his brother has several of. I"ve been complaining about it for years because I want $1vases. I make and give away flower arrangements and I don't want to worry about people getting their vase back to me.

Finally, the Goodwill here opened a "last call" store where they send everything that has not sold at area stores. There, I can buy glassware by the pound. I can't remember how much it is by the pound (? maybe 50 cents?) but I got all the vases I need there.

Stella
8-23-11, 7:47pm
I'll admit I've bought pregnancy tests at the dollar store. $10 for something I'm going to pee on? No.

Mostly I am not a dollar store fan, though.

Wildflower
8-24-11, 1:34am
The only things I have purchased at our local Dollar Store is 2 litterboxes for the kitties and wrapping paper. Both were really cheap and the same quality that I would get anywhere else.

Nella
8-24-11, 8:42am
As a chaplain for a homeless shelter, I'll often take cash donations to the dollar store to purchase basic hygiene items like shampoo, soap, razors, toothpaste, etc. I find that for those items it's a good deal. I also will purchase some kitchen items such as wooden spoons, spatulas the like. The guys cook for themselves and are pretty hard on these, so we go through them quickly. Cleaning supplies, like sponges and dishcloths, are also something I'll purchase at the dollar store. I don't really see much difference in the quality of these items vs. those same things at a big box store, and we do save a good bit of money.

KayLR
8-24-11, 10:07am
The few people I know who frequent dollar stores are on the fringe of hoarding-dom. They are ladies who "stock up" on greeting cards, sticky notes, stuff like that. They are crap-stuff-generators. One lady has given me sticky note pads a couple times---they don't even stick!! That's how crappy the stuff there is.

artist
8-24-11, 10:50am
I agree that most stores like this are focused on the marketing of stuff than they are of anything specific. I don't shop at these stores as I don't see the quality of the items being sold, as being of any value.

loosechickens
8-24-11, 12:35pm
The few times I've been in one, they seemed filled with lots of crap stuff that people on a budget really could do well to simply do without. I guess if you're the kind of bargain hunter who can zero in on the necessary items that you can get there cheaply, and ignore all the "geegaws", you'd do o.k., but from the looks of the people waiting to pay for their purchases, lots of the crap goes home along with the real bargains.....AND most of the people looked like they had little money to waste.

We buy so little of most of that kind of thing that it just didn't seem a good idea to seek them out. And when I've read about the counterfeit things, like toothpaste, that came from China and was adulterated, those products were sold through the dollar stores, which made me worried about the few things I might have bought.

BUT.....that said, we have friends who never pass one by, and are full of stories about the bargains they find there. To me, it's an even bigger bargain if you don't buy the stuff in the first place, but...........

treehugger
8-24-11, 12:47pm
To me, it's an even bigger bargain if you don't buy the stuff in the first place, but...........

That gets right to the heart of the matter, but that is a major difference, in my experience, between those interested in simple living vs. those interested in saving money. I do a lot of reading at another forum called Frugal Village and learn some great tips and ideas; however, a lot of people there seem to focus on the amount of "savings" according to the receipt, rather than total money spent (e.g., looking for the best price/coupon/savings on juice boxes or paper napkins, instead of realizing that one is better off not buying those items at all).

Frugality and watching my budget and simplicity are very important to me, so I try to scrutinize what I do buy to make sure I really need it and then try to find the best price. And in my experience, those two goals don't meet up at dollar stores.

Kara

TMC
8-24-11, 3:48pm
Complete junk stores IMHO, however I go there for two things, white tissue paper for gifts and helium balloons for DD birthday party. For five bucks I can get her a large bouquet of five balloons, at the grocery store they are six dollars each, crazy.

Selah
8-26-11, 6:57am
It's hit or miss at our local Dollar Stores, but there are some things we've been very happy with. Cards, thank-you notes, and SOME office supplies (quality does vary, especially with pens) have been pretty good deals. I've found a few supplies for crafting (in the catering area) that ended up being much cheaper than what I could get at Michael's for example, or even Wal-Mart. The cooking utensils...they are also hit or miss in terms of quality. For example, a plastic pasta spork doesn't get hard use, and has done just fine. But their rubber spatulas have fallen apart even after one good scraping of a mixing bowl.

Yes, you do have to comparison shop between Dollar Stores and other stores for the price-per-unit and be sure you're not falling for the "oh, toothpaste for a buck!" temptation. Also, some of the food products seem a little dodgy, but the spice mixes we've found have been great so far. We maintain an ongoing shopping list that's marked into different stores...Wal-Mart, Publix, Aldi, and Dollar Store.

I used to get LOADS of things at my local Salvation Army in Nevada, but since we moved to southern Florida, the thrift stores are really expensive...sometimes they have Dollar Store items for more than a dollar! :)

iris lily
8-26-11, 7:16am
I don't like them but go into them occasionally for Lily Society supplies. Once in there I bought something that's turned out to be a household treasure: small glass bowls 4" or 5" in diameter. I use them as sauce holders, flower holders in arrangements, etc. They are key. The store no longer carries them and I hoard the few that I have.

Maxamillion
8-26-11, 12:09pm
I go occasionally to shop there. Usually if I need tissue paper (not toilet paper), giftwrap, coloring books for the kids, litter box liners and holiday decorations. I've also bought craft supplies and the occasional food item, like rice crackers or chips.

Gina
8-26-11, 9:12pm
We do not have a dollar store locally. I would not travel to find one, but one of these days, out of sheer curiosity, I would like to walk through one just to look. I doubt I'd buy much, but you never know. ;)

Spartana
8-27-11, 11:37am
I'm one who hates the dollar store. Loads of crappy stuff IMHO. I do see useful things but mostly avoid them. My sister loves it and gets most of her fruit and veggies there although I'm a bit leery of their produce.

