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The Things You Should Never Buy From a Dollar Store

Wednesday, 3 Dec 2008 | 9:16 PM ET
Dirty Dollar Stores
What viewers need to know about dollar stores, with CNBC's Carmen Wong Ulrich.

From dollar meals to penny stocks, we’re on the hunt for dollar deals these days. Just look at dollar stores – an emblem of the past – and their reemergence as central pieces of our commerce. Chains like Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar seem to have a lot to offer when times are as tight as they are. But Consumer Reports found so far this year that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled three million items from the shelves of these three stores – nearly triple what was recalled last year.

To help navigate the pitfalls and dangers that often come with rock-bottom prices, Don Mays of Consumer Reports says that there are some products that are so shoddy that no one should buy them no matter how cheap they are. That includes jewelry for children and toys with small magnets for kids under eight years of age. Some of the recalled items had high lead levels or small parts that could pose choking hazards. Especially when it comes to children’s products, examine how they will be used and look carefully at any safety warnings, Mays says. If you’re unsure, leave it on the shelf. And if you do come across something suspicious, you can check with RECALLS.gov.

Dollar store shoppers are also prone to come across knock-offs, Mays says. You can usually spot these counterfeits by packaging differences or name misspellings though.

Of course, many dollar store items have the Consumer Reports seal of approval, Mays says. At the top of this list is utilitarian household products like hangers, paper towels and gift wrapping.