You’ve loaded up with back-to-school supplies: notebooks, pencils, erasers, staples, and a dozen other buys too good to overlook.
And then you spy it, the best deal yet: a package of three extension cords for a dollar.
A great buy? Maybe not, according to Consumer Reports.
Dollar stores are now super-glued into our neighborhoods. But while they offer wonderful deals on items such as lip gloss, scissors, books, puzzles, and other goodies fit for a treasure hunt, not everything in a dollar store is a wonderful or even a wise buy.
Consumer Reports suggests there are some products you should just plain avoid during dollar mania:
Vitamins: What can you get for a buck? When analyzed, some of the vitamins purchased at dollar stores lacked one or more ingredients listed on the label of the bottle. Others failed to dissolve properly, so they didn’t break down quickly enough for the body to absorb them. Consumer Reports suggests in the August issue of Shopsmart that you be on the lookout for rock bottom prices on brands like Centrum or Bayer One A Day vitamins. During testing, these brands dissolved as they were supposed to and contained all the nutrients listed on the label. You can also verify what the bottle really contains by locating a label that shows the product has been verified by U.S. Pharmacopeia or NST International.
Sounds-likes: Sometimes you have to look very closely at the packaging to note the difference. For example, did you think you think you bought Duracell batteries? Many dollar stores sell Dinacell batteries in packages designed to look like Duracell products. Travis Brown, Jr., who is general counsel for BuySafe, a company that guarantees online transactions, points out that fake products frequently ape their better-known brands. Make sure the Louis Vuitton bag you gently lower into your shopping cart doesn’t really wear a “Louis Vitton” label.
Soft vinyl lunch boxes: Some of the soft insulated lunch boxes, regardless of the stores where they were sold, tested positive for lead content. If the lead transfers to unwrapped food in the bag, it can easily make its way to your kids’ hands. Since exposure to lead is cumulative, it’s best to avoid it. Period. At this writing, several states have sent out recalls for these products even though Consumer Reports found them in dollar stores. What’s a better choice? Try lunch boxes lined with nylon, not polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Toys for Children Under 3: Toys with large parts are a better bet. If the smallest piece of the toy won’t pass through a tube of a toilet-paper roll, it should be large enough to be safe. Although laws require manufacturers to label any toys with small parts or sharp edges as inappropriate for kids under three years old, some imported toys might be mislabeled or even missing a label. Particularly suspect are those manufactured in China.
Electrical items: That string of Christmas tree lights in August seems a steal when you remember being unable to find any last December. However, you should be wary of many off-price electrical products. Among the most suspect: Christmas lights, fans, and extension cords with false labels asserting their safely. A fake label could mean undersize wiring that could cause a fire if it overheats. Be on the lookout for items certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or other independent labs like ETL and CSA for conformity to safety standards. To make sure the UL label is legitimate, look for the hologram that should be visible. You can also visit the UL web site at www.ul.com, then click on consumers, followed by certifications, to find out if a brand name is indeed certified.