The Dollar-Store Economy

The ubiquitous dollar store is the American dream writ small.

Comments: 125

  1. Before you get all thrilled about those batteries, check the packaging to (1) ascertain the expiry date, (2) check that they are not manufactured for sale abroad (may contain poisonous ingredients), and (3) are not counterfeits or knockoffs (e.g., packaging says Duracell but picture on it is the Energizer Bunny -- it's a fake). Not a good idea to buy food, as supermarkets don't necessarily take a loss on recalls; some store mgrs gladly sell recalled stuff (e.g., pet food), frozen foods that were thawed and refrozen, etc. under the table. And then there's the ever-popular source of cheap goods, "it fell off the back of a lorry" (riiiiiiight). Radio Shack is an overpriced con joint, but I wouldn't trust the dollar store either.

    I guess I'm a strange shopper, because I approach the dollar stores the same way as any other store -- go in with a list, know what they carry and in/out as fast as possible, no browsing, and I hate "recreational" shopping. Nor do I need more cheap crud; better to do without something until you can afford it, then spend $10 once than $1 ten times to replace something that falls apart if you look crosseyed at it. Nor, sadly, should the American economy keep stoking the cheap-crud factories of the Third World. If we learned to live with less stuff but better stuff, it would benefit us in the long run.

  2. Didn't we already shop ourselves to the brink? Do we need corporations to chase more cheap labor around the globe and do we need to empty our bank accounts for useless ugly ephemera that we don't need and will not have the landfills for?

  3. The saddest word I've read or heard this week.....was from this article: the word 'planogram'. I for one will not heed the marching orders of the sinister Dollar General.

  4. My local non-chain dollar store sells bags of produce for a buck. The stuff is fresh but usually smaller in size than what you'll find at the chain grocery stores. If it helps people to eat more vegetables and fruit, so much the better. It's also local produce (but hey, I'm in California). As for most of the other stuff, junk is junk even if it only costs $1.

  5. As a mixed media-artist and consummate bargainista, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a Dollar Store!!! Before I shop the supermarkets for dish detergent and paper towels, I hit the dollar store for the household staples.

    Of course there are things you just wouldn't want to chance at a deep discount (feminine hygiene products, Mouthwash, toothpaste and pregnancy tests), but it's hard to beat some of the values. The dollar store is here to stay and as the middle class vanishes, don't be surprised to see your neighbors in the checkout aisle!

  6. Maybe my experience is unique but I find my local Family Dollar to not be competitive with prices. I do much better buying sale items at the supermarket. I've walked through the local store a couple of times and haven't seen anything that I couldn't find substantially cheaper elsewhere.

    Comparing prices to a Radio Shack is pretty silly. I mean if you're looking for good prices are you going to look at a small specialty store in a strip mall. A dollar for 4 AA batteries is not that great a price especially if they're not alkaline and/or if they're old.

    Overall I find the new breed of dollar stores to be another example in the long standing history of stores made to prey on low-income shoppers.

  7. ACW: A bunny on a Duracell package is not automatically wrong. Outside the US, Duracell has for decades used a bunny mascot in much the same way as Energizer. In the US market, Energizer uses the bunny idea and Duracell does not. Duracell has a much more serious image here and always has. But, a Duracell made for sale elsewhere and sold in the US for whatever reason might indeed have a legitimate bunny on it. It might only means the product was meant for export. Besides, knockoff batteries are more likely to have weird brand names like Powergizer or SuperCell or Ultrabrand instead of bothering to fake up a major brand. Dollar stores seem to adore Panasonic and Sunbeam batteries -both actual real brands but not exactly the top tier. Good deals on good batteries can be had at the warehouse clubs, all of whom sell 'store brand' batteries that are actually made by the big guys. Sams Club batteries are Energizers. Duracell makes Costco batteries. No idea who makes batteries for BJs. You might have to buy 48 at once but the cost per battery will be lower than even the Dollar stores.

  8. I appreciate practical items at reasonable prices. I shopped at a Dollar Tree yesterday, and I stocked up--in quantity--on an array of very boring things I need regularly: bar soap, toothbrushes, dental floss, toothpaste, deodorant, cleanser, razors, sweetener, salsa, index cards, household cleaners, potholders, a spatula, and lightbulbs. I spent $40, and I'm probably stocked for about a year or more on my needs for most of these items. I estimate that I would have spent over $160 on these same items at stores closer to where I live. The products I bought were of known quality to me--I've tried the product before--and the quality meets or exceeds what I get at stores where I might pay 4 or 5 times the price for the same or similar item.

    My only objection is that the Dollar Tree is far from where I live. I think if a retailer could figure out how to deliver practical items at reasonable prices, they would find eager buyers, particularly in close-in urban areas. The key is: practical (very boring) items at reasonable (simple , clear--everything is $1) prices. The type of showy items that caught the attention of the reporter in the article, the snack foods, or the "cheap plastic" merchandise often derided by critics of these stores doesn't interest me. I also find that I am able to walk through the store in any direction I choose. I don't worry about "planograms"--I'm pleased the store owners work to optimize their revenue so as to support the sale of boring, practical goods I seek at reasonable prices.

  9. Unfortunately, the author reinforces the common mistake of calling Dollar General and Family Dollar dollar stores. They are not. Having "dollar" in your name doesn't make it so. Dollar General and Family Dollar are regular discount stores, and, in my opinion, have a deserved reputation of beind downscale and "for the poor". They're not particularly cheap, either.

    Dollar Tree, on the other hand, is a true dollar store, meaning virtually everything in the store is a dollar.

    The lack of research on this obvious point calls into question the accuracy of the reporting in the rest of the article.

  10. See what happens when we elect Republicans?

  11. Post #1 Spot on. Americans buy cheap goods, only to discard of their poor quality in days.

    Less is more, and an item of superior quality lasts longer and harbors the charachter of taking of care of something of good quality.

    I myself had a friend who bought cheap clothes from TJ maxx, I wouldnt touch clothes hanging off a rack that looked as if they were in a dusty warehouse for years. Yet she made fun of me when I had my orderly wardrobe of good cottons, wools from Lord & Taylor that have lasted me for years.

    Talk about a good investment, my woolens and combed cotton have increased 10 times over the years based on the junk they produce now and look smart and well defined.

    Some people just dont get it, the more junk they have, it must boost their confidence for a few false moments.

    Dollar stores are great for some cleaning supplies, far as it goes.

  12. I prefer the 99 Cent store chain here in the West. I find them to be better value.

    In addition to batteries, I would avoid buying name-brand razor blades from these dollar-type stores. I found them to have imperfections that hurt my skin.

    Other items to avoid are canned goods made outside this country, particularly from Asia. These items may contain pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals not allowed in the U.S.

    Read the labels carefully.

    You can find some name brands from the U.S., it just depends by chance what they want to liquidate. Hence, the best shopping is by serendipity - you have to stop once in a while to find some bargains.

    I find good soy milk, tea, almond cookies, and lip balm to be among the best buys, saving over half of what you would pay at Wal Mart. I bought my octogenarian mother a couple of big boxes of Black Crows candies as part of her Mother's Day. She thought that to be thoughtful.

