A recent study shows your dollar store is worth a second look, but you have to know what's a deal and what's not.
Shop Smart Magazine sent secret shopping experts across the country to 3 major retailers: Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree and found some surprises.
"They're cleaner, they're in places you wouldn't expect, so people who think they know the dollar stores, don't know the dollar store," said Jody Rohlena, Shop Smart Senior Editor.
First, don't expect everything to cost a dollar, knowing what to buy and what not to buy will save you big time.
Surprise number 1 is that there are great deals on name brands.
"Lots of big national brands, Tide, Lysol, Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, things from Dole, Jif Peanut Butter, French's mustard, Coke, Pepsi," Rohlena said, "The maximum savings we found is 28%, that's really a lot of saving!"
But the bigger deal is Dollar Store's store brands.
"Names you might not know Clover Valley, Family Gourmet, are these products you want to trust and try? These are the Dollar Store private label. We are finding a real explosion in private label, they're also called generics," Rohlena said.
Consumer Reports taste testers rated these products as good or better than name brands and they cost a lot less.
"37% is huge, that's 1/3 off the supermarket," Rohlena said.
But some Dollar Store deals were duds.
For instance, laundry detergent and coffee was more at the Dollar Store.
"Those things typically were priced a little higher or not as competitively so stay away from those at the Dollar Store," Rohlena said.
Eyewitness News did our own comparison shopping.
In a Yonkers Dollar Store, Eyewitness News found and bought the 3 quart Tide for $17.99, but when going across the street to Walgreens, it was 50 cents cheaper at $17.49.
Yet for all the savings, some shoppers still say they steer clear of the discount stores.
"The quality of the supplies are not good, and they don't last and they don't work," one man said.
In Shop Smart's survey, shoppers complained about store cleanliness, long checkout lines, limited selection and expired products at dollar stores, but Shop Smart researchers found all of these to be areas greatly improved since their last look of these big chains three years ago.
"That is the old way of thinking about dollar stores," Rohlena said.
The economy has forced people from all income brackets into the dollar stores and the stores' owners say they want to keep attracting those customers, knowing no matter how much you make everyone loves a bargain.
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