Getting Real Deals At The Dollar Store

New York City dollar stores are a whole lot of fun. But how do they make money selling all that crap so cheaply? And are there really any good deals? Apparently so. From New York Magazine:

While half of Jack’s products inherently cost around $1 (frozen food, Hawaiian Punch), dollar stores are also quietly fed products manufacturers want to expose to a more down-market demographic. “Companies figure that customers aren’t going to overlap from department stores to dollar stores, so they sell the same product at both,” says one analyst. Of course, Jack’s vice-president, Ira Steinberg, can’t tell you who these manufacturers are. “Part of my agreement with national brands is that I don’t admit that I carry their brands.” The week we went, Jack’s had Black & Decker coffeemakers, Hormel salami, and Hamilton Beach blenders.

We always assumed there was something lame/broken/wrong/Tony Soprano stole it off a truck with the brand name stuff we saw at the dollar store. Guess not. The discount store profile is part of a larger series examining how businesses make money in NYC. Interesting stuff.—MEGHANN MARCO

A Discount Store [New York Magazine via BoingBoing]
(Photo: New York Magazine)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mills says:

    During college, I was a temp. at a factory that made a few kinds of cleaning products, and the only difference between the ones that went to Dollar General and other stores (Target, Walmart, etc.) was they slapped a different label on the can.

  2. Sudonum says:

    We buy all our paper goods, and laundry and dish soap from Dollar General. Paper towels, tp, napkins, etc.

  3. mjryan78 says:

    Dollar stores are where I buy all my diethylene glycol.

  4. dohtem says:

    Hmm… I guess the dollar store ain’t that bad. Now lets be specific here, is the 99 cent store just as good?

  5. TechnoDestructo says:

    Try scrolling that picture up and down really fast (using the scroll wheel, not the scroll bar)

    It looks pretty creepy. Well, maybe it depends on window size and screen resolution. But the way things are spaced on the shelves creates a weird effect.

  6. TedSez says:

    @dohtem: Actually, 99 Cents Only Stores — which are a chain on the West Coast — are fantastic.

  7. bedofnails says:


    Save some of those mushrooms for me.

  8. BlackBirdTA says:

    Something that I’ve noticed at dollar stores is that their products are different sizes. Like shampoo in a 13 oz bottle compared to the same brand at Wal-Mart in a 16 oz bottle. Diapers have their own size packages in dollar stores. I think dollar stores are kind of creepy.

  9. QuirkyRachel says:

    Some of the products are bad, though. I have a friend who works the logistics for trucking of a large company. She told me that items such as frozen Popsicles, are sometimes sold to dollar stores after they’ve been through what the industry calls ‘temperature abuse.’ This is when the item hasn’t been kept at the proper temperature all the time.

  10. homerjay says:

    I hear they have great prices on toothpaste and dog food too.

  11. acambras says:

    There’s a dollar store near my old apartment called THE HAPPY DOLLAR STORE. I can’t help but smile whenever I drive by it.

  12. Havok154 says:

    I do all my meat and poultry shopping in the local dollar store. It’s weird though, I always wake up in the hospital the day after I cook it.

  13. Hexum2600 says:

    @mjryan78: Excellent :-)

  14. Catalyst says:

    Lint rollers. The staple of every dollar store. So many uses, very few of which involve rolling lint.

  15. says:

    @BlackBirdTA: They are DEFINITELY creepy. Partly because of the clientele, partly because of the horrible layout and products scattered all over the floor, partly because you never know whether that great deal you found on something yesterday will be there today… it’s like a Twilight Zone of retail establishments.

  16. homersays says:

    I have purchased paper towels and things of that nature at various 99¢ stores here in NYC, especially when I lived in Alphabet City. I never found anything wrong with any of the products and since everything else is so over-inflated, it is nice to get a bargain.

  17. DudeAsInCool says:

    The 99 cent stores in LA are great. They have lots of common items that are triple the price or more at the larger food markets or drug stores.

  18. hop says:

    there are severeal types of dollar stores around here (eastern shore of md)two are true dollar stores,everything costs a dollar ,and two are stores where stuff starts at a dollar and goes up…..i usually stick to the true dollar ones, but don’t buy food or toothpaste….i did getta kick out of the pregnency test for a dollar…..

  19. Pelagius says:

    Whenever I’m in the market for poisonous Chinese toothpaste, I think “Dollar Store”!

  20. jeffj-nj says:

    I love that blank stare you see so often in people being photographed that are merely walking into a shot and wondering, “What is that device he’s holding up to his face?” like they’ve never seen one before, and don’t know exactly what’s about to happen. They just have to stare and wonder.

  21. kimdog says:

    Jack’s 99 cent store in NYC (profiled in the article) is the bomb. I work two blocks from one and cruise through on my way home once or twice a week. I am only looking for the high end stuff that is being unloaded. And then I stock up. I’ve gotten Lion Brand yarn (which goes for about $4-6 a skein), family size boxes of Corn Chex (the real stuff), tubes of Pillsbury Brownie Dough and Peanut Butter Cookies, and Kraft Shredded Montery Jack and Cheddar. Most of that stuff I put right in the freezer. There’s plenty of crap, for sure, but there’s usually some awesome stuff mixed in.

  22. Alexander says:

    99 cent stores in Los Angeles are awesome. I like to peruse their canned food section each time I go there. Once I found canned tomatoes whose labels were in Russian! Mmmm…commie tomatoes! Of course I didn’t buy them though. If the Russians don’t want those canned tomatoes I don’t think I want them either.

  23. The Dollar General closest to me has a normal (if cramped) layout and the products and their prices are consistent.

    I’ll buy paper and cleaning products there regularly but not food. (Well, once when I was in a bind I got milk and eggs there.) The poisoned cold medicine has me more than iffy about getting any medicine there though.

    What’s the word on hair products? Anyone else buy those there?

  24. j.b. says:

    @DudeAsInCool: I love the 99 cent stores on 14th street by B – Spanish Irving’s, particularly, comes to mind. But where else can you get 99 cent meat! It’s smeet! Err, sweet! :)

  25. “But how do they make money selling all that crap so cheaply?”

    Ask Tony Soprano…

  26. dmoisan says:

    In Massachusetts, there are Family Dollar and Dollar Tree. The less said about the former, the better, but the Dollar Tree is excellent.

    Their food items are actually edible, and they often have some interesting electronic items, such as el-cheapo iPod speakers (which make good computer speakers if you are testing a machine or don’t want a good set of speakers on a server, for example.)

    Best part is probably the great candy selection, at least at the two stores I’ve been to (Danvers and Lynn).

  27. satoru says:

    To be honest the dollar stores here suck. Sure they have some things but the stores are always dirty and just filled with crap you can’t use generally.

    I love going to the dollar stores in Japan. They’re much cleaner and have stuff that you actually might use! Also the quality of the stuff is generally much higher.

  28. satoru says:


    I’ll second the notion of not going to Family Dollar. I almost passed out going into one it smelled of some god awful chemical residue.