SHOPPING AT DOLLAR TREE

Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree, an American chain of discount variety stores, is a Fortune 500 company with 13,600 stores throughout the United States and Canada. All of the items within its stores are $1.00 or less. Merchandise ranges from greeting cards and Mylar balloons to paper towels and toilet tissue. Tools, Scotch tape, plastic bottles of soft drinks, pregnancy test kits, party supplies, children’s toys, picture frames, plastic storage containers, books for adults and children, reading glasses, cosmetics, and more things fill the shelves.

Going to Dollar Tree is an experience like going to a garage sale or to a flea market or to Maxwell Street in Chicago. You may find some interesting things, but you have to be a smart shopper.

How does the store manage to sell its merchandise for just a dollar? There are a number of factors.

Some of the merchandise is made in China. Look at the spools of ribbon in the craft section. The country of origin is clearly marked. The same applies to the Halloween buckets, plastic Easter egg baskets, woven baskets, artificial flowers, and large and small storage containers.

The product may be of inferior quality. The 2.5-inch wide wire-edged ribbon may have been twisted when it was wound on the cardboard spool, or the wire may be sticking out of the edge of the ribbon. The dishwashing liquid may not have met factory specifications to be sold as the name brand. The tools may be fine for limited use, but they are not as strong and well-made as name brand tools.

The package may be smaller than usual. Instead of twenty Ziplock bags in the box, there are seven. The box of two Scotch Transparent Tape rolls contains fewer inches of tape per roll than regular Scotch tape rolls. The packages of ball point pens contain fewer pens than you would find at an office supply store or Osco. Even the chewing gum is repackaged into smaller packets.

Many of the products are knock-offs. Cake mix, soft drinks, paper towels, toilet tissue, and many other products at Dollar Tree sound like the name brand item, but they are not. Buy your soft drinks in plastic bottles at the grocery store when they are on sale. You will actually pay less per ounce than you would at Dollar Tree.

Think a no-frills experience. A limited number of employees within the store. One or two cashiers scanning your purchases. No Customer Service Desk. No special orders. No automatic entrance and exit doors.

Cleanliness and neatness varies from store to store. One store has old, stained carpeting while another has sparkling clean vinyl floors. The merchandise in one store may look like hogs have rooted through the shelves and displays. Another store has items neatly stacked and cleverly displayed.

Can you get some good buys? Certainly. American Greetings cards are $1.00. Compare that to a greeting card from Hallmark. Craft supplies are a steal compared to craft supplies at Michaels. Party supplies including paper plates, napkins, tablecloths, wrapping paper, and gift bags are just $1.00 per package. Best-selling books for adults and coloring books for children are $1.00. Why pay more?

By Karen Centowski