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KSL Investigates: The pros and cons of dollar store shopping

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SALT LAKE CITY — What’s not to love about a store where everything costs $1?

There are items safety experts say are perfectly fine to buy — and others that are best left on the shelf.

KSL TV’s investigative team went shopping for more than a hundred items at five dollar stores across Salt Lake County. Here’s what they discovered:

What to buy

The consumer website gives items like hair accessories, socks, gift bags and wrapping paper a thumbs-up, mainly because these items are decent quality and can save shoppers a bundle.

Take gift bags, for example. A single gift bag can cost $5 or more at a corner drug store. Here, you get bags for a fraction of the cost.

Also, hygiene products like toothpaste, shampoo and makeup removal wipes are worth purchasing at a dollar store, according to Teresa Hunsaker, a consumer science expert for Utah State University.

Dishes are another good deal, along with non-prescription reading glasses because they’re about the same quality found at more expensive stores.

Party supplies such as hats, paper plates, napkins, streamers, wrapping paper, birthday cards, mylar balloons and party favors also made the cut.

Kitchen knives, however, did not.

What not to buy

When it comes to buying knives at dollar stores, Hunsaker said, “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

She’s concerned knives at the dollar store are flimsy, and could easily break and cause an injury. Hunsaker said shoppers should take a pass on cleaning supplies as well, because they tend to have too much water in them.

When it comes to the toy aisle, Hunsaker said, parents should keep on walking because shoppers will get what they pay for.

“The breakability, the small pieces, the plastics can be sharp,” she said.

Hunsaker is also concerned too many of the toys are potential choking hazards.

Many dollar stores also sell electrical items. Longtime electrician and KSL engineer Jason Frazier said shoppers should leave those on the stores’ shelves.

He said he would not use the extension cords the news team purchased because the internal wiring is too small and the cords could overheat.

“It’ll eventually catch fire; that’s the biggest concern,” Frazier said.

Shoppers should pass up the $1 surge protector too, he said.

And the nightlight was also a no-go, because it didn’t have a third prong to ground it, which is a potential shock hazard. also recommends shoppers buy batteries elsewhere because according to the website, some batteries don't come fully charged.

And what about food items? Hunsaker said food from dollar stores is generally fine to eat.

“It’s on the consumer to read the label to see the best by dates and the sell-by dates,” she said.

Most of the pre-packaged items KSL purchased were far from expired. However, coffee creamer and salad dressing were months past the date stamped on the containers at one dollar store.

But, Hunsaker added, in most cases even those expired food items won’t make you sick.


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Debbie Dujanovic


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