    I am not a low income person. I go shop there because the alternative would be a simile David Letterman once used in a different context: "Why not take your wallet up to the roof of your house, and throw money into the wind? You can do that, too."

  13. Everybody loves finding a $1 item that is useful, if just disposable. Tools, snacks, decor items, real junk, throwaway reading glasses, all available for just a buck. Nobody really cares that they aren't top quality items. It's great for people struggling and also for those who are affluent enough to go to WalMart. Won't find any Nordstrom shoppers, though.

  14. I've learned to buy only certain items from stores like these, items that can't break easily or expire, like soap or mouthwash. I've bought batteries from Fred's once for cheap, but they came pre-drained. I now have rechargables, which though expensive at 1st, last much longer. Sometimes you save money if you spend a little more money up front for a product that lasts longer.

  15. I just don't understand how a successful store requires an adaptive and fluid manager meshes with "everything is planogrammed." Aren't they mutually exclusive?

  16. We have an economy so bad that even relatively well off people are shopping at dollar stores. And what does the president do? Grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Yeah. That makes sense.

  17. Unfortunately, these stores reinforce the American habit of unencumbered consumerism. There is little to no reason to buy many of these products because they are not necessities. However, instead of learning a new skill or reading a classic to engage the mind, Americans of various economic classes buy things. Shallow lives indeed.

  18. I disagree that Dollar stores turnover their merchandise. I go to several and its always the same stuff. I get my chinese takeout at places called Chinese Buck A Scoop. Everyone is independent and vary on the stir fry. It use to be Buck A Scoop but over the decade it is now about $1.35.

  19. I buy soap at the dollar stores and other sundry items. But, with a few exceptions, skip the food - it's garbage.

  20. I read through the entire article hoping to get some information on the sourcing of the merchandise. As a native of India, whenever I have visited these stores, I have been able to recognize many of the items as having the same provenance as those sold on sidewalks in Indian cities - not just cheap, but shoddily made and packaged, and without regard for hazardous content. For that quality, and given the under-valued Indian and Chinese currencies, it is no surprise that there is profit even in selling things for $1.

    In other words, the new globalized Thomas Freidman-esque "flat world" means not just that the third world can aspire to "first world" shine, but also that the first world is becoming "third world".

  21. These companies not only buy garbage from socially irresponsible manufacturers in China, but the stuff can actually be dangerous. For example these dollar rip-off retailers sell plastic kids jewelry and toys that contain cadmium, lead, and other heavy metals. You would have to be absolutely nuts to ever buy any food items from these places, which really are a half-step up from the guys who sell fake junk laid out on a blanket on city street corners.

  22. I think this is going to be the face of the new shopping trend as the middle class keeps getting squeezed to the point of being in the poor class. I think in the coming years, expect more stores like this to pop up everywhere.

  23. What a wonderful commentary on a low-wage economy! Wal-Mart meets Dollar Store. The article speaks volumes of where the U.S. economy has been heading for more than thirty years.

  24. This made me back to Spag's store in Worcester, MA, about 1970, with their "no bags at Spag's motto". It was the first such store I'd ever been in and did indeed have that atmosphere of some unbelievable find lurking around each corner.

  25. People can make their dollars go farther by shopping wisely in many different types of stores. We often go to restaurant supply stores, buy online and Costco. The dollar store is great but some things but items are out of date, rejects, unsafe, not label in English and deceptively packaged. Welcome to the 3rd world. Like the US deficit problem, living cheap has it limits and what I need is more revenue (income).

  26. Agree with JD - an opportunity to buy exactly what I would have bought more expensively, for $1 at Dollar Tree; detergent, cleaning supplies, paper goods. Not fear-based, merely common sense.

  27. How much of the original stuff is made in China? So much waste of energy transporting the products here. But, writing as a fellow artist, I really loved the lamp - made me laugh as well! So perhaps we are coming back to manufacturing by way of creativity. And that's a "good thing"! (Plus cutting down on the eventual trash load.)

  28. No need to get so hoiti-toiti - savvy shopping is savvy shopping. We are not talking road-kill here.

    My Ocean State Job Lot keeps me in Italian cold pressed EVOO, San Pelegrino, all manner of imported yummy food from capers to artichoke bottoms - and Pears soap. Often stuff I would have to drive miles to get otherwise,

    Sure - you must check sell by dates (BBE), but my experience is that they are generally about three months away. Large grocery wholesalers dump out aged stock rather than risk getting stuck with it.

    Don't buy junk - there is no need to.

    Simples.

  29. we are 99 centing ourselves into the poorhouse

  30. Japan is filled with "100 Yen Stores" which sell items mostly imported from China for that amount of money (with appreciation of the yen, about US$1.25). A Japanese economist, Noriko Hama, has claimed that "100 yen stores are destroying Japan" because the competition wipes out domestic manufacturers who just can't offer such low prices. In my experience, the quality of goods offered by these stores often is quite good. You can buy a nice Arita or Hagi teacup in its own little wooden box for 3,000-4,000 yen, or something that performs the same function for 1/30-1/40th the price.

  31. Like NYC's "99 cents" stores, beware of true versus misleading dollar stores.

    I'm troubled by the deeper implcations of this article. It can't be good for any economic recovery when Americans shop for foreign-made goods at the cheapest possible place. How does that create living wage jobs domestically? Oh right. It doesn't. The other question this behavior raises is why Americans are compelled to shop at a dollar store. I think it's traceable to rising housing, energy, and health care costs that inflate at a rate far beyond the overall inflation rate and meager wage increases workers get.

  32. I like my DG in my modest, quite diverse neighborhood with its modest houses. It's a walkable three blocks away and the immediate area is flanked on the one side by an upper middle class inner suburb and, up the hill, one of the wealthiest communities in the nation. A true horsey set. That's one reason why there is a Maserati dealership next door to the DG.

    More to the point, a few weeks ago either the Times or the Journal reported that sales were down a bit in the DG type stores. Why? Apparently the other 78% of their customers were buying only the basics and leaving on the shelf those cute dish towels that would nice in the kitchen. Or foregoing that candy bar for the kid.

    This is what happens when less and less people make more and more money and the ascendent party promotes policies that guarantee more of the same.

  33. From Sears to Walmart to dollar stores, next dumpsters. Thank goodness we can trust the infallible invisible hand of the free market, or I'd be worried.

  34. The Dollar Stores in Manhattan are all renamed Dollar and Up Stores now.
    Guess the price of goods plus the enormous rent increases have caused them to change their stage names to cope with the new reality.

  35. While I know that these types of stores are helping a lot of hard pressed folks, I can't help but think this is damaging the economy. We have become obsessed with cheap, and are willing to pay less and less for particular products. This would be good if the "cheap" was coming from innovative ways of producing these products, but it is not, it is coming from lower wages for the workers producing and selling the product.

    I'm always aghast when I eat with some people and see them leave a wimpy $1 tip at a restaurant with decent service. Funny thing how someone making 6 figures doesn't feel like rewarding a waitress at a decent wage. We are slowly killing off good jobs by our aggregate behavior.

