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Worst dollar-store purchases

Pens, vitamins and toothpaste are on his list.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 6:56PM

We're all for dollar stores. They can provide savings, many people agree. At last count, 55% of about 423,000 people who have participated in an MSN Money online poll said they sometimes shop at dollar stores, and 36% said they frequently do. (Another 3% chose "I'd never set foot in one.")


But there are some products "rutgerskevin" of The Red Stapler Chronicles recommends you avoid, via his post called "The 10 dumbest things to buy at a dollar store." First on his list are home pregnancy tests.


Pregnancy test from the dollar store? That's a product you'd want to spend more on for a result you can trust. "I almost bought this just to see what it looked like, but the girlfriend vetoed this idea in disgust," Kevin said. (Update: A lot of our women readers said the dollar store pregnancy tests work just fine.)


That gets to a point about dollar-store shopping. Some items, like gift wrap and shampoo, are perfectly fine as well as a bargain. But others are not. Dollar store batteries are often the carbon-zinc kind and will wear out quicker. Electrical cords and similar products may not be adequately tested for safety. Also, the MSN Money slide show "Dollar-store deals and duds" says, "Jewelry and vinyl lunchboxes have been recalled from dollar stores as dangerous sources of lead."


Other samples from Kevin's recommendations of dollar-store products to avoid:

  • Pens. He bought co-workers 10-packs of dollar-store pens, which didn't work or quickly broke. One leaked on a co-worker's shirt. "I was mortified!!" Kevin wrote (in mock horror).  
  • Vitamins. They could be sugar pills, Kevin wrote. MSN Money said, "Several years ago, Consumer Reports found that half of the dollar-store brands it studied contained less of the vitamins than the labels indicated and didn't dissolve properly when ingested." Contrary to what you might expect, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not tightly control these products.
  • Any kind of paste, including toothpaste and treatments for rashes. MSN Money added: "In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that many brands of toothpaste found at dollar stores carried diethylene glycol, a poisonous chemical found in antifreeze."
  • Tampons. Considering the risk of toxic shock syndrome, we'd have to agree. You want to be absolutely confident about the materials they're made from.
  • Perishable food. Kevin found a box of fruit bars that was dated 2002. Maybe still safe to eat. "However, all signs pointed to this product being on various stores' shelves for seven years," Kevin observed. 

Kevin's bonus tip: "If they spell the name of the product incorrectly, I would not put it in your mouth. Just some words to live by."


Related reading:

Published Sept. 29, 2009



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