13 Dollar Store “Deals” That are Actually Ripoffs

7 min read
Dollar Store

Sometimes you get what you pay for. This is certainly true in the case of dollar stores. Often we think we’re getting a good deal because we get to save a few bucks. But, the truth of the matter is those deals are nothing more than ripoffs. Here are 13 of those such deals.

13. Toys

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Brian Sawyer [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
If you were thinking you were going to go to the dollar store and load up on toys for the kiddos this Christmas, you might want to think again. Dollar store toys have so many issues. For one thing, they’re flimsy and can break easily, which can present a choking hazard for young children, not to mention they’ll be sad when their brand new toy breaks. Another issue is that dollar store toys are often made in China and are rarely tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which means they may contain hazardous materials.

TIP: Avoid purchasing pet toys at dollar stores, too. They may also be made from inferior materials and contain harmful chemicals.

12. Plastic Cooking Utensils

Plastic Cooking Utensils
Source: Pixabay

Need some new utensils for that party or barbecue you’re planning? You might want to get them from some place other than the dollar store. That’s because plastic cooking utensils sold at dollar stores often contain bromine, a component found in brominated flame retardants (BFRs). And, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, BFRs are linked to obesity, diabetes and even cancer!

TIP: Skip out on the metal cutlery, too. Kitchen knives sold at dollar stores are often cheaply made and dull, which means you could end up cutting yourself instead of your food.

11. Tools

Source: Pixabay

If you don’t use tools on a regular basis, there’s no sense in paying an arm and a leg for them, right? But, you’d be much better off doing that than you would purchasing them from a dollar store. The majority of dollar store tools are made with poor quality and engineering, so they won’t last long. Not only that, but you could get injured using a poorly-made tool. If your budget won’t allow you to purchase name-brand tools for full price, you can always purchase them from a thrift store. In fact, gently used tools can be found at many thrift stores for a fraction of the price. Who knows? You might even find some Craftsman tools there. And, Craftsman tools come with a lifetime warranty that guarantees replacement for normal wear-and-tear.

10. Batteries

Energizer Batteries
Source: Wikimedia Commons By StaraBlazkova [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Batteries for $1 can seem like a good deal considering that you’d spend way more than that buying them from Walmart, the grocery store, or other places. But, you end up spending more money when you purchase them from the dollar store. That’s because they contain significantly less energy than name brands like Energizer and Duracell. Plus, their voltage drops quickly. This means you’d end up having to purchase batteries more frequently.

Here’s something else to consider: “Cheap batteries may leak and damage your gadgets,” consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch told GOBankingRates. “Save by purchasing these from the warehouse store for the best deal, or use a coupon.”

9. Medicine

Pain Pills
Source: Pixabay

As costly as medicine is, it makes sense that dollar store vitamins and pain relievers appeal to many consumers. Unfortunately, they could be putting your health at risk. That’s because medicines sold at dollar stores may be counterfeit or expired. “When it comes to your health, stick to name brands for medicine and vitamins from stores you know,” Reader’s Digest suggests.

WARNING: Be wary of generic supplements sold at Walmart, too. According to New York’s Attorney General, some of the herbal supplements found at Walmart either didn’t contain the ingredients advertised on the bottle or contained ingredients that weren’t even listed on the labels. Although Walmart claims to have resolved the issue with its store brand supplements, it’s best to avoid them anyway just to be on the safe side.

8. Electrical Cords and Devices

Power Strip
Source: Pixabay

If you’re planning on buying extension cords and other electrical devices from the dollar store to power your Christmas decorations, or anything else for that matter, you may want to take a look at your homeowner’s policy to make sure you’re covered in the event of a fire. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been warning us since 1999 about faulty extension cords, surge protectors, power strips and other electrical devices sold at discount stores. Do yourself a favor and purchase these items from a hardware store or other retail business.

7. Canned and Boxed Foods

Canned Food
Source: Pixabay

You can get canned and boxed foods much cheaper at grocery stores like Kroger and grocery supercenters like Walmart. In fact, you can get a 15.25-oz. can of corn from Walmart for only 33¢. A 15-oz can of corn will cost $1 at Dollar Tree. Another reason to avoid canned foods at dollar stores is that these stores’ private-label canned goods are highly likely to have traces of BPA in the linings.