  36. Blah, blah, blah. This all only matters if shopping is a reason for being. Instead it supports being much like breathing or sleep. We've replaced getting to know ourselves, our feelings and learning the purpose of our existence with the cheap delusion that shopping actually lends any meaning to our lives at all. It does not. As a result, we have squandered our wealth and time on indulging our inner needy infant rather than creating the lives and world that our hearts desire. Your heart doesn't desire dollar-store plastic items from China, it desires meaning.

  37. My mother in law buys food from big box discounters and liquidators like Big Lots. Aside from the fact that her cuisine makes me ill because it's all cheap sugar, starch and processed foods, her food makes me ill because -- I swear to God -- I can taste chemicals in it sometimes, and I get rashes and inflammation from eating her food even when it's not "junky". Eating her food was causing me so many medical problems I finally had to lay it out there: I'll be making and eating my own food separately on trips.
    I'm convinced that food that is rejected by those major name brands that do their own sampling and testing of ingredients that they take delivery of, and that gets kicked back into the supply chain as being contaminated and/or substandard, goes into making the processed foods labelled with the fleeting quasi-corporate affiliated brands and generics.

    After not eating any in-law food or more than a year, I'm doing much better, and don't have to recuperate after visits. My in-laws, however, remain riddled with chronic inflammation disorders.

    Are they poor? No. They own a house on Cape Cod and they own other property. They have a comfortable retirement. Yet, as far as I can tell, they are eating themselves into an early grave because they think it's frugal to eat food from the bottom of the market.

    And sadly, I can't do much to persuade them otherwise.

    Are my in-laws poor?

  38. I do it, and I definitely feel like a hunter-gatherer. Shopping in a dollar store is fun, as well as useful, for me. I go after cleaning products, toothbrushes, birthday cards, simple food products like flour, sugar, or white vinegar, and so on. By shopping like this,I must be saving $20 or $30 or more a month on groceries and household products.

    I read labels, and I'm careful to avoid cheap products that might contain dangerous chemicals. I avoid products made in China if they are to go in my mouth or on my body.

    Luckily for me, the Family Dollar Store is in the same strip mall as the supermarket I regularly shop in.

    What's not to like?

  39. So, it's come down to this, hasn't it, the culmination of hundreds of years of the great American Democratic Experiment. The USA is a supremely depressed place these days, and the masses are so hammered & cynical over our downhill slide they see everywhere around them that they pretty much don't care about or get excited by anything anymore. Except .. a bargain! Take the overweight housewife who hasn't had sex or been made love to in 25 years, who lights up like a candle .. over 2.98 tube of tooth paste that's 99 cents!

  40. The story implies that dollar stores are able to sell goods as cheaply as they do because of their poor locations, low overheads, and managers' efficiency. But I wonder about the products: are they more likely to be the product of cheap / exploitative labor practices than the more expensive products of non-dollar stores? In other words, does someone else bare the costs of artificially cheap products? I don't pretend to know the answer to this question, but it seems like an important aspect of dollar store economies that is not addressed by the article.

  41. Why don't people save money by not buying ANY useless junk, expensive or cheap, that will end up polluting the earth or the oceans? Why don't we just drive at the speed limt and save millions of barrels of oil a year from going up in political and toxic emissions? Why, it should be patriotic to drive more slowly! Americans are in love with speed - where they're going is anyone's guess. Off to buy plastic ducks and Big Slurps, I guess. Why do we live in a country that bases its stabilty on shoppers? Wouldn't it be better to be contributors and producers, rather than consumer/devourers? By the way, does anyone recall that when President Clinton left office, the budget was balanced?

  42. I'm not a fan of dollar stores as the author is. To me it's a sign of the lack of appreciation for things well-made and aesthetically pleasing. Now everything has to be 'cheap' which doesn't automatically mean that one is saving money, especially if one is only buying these items 'because' they are cheap. Many people obsessed with bargains then have their homes filled to the rafters with all this 'stuff'.

    So many Americans it seems just have no idea what quality products are anymore...the notion of things being well-made, not just to fetch top dollar, but as an indication of the pride of the person who made the item, and the appreciation of beauty by the person buying it.

    To me dollar stores are mainly about owners buying up discounted/discontinued items in bulk and then trying to make an easy profit by catering to less-educated folks who just like to buy for the sake of buying cheap. Don't we already have more stuff than we need in this country?

  43. To the woman who maligned TJMaxx: just like dollar stores, they carry some quality name-brand items, many of which have lasted me for years. Frankly, sweaters are dubious anywhere. Mix up your older Lord and Taylor staples with something more recent from TJMaxx: I do it all the time, and suffer no discernible ill effects.

  44. These stores lead the way in carrying toys made with questionable standards and candy made with Red dye #3 and/or hydrogenated oils - all bad for our health!

  45. I totally agree with # 11 and can also relate to the clothing issue. So many women in the US feel the need to have closets stuffed full of clothing...they need endless options, often feeling they must buy new wardrobe items every season. These same women are often heard saying they have 'nothing to wear'.

    They will then chastize me for 'wasting' my money on a piece of clothing that cost hundreds of dollars. What they fail to understand however is that unlike them, I don't buy new clothes four times a year, and that when I do buy clothes, it's with the understanding that I expect to wear the item for many years to come.

    So they've got three closets stuffed full of cheap clothing they spent a total of say $1500 on, and they will then refresh this cheap wardrobe a few times per year, spending another $100 or so each time. I have one closet full of quality clothing that I spent maybe $6000, and this wardrobe will remain virtually unchanged, and serve me well, for another five years or so.

    My wardrobe looks quality and elegant. Theirs looks inexpensive and trendy. So who are they to chastize me for my purchasing methods, when net net we are spending just about the same amount of money over the years?

  46. It goes without saying that these cheap goods destroy the American economy in more ways than one.
    I think most people see the dollar store as a seller of disposable single use items. Unfortunately, such items costs more to our society in the long run because of garbage collection and landfill.
    If the counties sell pre-priced garbage disposal tickets based on weight and volume, those household generating more garbage will pay more for disposal which will force them to think of long-life reusable items.

  47. I love Dollar stores! One of the best things ever invented. Some stuff is cheap but most is pretty good quality.

  48. Sure signs of a society in decline: more and more dollar stores; more and more Amscot-like payday lender places; fee check cashing places everywhere; more loans-for-car-titles stores outside any military base. We really are turning into a third world country. But I do not blame the consumer. I blame the increasing and relentless economic "squeeze" being put on the poor and middle class of this country.

  49. If you're a smart shopper with a good memory you can save tons of money in a "99 Cents Only Store" or a "Dollar Tree Store".

    These chains are the Twenty-First Century equivalents of "Woolworth's, Kresge's and the Grant's stores of the early Twentieth Century.

    So, the clear fact is that while Big Finance has been ripping the heart out of the country and working very hard at turning the USA into a second-rate power, the entrepreneurs of the dollar store industry are heroes.

