99 Cent Stores: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
99 cent stores have a lot of benefits. They sell the basics that everyone needs. Cleaners, kitchen supplies, tableware, makeup, electric cords, and a lot more. And what is more, they sell it at a very cheap price. Hence the name. Whereas regular supermarkets will sell different brands of the same product at varying prices, allowing you to compare and match. But those prices can not match up against the 99 cent store prices. The thing is, much of what 99 cent stores sell you are pretty much cheap knock offs of the original product. These cheap knock offs are also made with very cheap material, which can be bad for you health and the environment as well. While a lot of the deals are great and perfect for a family on a budget or a broke college kid, there are some products that you will wand to avoid.
99 Cent Stores
99 cent stores are essentially stores that offer products for sale at 99 cents or less. There are many different kinds of these stores all over the place. They can go by names like Dollar Store, 99 Cent and Up, or Less, 5 Below, all specializing in a certain price range and clientele. Name brands in 99 cent stores actually show up in a number of ways manufacturer surplus, company overstock, new packaging, product renaming, misprint labels, and much more. When any of these hiccups happen, the product is then sold to dollar stores at a much lower price, essentially, to get rid of it. A lot of the “no name” products actually have some relation to some brands you would recognize. Usually the difference between the two products is just the price, however, sometimes the quality or ingredients will change as well.
Another way that 99 cent stores keep their prices low is by selling “off brand” products. These are brands that do not pay for the added overhead of national advertising. This is what leads to the trouble about inspiring brand loyalty for these products.
Deals Over Quality
99 cent stores can save you a ton of money. However, the products you are buying probably do not have the best quality. In fact, they could actually contain toxins that can be extremely harmful to you or whomever you are buying them for.
Researchers recently made a test of 164 products from four of the largest U.S. dollar store chains. The test was to find out if the products had any questionable chemicals. The chemicals in question are lead, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl). The result was surprising and horrifying. More than 80% of the products had at least one hazardous chemical, way above the safe levels. It turns out, children are the most in harm’s way.
99 Cent Store Products to Avoid
Obviously, there are some products sold in 99 cent stores that you should just plain stay away from. Yes, they are much cheaper than the name brands, but the quality is not the same and they should not be trusted at all.
- Batteries- most 99 cent store batteries are carbon zinc, which drains power very quickly. Alkaline batteries are much better. Remember to recondition your batteries when they die, instead of simply throwing them away.
- Toothpaste- some toothpaste are made in foreign countries. They can contain a higher amount of Fluoride than is standard by the American Dental Association.
- Vitamins– in 2004, a Consumer’s Report study found that more than half of the dollar store multivitamins were missing at least one nutrient that was on the label. Several of the vitamins also did not dissolve properly.
- Electronics– these products can contain undersized wiring which has a risk of overheating. This can lead to an electrical fire, do not need to tell you why that is bad.
- Toys– unfortunately, kids toys are a serious risk at 99 cent stores. Many have sharp edges or pieces which kids can swallow easily. A lot of the “no name” brands of toys have minimal information on the packaging and do not include the age range of the toys. Another big issue is that many dollar store toys have been recalled for containing lead paint as well as containing phthalates.
- Jewelry– many jewelry items have also been recalled by the stores for containing high levels of lead.
Coming at, surely, no surprise now with all of the information given, there have been other reports of products containing toxins and chemicals being sold at 99 cent stores. One that should come at no shock is a report coming from the EPA. They actually fined a chain of stores for $409,490 for selling unregistered pesticides. But it was not just pesticides that were found to be toxic. Household cleaners have also found to be dangerous as well.
Using these toxic pesticides, while of course getting rid of your insect problem, can also cause a buildup of residual toxins which can easily enter your body. The effects of these toxins in your body can range from short term like headaches or flu like symptoms, to long term effects like cancer. Many ingredients in most pesticides are a carcinogenic. The EPA found that the 99 cent store chain sold nearly 700 bottles of the toxic bug spray in California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Another study done by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions found that 81% of all dollar store items contain at least one toxic chemical. The products in the study include table covers, shower mats, straws and more. The researchers also found that about half of the products have chemicals with links to cancer, learning disabilities and birth defects. The products were from the same large 99 cent store chains as the first study. Since both studies, none of the stores have put out an issue for a recall of the products.
99 cent stores have been shown to sell many products that contain toxic chemicals and materials made with substances that companies do not allow in their products. In fact, three phthalates have a ban on them. DEHP, BBP, and DBP while others like BPA have restrictions against them. Despite the ban, the Dollar Store Report found that 32% of the products in their test, that contain vinyl plastic had phthalates above the CPSC limit.
The chemicals in question have been linked to various health issues over the past. Phthalates are found in many inks, paints, and other materials. They can: interfere with the body’s hormone system which can cause birth defects, reduce fertility, contribute to prostate and testicular cancer, create learning disabilities, cause asthma and allergies, and lead to diabetes. Lead which companies use in PVC and in production of metal products like jewelry, can harm brain development. It has been shown to have links to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and behavior and attention problems. PVC is found in many plastics and releases harmful chemicals, like mercury, vinyl chloride, and dioxins. These chemicals contribute to everything from liver damage to cancer.
Not All is Bad
With all of the bad products that are being sold at 99 cent stores, there are some products that are “A-ok”. These are products that are both easy on your wallet and your health.
- Spices and Herbs- at regular grocery stores, these can cost around $3 for one shaker. Many dollar store brands are in fact FDA approved and safe to use at home.
- Gift Wrap– it is really hard to go wrong with gift wrapping paper. Of course you can get eco-friendly wrapping paper, but if you are looking to save some coin, especially around the holidays, 99 cent store is good enough.
- Pregnancy Tests– dollar store pregnancy tests can be just as good as the name brand tests and are a lot cheaper. Still, in the long run, condoms are the best bet…please do not buy condoms at the dollar store.
- Baby Wipes– 99 cent store brand wipes, like Sleek Sensations, are hypo-allergenic and do not contain alcohol. Soffs wipes even contain aloe and vitamin E. Both are sold for under $2.
- Kitchenware– a wisk is a wisk is a wisk. Kind of hard to make them differently. Even eating utensils are fine as long as they have the stainless steel mark.
While 99 cent stores may seem like a good option, especially for saving more than a few bucks, you have to pay attention to what exactly you are buying. Most regular water bottles sold at these stores will contain BPA and other phthalates that are harmful to your health. Your best bet is to read the labels and look for words like BPA-free or FDA approved. Not everything in 99 cent stores are bad. But when shopping in dollar stores, 99 cent stores and the like, “buyer beware.”