-Beware of candy and baby food sold at the dollar store. Not only is it not cheaper, some of it may even be expired.
Milk at a dollar store comes in 16-oz. cartons, which prorates to $8 per gallon. That’s more than what you’d pay for milk at Whole Foods.

6. Pet Food and Treats

Pet Food
Source: Wikimedia Commons By I, Jeffrey O. Gustafson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
Human food is not the only food purchases you should avoid at the dollar store. “Many folks have found that giving cheap food or chewables to the dog means having a violently ill pet,” Woroch told GOBankingRates. If you do choose to purchase pet food and treats at the dollar store, make sure you pay close attention to the expiration dates, as oftentimes they have already expired, and the ingredients, and, if at all possible, stick to name-brand pet foods.

5. Makeup

Source: Pixabay

“I would avoid these products,” shopping expert Trae Bodge told GOBankingRates. “You will probably not recognize the brands, and if you do, they may have been sitting on the shelf for a long time.” And, if they’ve been sitting for a long time, there’s a good chance they’ve already passed their expiration date. This can lead to all sorts of problems because expired makeup can cause breakouts or infections like pink eye. And, if they’re off brands that have been made outside the U.S., they may not have the same safety standards as those made here in America.

4. Name Brand Cleaning Supplies

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Vox Efx from Baltimore, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Not everything at the dollar store is cheaper. In fact, name brand cleaning supplies are often cheaper at Walmart than at Dollar Tree, for example. You can get a 14-oz. bottle of Ajax dish detergent from Walmart for 88¢. That same size bottle costs 12¢ more at Dollar Tree.

TIP: Skip the name brand supplies and opt for the off brands instead. One such brand is L.A.’s Totally Awesome Power Oxygen Base Cleaner, which is sold at Dollar Tree. According to Clark.com, not only does this cleaner pack a “wallop,” but it’s environmentally friendly, too.

3. Back-to-School Supplies

Back To School Supplies
Source: Pixabay

Back-to-school supplies are another item you can get for cheaper at Walmart than you can at Dollar Tree or some other dollar store. I’ve noticed at certain times of the year that Walmart sells spiral notebooks for just 50¢! If you can snag one for that amount during your state’s tax-free weekend, you’ll come out better, because chances are, unless you only have one child who will only need one notebook all year long, you’re going to have to buy back-to-school supplies in bulk.

2. Bottled Water

Bottled Water
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Ivy Main [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
According to Reader’s Digest, you should “skip the bulk packages of bottled water at the dollar store. When comparing prices, you’ll often find you pay more per bottle at the dollar store than you would at other retailers.” Yep, it’s true. I typically purchase bottled water from Walmart and found that I could get a 40-pack of 16.9-oz bottles for just a little over $2!

ABC7 New York has a similar story: “I can get four 16.9 oz. bottles of water for $1 at the dollar store. That’s great, but, if you use a lot of bottled water, it’s better to buy it by the case. Walmart often has sales on this brand [Nestle], selling a case of 24 bottles for $2.65, which means you’re only paying 11 cents a bottle, as opposed to 25 cents at the dollar store. Costco sells Nestle bottled water in a case of 35, 16.9 oz. bottles for $4.95 or 14 cents per bottle, a significant savings over the dollar store.”

1. Toilet Paper

Toilet Paper
Source: Pixabay

This is one purchase that definitely isn’t worth it. First of all, dollar store toilet paper has fewer fibers than other brands, which means it’s not as durable. Two, dollar store toilet paper usually comes in small sizes and with fewer sheets, so you’re really not coming out on top here.

TIP: Head to Walmart and pick up a 4-pack of Scott tissue instead. It cost $3.97, has 1,000 sheets per roll, and promises to last for four weeks. That’s based on the average household size and estimated usage of Scott 1000 users.


Your turn! Tell us what dollar store purchases you avoid. Leave a comment below.