    Having said that we might also reflect on the fact that if it were not for China there would be no dollar stores.

  50. If you buy non-food and non-hygiene products at these stores, there is plenty of money to be saved. My cat loves a laser pointer. I got one for a dollar rather than $6.99 at a pet store. It's still working after eight months. Aluminum foil, trash bags, scarves, gloves, sandals, a ski hat, a ruler, post-it pads, poster board, markers, pencils, duct tape, masking tape, the list goes on. Not always the best merchandise, but it serves. The supermarkets and chain stores will almost never price any dry-goods (non-food and non-cleaning use) item below $3.99. Why pay that when you need so many of these items? And as a liberal, I have to say that the snobs sneering at these stores in this comments thread are exemplifying the conservatives' stereotype of the elitist liberal.

  51. The Dollar Store phenom, born out of a new breed of chronically unemployed or underemployed consumers, co-exists with the fresh, healthy food deserts so common in poor, urban settings where only high fat and sodium laden processed foods fill hungry tummies out of economic necessity and geographic convenience. More Chinese made tchotchke destined for our overflowing landfills sooner rather than later, like fast food diets, harbor more hidden costs to society than readily apparent.

  52. I don't begrudge the Dollar Store it's success and I'm not going to make fun of it's customers. Yes, they're all part and parcel of what has sent our jobs overseas and ruined the environment. Everyone in Wal Mart says they have to shop there to save money for their family while telling themselves that it won't be their husband that looses a job because of America's new shopping habits and well...if it's my neighbor that looses a job because of my extreme shopping for bargains habit, that's ok as long as my house is full of junk I tell myself I need to feed the too many kids I couldn't stop myself from having. Everyone wants a bargain. It makes you feel like you got one up on the rest of the world. But here's the rub America-the rest of the world has got one up on us.
    Our economy is in the race to the bottom. Rich and poor are to blame equally. No one wants to stop. When the people making 70k a year spend all their money at the Dollar Store instead of on locally grown produce, products and services, don't expect it to be the small business that changes this economy by hiring.

  53. # 9 is correct - only Dollar Tree is a true dollar store. And they are the best. As for the quality of the merchandise, the batteries are never out of date, and they work as well as the ones they sell for $4.99 elsewhere. I've been using the same $1.00 reading glasses for the past 5 years. Bleach is bleach... $1.00 greeting cards are fine for grandkids who take the money and immediately throw the cards in the trash...

  54. Because of globalization, the pool of available labor has exploded in recent years and labor costs in China and India are one fifth to one tenth of those in the US. Frankly, I don't see how we can stop losing jobs or our wages not go down until there is more parity between competitors. What we see in this article is an example of American consumer's standard of living trying to reach that parity.

    For those snobs that have well paying jobs and are poo-pooing these stores and thumbing your noses at those less fortunate that depend on these store, realize your boss know that there are many overseas and in the unemployment line in the US willing to take your jobs at a fraction of your pay.

  55. I am so sick of Dollar Stores with their cheap (last for a day) Chinese made products that I have relegated them to the same category as I have Wal-Mart. I haven’t shopped at Wal-Mart in 10 years because they treat their employees like modern day slaves and Dollar Stores do the same. They can have their sales and their discounts…I’ll pass, thank you very much! I refuse to darken their doors with my shadow. I don’t want their products and I refuse to further contribute to the destruction of America via patronizing their stores. I simply drive elsewhere.

  56. A sad, sad commentary on life in the U.S. today, especially the last section on liquidators and dumpsters. It shows where our values lay.

  57. It's all about getting Americans to buy stuff they don't need, that is made in China. Rather than learn to be content with less, and buy quality over quantity.

  58. My wife buys paper plates, candles, and many other non-perishable, non-critical item at our local independent dollar store. It's a social experience -- we live in a Florida neighborhood where the cruel hand of the Republicans has been especially harsh -- with retirees exclaiming over Mexican-looking babies, advice on this or that merchandise exchanged, and so on. I go once in a while and might snap up a $1 whatsis or two, but the $1 store is primarily a female habitat.

    Also: we have a large enclosed flea market and a medium-sized enclosed mall near each other. Guess which one's parking lot is full, and which one's isn't?

  59. It used to be called the 5&10.when I was growing up. I mean the five and ten cent store. If a dollar today only buys five to ten cents worth of stuff than the € valuation of our $ is the real deal. They give us over fifty cent to their Euro dollar...Mmm, are their any Euro stores in Europe?

  60. I read a book called "Poorly Made in China" by an American man who had been a fixer for American manufacturers moving their operations to Chinese subcontractors. The subcontractors were constantly substituting lower-quality ingredients in their shampoos and similar products. They also would knock off their American customers' goods with identical-looking products containing who-knows-what. I worry that items that end up in a dollar store are more likely to be fakes than items that end up in the regular-price chains. I also worry about the workers in the Chinese factories -- they are treated abominably. I wish the global economy genuinely benefited everyone in the way that Thomas L. Friedman imagines. Unfortunately, it seems only to be good for the rich.

  61. The dollar stores date back to the 1950's when the Blatt family in Brooklyn, N.Y opened a store in Borough Park called Blatt's 4 cent and 8 cent store which aimed to undersell the typical 5 and 10 cent store.
    Mr. Blatt had 3 sons and the oldest, Jerry Blatt, came up with the idea of selling all the merchandise at one price, namely 69 cents. He opened a store on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan called The 69 Cent Store. This was a very big success and as a result by the 1970's he had opened four more stores in Manhatten, one in Grand Central Station, another on Chambers Street and two other stores. The stores were a great success until the period of the 1970's when there was a tremendous inflation and it was nearly impossible to find merchandise to retail for 69 cents. He raised the prices to 79 cents and then 89 cents but eventually went out of business. The $1.00 stores were an offshoot of his brilliant concept of selling all merchandise at one price.

  62. No need to get all snooty about shopping the Dollar Stores. Not everyone can afford Nordstrom. This brings to mind an incident- I had casually mentioned to my pretentious sister and her equally snobby friend that I purchase food now and again in Wal-Mart. You should have seen the look on their faces- it was as if I mentioned the f- word! They were utterly aghast.
    These stores aren't "preying" on poor people either. No one is forcing folks to buy in any one store. I can certainly afford to buy my greeting cards in HallMark but why should I? The ones in the Dollar Stores are very nice, thank you very much. And their candles aren't bad either. So typical of certain folks to look down their noses at people searching for bargains.

  63. I think the reference to Woolworth's in the article is valid. Many of these stores appear to be a reincarnation of the old neighborhood "five and dime" stores which sold practical items at thrifty prices. These stores faded when some of them morphed into K-Mart's (S.S. Kresgee) and Woolco's (Woolworth) and others. These big box stores dominated this retail niche for quite a while. Now we see a trend back to vendors with a local presence. And the cycle goes on.......

  64. I buy very specific things at dollar stores. Gift wrap. Soap savers. Small boxes and organizers, if I need such a thing. Basically, things that don't need to be good quality, they just need to be what they are. No food, and no toiletries.

