Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are Dollar Store Items Worth a Buck?

“I wish I had a dollar for every time I spent a dollar, because then, Yahoo!, I'd have all my money back.”
-Jack Handy, Saturday Night Live
Dollar Stores used to be fun to visit. You could buy many items and still get change from a $20. But with the rise in oil price and inflation most stores have raised prices - sometimes posted, sometimes not - so I'm no longer sure just what "dollar store" items will cost anymore.

Michael Z. Williamson at  notes another change at dollar stores:
At one time, dollar stores (former called "five and dime" stores) sold closeouts, leftovers, seconds and special deals.  Increasingly, though, they're selling purpose-made, second-rate, third world junk made just for that purpose.  I would never trust any tool from such a store--they're of pot metal and guaranteed to fail.  They are not, in my opinion, "better than nothing", because they cost money, give you a false sense of security, and don't accomplish anything.
For example: a 2nd rate dollar-store hammer might take a few hits and break. And there's no lifetime replacement guarantee. I've noticed the same problem with brand-name Outlet stores. They used to sell left-over items and items with minor imperfections that failed to sell at the parent stores. You could find bargains on "real" merchandise. But now Outlet malls have sprung up all over America and there's no way there's enough remainder items to fill these stores. So instead the brand-names make their own cheaper knock-offs to sell at Outlets.

Check out an old post of mine about the importance of buying for quality, not price.
Bottom Line

Michael Z Williamson offers this advice,
I would recommend finding both actual overstock and closeout stores, and thrift stores, as well as frequenting garage sales.  At the latter two, older tools without the shine and modern high-tech shaping are perfectly functional, usually better made, and often available even cheaper than at dollar stores.  You can often find kits missing one or two pieces, pick them up separately for a mismatched but complete kit, and have name brand quality for pennies on the dollar.
For me old tools are often the best - enduring quality that just needs some polishing and perhaps sharpening.  Be sure when shopping at flea markets that you're paying for "used" goods, not antique value. I don't want an antique hammer to put on a display shelf; I want one I can use. 

My wife loves finding bargains at garage sales and thrift stores. Last week at a flea market we saw the price on old LP records vary quite a bit from vendor to vendor. The highest was $3 per album. We "scored" with 12 records for a buck which we'll use in craft projects with cub scouts. We're going to melt them and turn them into bowls in the oven.

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