Dollar store myths

Shopping Tips

Four Dollar Store Myths Debunked

First published in The Toronto Star, June 20, 2011 (updated November, 2022)

I started shopping at and writing about dollar stores more than 16 years ago. Once I stepped inside one of these shops and realized all of the money I could save, I was hooked and, being a writer, I wanted to share what I had discovered.

Over time, there’s been a recurring theme in reader complaints about dollar store merchandise. It’s true that some things sold at dollar stores are cheap and fall apart quickly. But, you can also get great deals on items you would pay double or triple for elsewhere. If you can get things like kitchen utensils, stationery supplies, gift cards and craft needs for less, why pay more?



Here are the five of the most common complaints I’ve heard and why they aren’t true.

Dollar Stores Only Sell Junk

The notion that all dollar store merchandise comes from China and is therefore junk or unsafe is just not true.

A lot of dollar store stock also comes from Turkey, Germany or even the United States and Canada and is exceptional value for a buck or two. From time to time, you’ll find Libbey glassware on dollar store shelves. I  have a glass measuring cup manufactured by Anchor Hocking that I bought at Dollarama. And it isn’t uncommon to find full-sized deodorants like Speed Stick and Arm & Hammer in the health and beauty aisle.

Even so, China exports billions worth of merchandise to the U.S. and Canada. Even excluding all of the machinery, electronics and other expensive items, dollar stores aren’t the only ones selling Chinese merchandise. The princess figurine I brought back from Disney World a few years ago was made in China, as are most of this American icon’s souvenirs.

Bottom line:

Things have changed a lot, since the early days of the dollar store. Most of what you can buy there is of good value, but there are always exceptions. If you are concerned about food or plastic products from China at the dollar store or anywhere else, don’t buy them. It strikes me as odd that, whenever complaints of tainted items surface, dollar stores are targeted as the only places these are sold. That’s simply not true.

The Food is Stale

There is just no proof that the cookies, crackers and chocolate bars at dollar stores have all passed their best before date.


A sampling of the dollar store chocolates available

Dollar-store buyers develop relationships with manufacturers and are on the spot to snap up overstock. If you’ve be stung before, do what you would do in any other store — check the best-before date. How long would customers keep buying the candy if everything they bought turned out to be stale?


Dollar Store Batteries Are Poor Quality

While this may have been true in the past, the dollar stores with which I’m familiar now sell brand-name batteries like Panasonic and Sunbeam. For a bit more, you can even buy Duracell batteries at Dollarama. Again, if you’re leery, check the best-before date, which is printed in bold on one of the lower corners of the package.

There Must Be Something Wrong with Brand-Name Beauty Products 

Years ago, I phoned and a Unilever Canada rep confirmed that a Dove product bought at my local dollar store was their product, made in Canada. How did it get there? Dollar store buyers back then would take overstock from big manufacturers or leftover products that had had packaging updated for larger markets. 

These days, major manufacturers are eager to take advantage of the dollar store’s popularity to sell more product. 


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