    Good thrift stores are a lot better--but there is the serendipity factor. If you're looking for something specific, you probably won't find it.

  65. Have to answer the illegal aliens comment; first, is it accurate? Second, those "aliens" pay taxes and buy products, as well as do the dirty work that is beneath "Americans". Just ask the farmers what they'd do without them..

  66. I couldn't help but notice the unintended irony of the statement in comment #35, that "we are slowly killing off good jobs by our aggregate behavior". Of course we are - that aggregate behavior is called "voting for the Republicans".

  67. I can't point to specific words or phrases, but the article seems to define what America has become.

  68. They're called pound stores in Britain.

    Same idea!

  69. Don't be so quick to dismiss dollar stores as junk emporiums. In Canada we have a chain called Dollarama. Their stores are spotless,organized,tidy, and carry an amazing assortment of merchandise. Some of it is name brands from North America , at a fraction of the usual retail price.Informed shoppers can check expiry dates etc. and still get amazing bargains. I perticularly enjoy buying beautiful greeting cards for a buck at Hallowe'en,Thanksgiving,Valentine's,St. Patrick's, and Easter. Sure beats the typical $3.95 for a card from you-know-who.

  70. As one of the readers said, you really have to be careful about what you buy. It's not a bargin if it's made from dangerous ingredients (remember the ingredients from China that made their way into toothpaste and pet food...) Even at Target, you must read the labels. I was there one day and needed some mayo... expiration date was NOW. Naturally I passed.

    Having said all that, people need to be able to stretch their dimes and deep discount shopping is one of the primary ways. There is no substitute for quality but it comes at a price. The best advice: be a knowledgable consumer. Know where you can pinch pennies and where you can't. Know what real quality looks like and what is just show.

    P.S One thing is true though, and that is that poor people always get the rotten end of the shopping experience. You can go into any major supermarket in a low-earning community and see green meat, dented cans, wilted veggies... and it's always been like that.

  71. My sister inadvertantly purchased a toy for her grandchildren may have been dangerous. She thought she was buying "PlayDoh" when in fact it was "PlayGo" -- made in China. Beware when shopping in dollar stores.

  72. These are nothing more than the evolution of the Five and Dime.

    Why is anyone surprised?

  73. There's absolutely NO reason to pay $3 or $4 in a "better" store for stuff like candles, gift wrapping paper, stationery items - paper, envelopes, writing paper pads, crayons, etc, - or for brand name items like Colgate, Aim, Pepsodent toothpaste or well known shampoos. Electrical supplies - extension cords, plugs, long-life light bulbs etc are great too. Most household cleaning supplies are without question best bought in dollar stores, and so is laundry detergent and paper napkins or rolls.

    It makes NO sense to pay 3 or 4 times for EXACTLY the same products.

    Of course, it goes without saying, some items are NOT of the same quality and obviously you buy it in better stores.

    But people like Jay Leno who sometimes make fun of dollar stores really are way off the mark. There IS in fact tremendous value in these stores for consumers, poor or rich. Only the snob factor may prevent those with some wealth to shop in dollar stores.

  74. Jack, I love your style. Keep it up.

  75. A cheapsie story (not that it is not well written) describing a change any globalist or globalist minion would never ever welcome into his own life (yes, they prefer men from any angle). A peasant in America is no different from one in any other area of the world, to the globalists. Hatred of the middle class, hatred of initiative, hatred of individual thought and creativity - all this creates The Dollar Store for people who are at the end of the line in more ways than they know.

    NOTHING JUST HAPPENS: IT IS CREATED.

  76. And I'll be glad to sell you my Dollar Store, made in China, shaving creme: it's worthless, but cheap!

  77. I agree with #9 - Dollar Tree is a true dollar store, whereas Family Dollar and Dollar General want to evoke the thrifty sentiment without actually having any ideological price point.

    I am a white, upper-middle-class background medical student, and a regular Dollar Tree shopper. Sure, the store has its products that make me cringe - the giant 3-liter sodas, the pack of 8 hot dogs for a dollar that I wouldn't eat even if you paid me - but not all of the offerings are, in the words of another commenter, "useless ugly ephemera" that belongs in landfills.

    I mean, there is a lot of that. Heck, you could even argue that most of it is. But Ajax dish soap is the same dish soap whether I buy it for $1 or $2.19 at the grocery store across the street. Generic Zyrtec allergy pills? 14 for $1, and Cetirizine HCl is the same drug in the same amount regardless of its packaging. Likewise with other household cleaning products and supplies - toothpaste, toilet paper, etc - many varieties of which are exactly the same brand and quantity that you find in the drugstore across the street, only cheaper.

    A single 9-volt battery would cost upwards of $3 at most electronics stores. Dollar Tree has packs of 2 for $1. I bought those to replace the old ones in my smoke detectors over a year ago, and guess what? They're still working. It's fine to disparage the consumerism that might make people think it's a great deal to run in and buy a plastic toy that breaks 3 milliseconds later. But disparaging dollar stores simply for existing, or believing that anything cheaper is necessarily of lower quality, is exactly the kind of attitude this article is trying to dispel.

    "Buyer beware", indeed - good advice no matter where you're shopping. But I for one have been very aware, and have saved a LOT of money at dollar stores over the years.

  78. The standardized Dollar stores with their few and low-paid store employees are a part of the country's downward economic spiral to a Banana Republic -- ever more financially distressed Main Street small businesses and besieged middle and working classes, while the wealthy continually accumulate (not earn, accumulate) ever more income and wealth, with their Wall Street compatriots and cronies bailed out so record bonuses can be doled out to the rippers-rockers for their casino plays on Wall Street (the rewards to us, the risks to you saps), CEO picked boards of directors that bestow ever more generous compensation (in turn benefitting themselves by raising the comparison standard for compensation) -- directors that are nominated by shareholders to represent the shareholders -- No, Hell, No; and lavish government doles to increase the wealth of all the wealthy (tax exclusions, tax deductions and credits). Sounds like the wealthy are winning the class war.

    The ever more wealthy do spend. For example, luxury goods in NYC are zooming, with prices as soaringly high as the popular utra-high stilettos, but the trickle down from the stilettos will only buy a few bananas, not adequately fuel economically vibrant Main Street small businesses and middle and working classes that are the bedrock for a democracy. We need radical change. The people should rule. Let the wealthy earn and accumulate by a trickle up from the economic earnings of Main Street small businesses and the middle and working classes.

  79. 2 cans of Vienna sausages: $1.00

    1 can of sardines (imported from the pristen waters of Thailand!): .79 cents.

    1 box of saltines: $1.00

    Thats living large. High off of the hog. The lap of luxury.

  80. Depressing.

  81. You pay for what you get. Anyone who thinks they are saving by buying this junk is deluded. Everytime you think you are saving money by buying really cheap stuff you will end up paying more in the long run. There is a sucker born every minute. Every time I walk into one of these stores I walk out bewildered that there are people who actually think they are saving money.

  82. >> prominent display garishly pushing a superabsorbent shammy

    Ahem. Chamois, not "shammy." Unless maybe it's a fake chamois.