Kestrel
8-27-11, 8:20pm
Coincidentally, we went to the local Dollar store today, looking for some things for our church, but what I saw wasn't worth buying ... anyway, walked around to see what else was there, and I found some things for our RV: cheap thin kitchen towels -- and I like them cheap and thin, and 7"x7" pot holders, which is the size I like. So I was happy with that. I saw plenty of plastic storage containers which I like to use for drawer/shelf dividers in the RV (and in the house), but didn't have my measurements with me, so didn't buy any (tho I usually make them out of boxes that I cut to fit). This is the first time we've been to a dollar store in a couple of years -- usually we go the local St.Vincent de Paul thrift stores and the like. I do need some lids for some of my pots and pans, so I need to go check there ....

Mrs-M
8-28-11, 8:11pm
Like most everything, I believe dollar stores have their place, but I for one am not a dollar store junkie. I do know when it comes to kids birthday parties and things, dollar stores simply cannot be beat for the little things they stock such as balloons, decorations, etc. Aside from that I can't think of the last time I actually went into a dollar store and bought something.

Mangano's Gold
8-28-11, 8:43pm
We do not have a dollar store locally. I would not travel to find one, but one of these days, out of sheer curiosity, I would like to walk through one just to look. I doubt I'd buy much, but you never know. ;)
For curiosity's sake, I'd suggest Dollar Tree over the others (at least the others I've been to). At Dollar Tree, almost everything is $1. It is a fascinating place, and an interesting lesson in what a dollar can buy. I occassionally go there and am amazed every single time. I once purchased an exercise DVD there.

The other big chains (Family Dollar and Dollar General) are just like mini-Wal-mart-type-stores with all kinds of prices. Dollar Tree is much more interesting.

mschrisgo2
8-28-11, 10:03pm
Well, I go to Dollar Tree fairly regularly, every other month or so. I buy laundry detergent for $1.00 - it costs $9.99 at the regular grocery stores (Safeway, Lucky, Ralphs).

If I'm buying cards (rather than making them myself), I get them there, they even include the postage now! plus gift wrapping paper, tissue, bows.

And I try to go when I have time to browse, and I think I've found some very worthwhile things, at significant savings. I found a bicycle pump for $1.00. I also found the car charger for my cell phone for $1.00; it was $29.99 at the AT&T store.

Sometimes the paper towels are 4 rolls for $1.00 - those last me 6 months! I bought a set of stainless steel flatware for the lunch room at work for- you guessed it, $1.00 (I couldn't stand the waste and clutter of the plasticware anymore). I bought $1.00 (thin) bath towels for my mother, who hates thick towels because "they take too long to dry."

I found a stainless steel "spaniel bowl," sloped sides to keep the long ears dry, for my ****er's water dish, $1.00. That I couldn't find anywhere but online- ex--pen---sive and would have had to pay shipping, too.

I found a lamp shade for my daughter's room, odd size - had been looking for it for many months-- $1.00.

I also shop Big Lots the same way. Usually I go there a couple of times a year for school supplies, and spend the time to browse a find other things I've wanted at very good prices.

early morning
9-4-11, 4:15pm
I get all our paper goods at Dollar General (TP, tissues, the occasional roll of towels) and the stray cat food. Greeting cards sometimes. Toiletries, detergent, soap, milk. I go right by two - no special trips. Cheaper than the grocery, brands I like better than ALDI, same or better price than big boxes. I can be in and out in minutes. Honestly, I can park, walk to the back of the store, and check out in about as much time as it would take to find a close parking spot and walk into the local big-box. I don't generally frequent the "everything costs 1$ type stores" but have, for puzzle books for school, trinkets for joke bags, etc.

granola19
9-7-11, 9:59pm
My beef with dollar stores is that:

1. The quality of items sold is often very poor and need to be replaced pretty quickly.
2. Most goods are not ethically produced.

I understand this is not always the case, but most of what I have seen is Made in China, cheap plastic, and probably with unethical labor standards. I understand these stores can certainly fill a need for some things (for things like wrapping paper that makes snese). in a pinch but I would rather go to a thrift store or cruise craigslist. My in-laws often send all sorts of dollar store toys for my girls. They usually break after about 30 minutes of play. Some stuff I don't even keep at all because they have heavy-metal paint or other things I don't want my kids putting in there mouth (which they inevitably do).

Jemima
9-7-11, 10:38pm
About all we have around here are Dollar Tree stores and a few far-flung Dollar Generals. Dollar Tree bought out all the small, individually-owned stores in this area shortly after I moved here and I still resent them for running all those interesting little stores out of business.

I do shop there, maybe twice a year, and stock up on brand name (Sunbeam) light bulbs at four for a dollar. They also carry a spray cleaner called "L.A. Awesome", which I swear is the original formula Fantastic. I bought a bunch of bottles when I realized what it was. I also buy packages of popsicle sticks for marking plants and mixing small quantities of paint. The super-cheap paper napkins are good for disposable brush wipes when I'm doing artsy-type painting. I have occasionally bought tools, like screw driver sets, that have worked out fine, and once I found a pretty wallpaper border at two standard length rolls for a dollar. Other household products like dish soap don't seem to be much of a bargain when compared with generic brands at the supermarket.

I prefer Dollar General because it's something like K-Mart used to be. I've bought plastic storage bins, large pots for growing veggies, and other odd items that were more than a dollar.

Thrift stores are definitely the best for other things along with the few remaining five and dime stores in the area. I still miss Woolworth's. :(