  83. Why are we willing to sacrifice quality and safety? Is this "stuff" really a "bargain"?

  84. You have a picture of a Family Dollar store for the article.. This store is not a true "dollar" store where everything in the store costs $1. Actually, Family Dollar stores have few, if any, items that only cost $1.

  85. Oh wow, the New York Times "discovers" the dollar stores. Dollar stores have been a fixture in lower-income neighborhoods for the last 15 years, as far as I can tell. And it's true, they aren't always cheaper. Whilst they may sell products for a dollar, they frequently use smaller bag sizes and other tricks -- Walmart is generally a better deal versus the dollar stores. On the other hand, dollar stores are a much better than the local deli or bodega, but boo-hoo, it is a "corporate giant" it must be a bad company. Better let the local deli rip you off instead.

  86. Please see Andreas Gursky's near-sublime "99 Cent", his monstrous photo of a dollar store.
    A quick google will get you the picture.

  87. This story comes from an elitism. Oh, gee, dollar stores! Scratch deeper next time. Nothing like that bag of cheap junk to make us feel accomplished.

  88. "the dumpster"
    and therein begins a whole new chapter in downwards-mobility. Try it sometime - i have made it my single-stop source for everything from mangos to organic honey to toothpaste for the last 3½ years. And i'm not alone...

  89. when it comes to dollar stores and getting deals for certain food items or any item in general.. you get what you paid for. So if you wonder why something is so cheap at the dollar store and expensive in another place, think of the quality of the item you're buying before the price.

  90. I think authentic dollar stores, like Dollar Tree, are terrific! You can get a lot of things you need, like dish-soap and batteries, and save money. (The dollar-and up stores, which make up many (most?) of the "dollar stores" in NYC are another story and are often over-priced compared with a "regular" store.)

    Yeah sure, that batteries aren't the best, but they cost a buck. (The off-brand no-names or counterfeits are a different story, but only some stores sell that stuff.) And as with any store, some things are 'too good to be true' and dollar versions of those items can definitely be shoddy. Some products can be defective and subject to recall, BUT the SAME things is true for what's sold at MOST stores--I've seen kid's stuff for sale at expensive stores that I know has been recalled for lead, for instance. And virtually everything on sale at MOST stores is made in China--look at the labels!

    As an aside, I've found that the people working in these stores are usually a LOT friendlier than those in big "discount" stores (no names, but use your imagination!) and that the managers are too--AND they actually know what they have/don't have in stock and will help you find it.

    As with any store, the business of dollar stores is getting consumers to BUY things--I'm a little puzzled by the hostility some posters express toward dollar stores for doing that. It's a sad comment that so many of us "middle-class" types feel compelled to save money and shop at dollar stores these days, but that's not the fault of the stores. Blame Washington and their worldwide counterparts!

  91. Are we supposed to feel good about this? I certainly don't.
    Who woulda thunk ten years ago that by 2012 we'd end up resembling Mexico more than the US of 1999?
    And yet the GOP infinite campaign machine for total world domination has still managed to convince 50% of us that it wasn't THEIR fault but rather systematically try to throw every blame under the sun at President Obama and see if any of it will stick. Well, surprise, surprise, America's despicable flirtation with racism nakedly rears its ugly head and we're off to the blame game races and the GOP has actually succeeded in assigning blame to Obama for far more than is his to shoulder. I ENCOURAGE the guy's vacation. Give him a break. Try attacking McConnell or Boehner or Cantor for a change. Those guys are the truly despicable chieftains of obstruction, treason, and corruption. I'm far beyond disgusted anymore. But violence certainly isn't the answer and never will be. Nor is stealing justified as a response. So now what?

    So now we've become a dollar store economy and this author almost seems to try and make it a feelgood story: isn't this so cool? No, it isn't cool at all. When a wealthy person is shopping at a dollar store it makes my dilapidated economic state feel like it's being mocked almost.
    Oh, those poor rich people! Look at how they're struggling to make do with less!
    Thanks, George and Dick. That 50% will truly follow you right over the cliff that you've led them to. But the other 50% of us couldn't disapprove any more than we already do and have since the Gingrich era in the mid-nineties when the real obstruction and hijacking of legislation really got into second or third gear. Your conservative ideology has been substantively disproven as a responsible way to manage a society.

    The GOP needs to go away.

  92. My sister-in-law takes me to the 99 cent stores in Los Angelos - gaze at the bad plastic surgery jobs and buy bags of avocados, organic lettuce and bottles of wine. Truly surreal!

  93. These types of stores have been around since the late 1890s . . . remember F.W. Woolworth (five and dime), Kresge's , W.T. Grant, and dozens of others. Quit acting like this is some sort of geo-political conspiracy.

  94. Thank 8 years of George W. Bush for the success and growth of the Dollare Store. Here in town a new just opened its doors. It's evidently where people shop who's job now resides in China, India, or Bangladesch, and you're too old to become 'Bullet Stopper' for the military.

  95. Are you joking, "The dollar store has made an amazingly cheap market out of the 'detritus' of a global manufacturing system." Did you want everyone to hop on google or their dictionary for that one? Here you pick one:
    1: loose material (as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration
    2
    a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris
    b : miscellaneous remnantsodds and ends. sifting through the detritus of his childhood — Michael Tomask

  96. Cheap, shoddy products - I've bought buckets that will break when filled with water, kettles that cannot be held when boiling because the handle is too hot, laundry bags that rip when stuffed, etc - the list can go on. I've ditched whatever bargains that may come from these stores as the saying goes - "you buy cheap; you buy twice." Spend on quality products that you will not discard into the environment.

  97. I've never set foot inside a store called "Dollar Store", but I am a devoted patron of our local "Ocean State -Job Lot" stores, even if I can afford to spend full retail prices for the items I purchase there: imported (Italian) canned plum tomatoes, anchovies in a jar, green whole italian olives - the best - crackers and grissini from Italy, jarred capers, not to mention spices: a jar of whole nutmegs for 99cents, which the supermarket charges over $6 for? Not to mention finding foodstuff not even available in supermarkets. It's not so much about savings, either, as the fact that I don't like to be ripped off.

    I pride myself in being a savvy shopper, and that applies to clothing as well. To the poster above who looks down on the TJ Maxx stores, all I can say is you don't know how to shop. Discovering TJ Maxx, after many years of shopping in retail department stores in downtown Boston, was a revelation. Maybe being a small size is helpful, but I find the best fashions at a fraction of the "manifacturer's recommended" price. I don't even go near the polyesters and rayons, I buy nothing but designer clothes (Ralph Lauren being my favorite) and the fabrics are wool, linen, cotton and silks, exclusively. I'be been on a couple of luxury world cruises, where most of the passengers are millionaires, and I assure you my outfits won more compliments than any of theirs, which probably cost them well over 10-20 times as much.

    The only drawback? I end up buying 10 times more clothes than I need or can fit into my closets!

  98. Look, I don't care how the store is laid out.

    I know what I want, and I find what I want.

    I get the exact-same bath-soap that I have used for years that I have bought elsewhere for $2.20/bar for one buck. Why on earth would I pay more?

    I seldom ever purchase food product in those stores because I am super choosy about food, and when possible I will buy all of my garden produce and eggs from farmers who practice sustainable and organic methods without the high prices of Whole Foods. Actually, I will go into the woods and fields and get berries and mushrooms, and apples, and occasionally pears, on my own for free, and I get the benefit of fresh air, being alone, and excercise to boot.

    As well, I can buy a pair of cotton khaki work-pants for 10 bucksat those stores, that wear very well doing yard-work and tramping about in the woods. Why would I want to pay more? I can get very good band-aids in volume in a paper-box for a buck! I was a combat-medic, so I know what a good band-aid is and does, and each does what is necessary very well. Why would I pay more?

    Last, I get perfectly servicable napkins for a buck a package, and 6 rolls of perfectly good toliet-paper for a buck? Why would I want to pay more for that last item?

    I use their general purpose paper in my printer, and that paper is as good as any expensive Bond Paper in an upscale box store. Why pay more?

    This is not about being "poor" or cheap, this is about getting those items that are cited at the best possible price, and I don't give a hoot whether I am a millionaire or a thounsandaire.

    Of couuse, I am single and I iive alone, so my circumstances are a bit different from those of families who are living on the edge trying to pay rent and mortages and raise kids.

  99. How much of their merchandise is Made in America?

  100. After I looked at the photographs and read this article I came away from it all with the idea that these stores are chock-a-block full of a lot of things that nobody really needs. It’s the impulse buyer’s low-end answer to the big box store that’s down a couple of notches on the food-chain from Wal-Mart and Target.
    I wonder how much of this merchandise ends up in the back of a closet or down in the basement; set aside for some never to happen future project.
    This is not remotely descended from our grandparent’s five and dime. In my grandparent’s day they shopped with a list: 1 ball cotton string, one package thumbtacks, and a yard of oilcloth. Impulse buying was right up there with sin. Just the idea that shopping carts are available threatens the whole idea of thrift at these dollar stores. No, these stores are just another way for consumers to add a few bucks debt to their credit card and feel superior about it because it was all such a bargain.

  101. After listing poor people, quirky types and those anxious about soon not having money, you should have mentioned "smart people" who do not want to be gouged ....why pay $5.49 at Radio Shack for the same batteries that are available at Dollar Tree for $1.00, unless you have more money than brains!?!

  102. OK, you've got this coming....What do you expect for a DOLLAR?

  103. If the limits of your universe are the five boroughs you might miss the key reason for dollar stores.

    The Wal-Marts and K-Marts long ago drove the local general store out of business in most towns, even when there wasn't a Wal-Mart in the town. That's because people started driving 10 or 15 miles to go to these discount stores. But then the stores and parking lots got bigger and bigger, so that it became a 5-10 minute hassle to find a parking space and walk to the store. Then walking through these Astrodome-sized stores just to find a few items became a major sporting event, narrated by announcements over the loudspeakers for security to check aisle 12!, check aisle 112!, check aisle 912!, all while there was no security visible, not to mention staff to help you. Navigating a cart through the aisles blocked by pallets and boxes of stuff that should have been on shelves was about as much fun as trying to escape Manhattan in your car at 5 p.m. on a Friday. And then when you finally got your six items, you must wait in line listening to a dozen registers going BEEP! BEEEEEEP!! BEEEEEEP!!! so that the manager on the other side of the store can monitor that the cashier is actually swiping the bar code, and not colluding in stealing stuff. And after the deep discount chains drove the local stores out of business, prices went up and up and soon they weren't so cheap any more, especially given the low, low quality of the merchandise.

    The dollar stores, on the other hand, are located near the downtowns of the places where people outside the cities actually live, so they are easy to get to, with a 30-second walk from the parking lot. It is easy for people to drop by to pick up an odd item or two, which often turns into eight or nine.

    But the real edge over the mega-mart is that they don't charge wholesalers to carry products or give them special placement. So there are lots of national brands that can sell more cheaply through the dollar stores than the mega-marts.

  104. Many of the brands are knock-offs. The ones that aren't need to be looked at closely. A tube of Crest toothpaste may appear cheaper, but it's a slightly smaller tube - not the large ones you see at Wal-Mart. But when you are surrounded by products that are all slightly smaller than the usual size, you don't notice it, and you go ahead and buy it. You'll also run out sooner, and have to buy more sooner, all the while thinking you're getting a deal, when you're not really saving that much. Depends on what you're buying of course - aluminum kitchen products are cheaper, but things like Saran Wrap, are also a smaller roll, the toilet paper has fewer sheets, and so on. Buyer beware.

  105. The only thing I've ever bought from a dollar store is a phone card. You're playing Russian roulette if you buy food from one. Just think for a second, how can they sell food so cheaply? Because the food is poor quality or near/past expiration. You're putting garbage in your body, you might as well eat from the dumpster where the food might be freshly discarded. The products are nothing more than plastic junk and like the old axiom says: you get what you pay for! Invest in the purchase of quality goods, even hand towels, and they will last longer and work better.

  106. I belong to the upper-middle class, and appreciate the existence of dollar stores for two reasons.
    First, most items only cost that much, but why should customers be forced to pay more in other stores? For example, 20 years ago I bought a tube of toothpaste that went with a toothbrush in a DC Safeway, it cost me about $4. Today, they would cost about half in a NY dollar store. The toothpastes have the same brand name, and the toothbrush is better today in style and in quality. The toothbrush, which cost a buck for three, works so well and lasts so long that I wish they would wear out sooner. As a customer, I like stores with small profit margins.
    Second, sometimes you only need basic type not the fancy one. I always check a dollar store before I go to a Toysrus. Kids’ toys are not meant to last long. Most of times, Kids just play their toys a couple of times. In dollars stores, you can find old-fashioned toys, such as cup and ball, and new innovative ones.
    If you have money, you can shop wherever you like. But most Americans are not rich, although this is still the most prosperous society in human history. Let’s look at the sobering statistics. Since 1975, the median household incomes in America have varied from $42,910 in 1983 and $52,587 in 1999. Before 1998, the number has never surpassed $50,000. What should you expect? More Bloomingdales or Dollar Trees? I would say the latter, for economic and moral reasons.

  107. Now let's see, wasn't there a time when the American economy was booming, factories were running full tilt, housing was affordable and we were welcoming immigrants to join us on the journey to prosperity?
    I remember it well. And I remember where most of America shopped for its bits and pieces; bargains and treasures; assortments of everything and everything carefully sorted.
    They were called Five and Dimes. And they were everywhere. And while not everything was priced at five cents or ten cents, they were the original dollar stores. As American as apple pie and twice as friendly. They were the birthplace of the civil rights movement, the Saturday destination for every kid in the country with a two bit allowance to spend; and the smart place to shop for thrifty folks everywhere.
    Nice to know they're back.
    As to the accusations of cheap and shoddy - I'll bet a c-note to your dollar that if you took a bunch of stuff from one of the $$ store's and put it into a pop-up shop with minimalist shelves, trendy lighting, a decent sound system and hipster sales people, you could mark many items up from 99 cents to 99 dollars and trust fund trendies would take the bait; hook, line and sinker. And don't give me any those lower wage worker sob stories, either. The most expensive luxury goods on earth are also being made by the same underpaid indentured children.

  108. Keep voting for the right wing conservative GOP ideology and you will be shopping at dollar stores too so the top 1% can shop exclusively at Nieman Marcus.

    Suckers.

  109. Annette Keller, don't blame the dollar store. I think you might have a mental health problem if you are the only on getting a rash from 'cheap' meals. Or should I say, your mother-in-law's meals.

  110. This is an exceptional article. A rare gem in the reams of otherwise indistinguishable reportage that fills American papers. A very topical subject. An in-depth analysis. An engaging writing style. One searches daily, usually in vain, for such articles to read.

  111. You won't find the rich shopping here because it doesn't generate enough jobs and they do need to.

  112. 99 cent stores are national. Most of the NYC commenters seem to be deeply provincial.

  113. People like to bash China for its (mostly) low quality products, but they often forget that the US is the country that buys most of these goods. They also forget that most US goods are low quality too.

    Food is less nutritious in the US than it was 50 years ago (probably part of the reason 75% of Americans are overweight). All of these giant homes in these giant subdivisions are made out of concrete and drywall and are built at a cost of about 1/50th of what people pay for them. While the beautiful and well-built pre-war buildings are, in many cities, left barren and empty. Most US car manufacturers wouldn't even exist if they weren't bailed out.

    As many of you have pointed out, people will buy 20 $100 pair of shoes that last for a few months and look terrible, instead of buying a few pair of high-quality shoes that are beautiful and last for years.

    A big part of the problem is that people buy mass-produced goods made by factory workers instead of supporting local artisans and craftsmen who actually CARE about what they are producing.

  114. I wouldn't buy food at the Dollar Store, but it's great for disposable items like gift bags, ribbons and greeting cards. You can get really pretty bags, bows and cards for $2 and your gift looks professionally wrapped.

    I don't "have" to shop at the dollar store, but if I'm passing by and have the time, I'll go in only for the few items I know are good value, like wrapping paper and bows.

    Beyond that, junk is junk. If you need something, buy quality.

  115. A giant pile of plastic junk made in China and bound for the landfill. Save your dollars for a year instead of wasting it on this detritus and buy something of quality that is Made in the U.S. or go on a vacation in the U.S. instead.

  116. Shop less often. Make do with what you have. Cook food from scratch. I stay well within a modest budget without ever visiting Walmart or Dollar stores.

  117. "Mann noted that this was not the famously kitschy ShamWow! but a very cheap imitation called, merely, Wow."

    In other words, the Wow is the sham. Ironic.

  118. Just to add to what some others have said. I primarily go to dollar stores to buy a few select items. Wonder how those guys make money selling umbrellas for four dollars when it rains? I do - I buy the same umbrellas at a local dollar store for .99 cents. Yes, they are just as janky as the ones I buy on the street, but they're no worse. They are also great for things like gift bags, seasonal wrapping paper and Halloween decorations.

    I wish I could find laser pointers at my dollar store! Pure kitty ecstasy would result.

  119. Duck Soup: ... I suggest that we give him 10 years in Levenworth or 11 years in Twelveworth."--Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) "I'll tell you what I'll do--I'll take five and 10 in Woolworth."--Chicolini (Chico Marx) ...

    Exactly: Back to the five-and-dime. Last week I got two rubber door stops for $1 + tax at a dollar store. A major retail chain was charging about $5. I'm a financially comfortable guy. But why should I throw away money? Again, several 2012 pocket diaries each for $1 + tax at my neighbourhood dollar store. The stationery shops want say $5 to $7 each. And, yes, batteries of all kinds are a regular purchase. And lots of office items just as good as at Staples and sharply less. Yup,-- The dollar stores are here to stay. GREAT!

  120. Looking at the pictures of the merchandises in dollar stores is depressing. For sure, we use maybe a fourth of what's in the store. It's all that plastic packaging that will take thousands of years to discompose. Do we really need all that stuff? We should only consume what we need.

  121. As many have said, Dollar stores are great for some things, but definitely not others. A $1 box of condoms does not exactly inspire confidence, especially when it is stocked immediately next to a $1 pregnancy test

  122. New York's outer boroughs have loads of dollar stores, particularly family-run ones -- I did not know such a thing as chain dollar stores existed until I read this article! One reason why I think dollar stores are so popular in Brooklyn, besides poverty, is that people's apartments are so small. Every spring, you can see discarded space heaters out on the curb; in the winter you see fans. You might invest in a quality appliance if you know you'll be able to store it and use it for many years, but when you live in a shoebox, that's harder to think about. Middle-class folks pay for storage units, but the poor can't. So poverty and environmental waste go hand in hand when it comes to these products.
    The environmental waste and poor health consequences of dollar store products warrant a look back, I think, to what the poor did to furnish and equip their homes in New York 40 or 50 years ago, before such shops existed. How were New Yorkers' home economies different?
    Also, sorry: I don't buy that dollar stores are blooming thanks to high-income people these days. Maybe wherever these chains are getting a foothold that is the case, but not in New York. The concentration of these shops are symptoms of poverty and blight in our neighborhoods, just like cash advance outlets and pawn shops are.

  123. This is one of the serious bargains I discovered a while ago at a dollar. I can buy medicated body powder for $1.19 instead of paying upwards of $7.99 for Gold Bond medicated powder. Both contain the same essential ingredient. And how outrageous is that a price for body powder anyhow?

    Like Heather Mann mentioned in the top of this article, I'm a crafter, so these stores are a basic gold mine to me.

  124. Shoppers should be careful that the store is actually a 'dollar' store.

    One of the stores you mention, Dollar General, is most definitely NOT. I made the mistake of going there, and was surprised to find most products were, perhaps, cheaper than a 'regular' store, but many were not.

    And, in fact, only a few items were a dollar.

  125. As a Depression Era-child, finding a bargain was virtually a religious virtue. If you save on one item, you can buy more goodies. Why pay more? I don't need to flaunt more expensive labels featured elsewhere. For many smaller items, the 99-cent store is "good enough." But I was taught to discriminate --and resist beguiling hype--most of the time.
    It's interesting to note the changes in goods available--and the sizes of the packages that remain. Inflation happens. My favorite jars of apple sauce are no longer there--only smaller snack packs. Large bags of potato chips have shrunk a lot. $1 quarts of milk evaporated from the freezers. Off-brand cereals seem as good as the much higher priced brands in grocery stores. Paper plates and coffee filters, when available, are far cheaper. A favorite brand of toothpaste can be had there.
    But buyers, as always, must discriminate. Check sizes and expiration dates. And know that many tools are made of cheaper, more brittle metals and that dishes may have small flaws.
    Thrift is a virtue I learned at my mother's knee. I tried to teach my son that, but I was only partially successful.