The cheaper holiday shopping route

Dec. 19, 2004, midnight | By Emily-Kate Hannapel | 17 years, 5 months ago

Junior Jenny Jones' eyes scan a wall of hair accessories. She looks past the animal print scrunchies and the hair ties with "I love Jesus” written on them until she spots what she's looking for. "Perfect,” she says as she grabs a package of multi-color hair clips with hearts on them"another successful trip to the dollar store.

For Blazers like Jones, dollar stores have lost their tacky image and become the ideal place to find cheap knick-knacks that no other store has, especially during the holiday season. According to Deloitte, a New York-based accounting company, 22 percent of holiday shoppers were expected to buy gifts at dollar stores in 2003"up two percent from the previous year.

At Dollar City, a local dollar store on Piney Branch Avenue, 65 to 70 new items are displayed during the holiday season"products like stockings, candy canes, tinsel, ornaments, beads and tassels whose prices, even at other discount stores, would far exceed one dollar. As the holiday season quickly approaches and gift lists stretch longer and longer, the dollar store has become the perfect alternative to shelling out big bucks for presents.

The perfect present

Part of the appeal in dollar store shopping comes from the thrill of the hunt: Customers can browse through thousands of items before finding just what they're looking for. Public Relations associate Florence Stanley of the national chain Family Dollar says the store stocks about 3,500 products with an additional 3,500 seasonal goods.

Jones glances at countless items"a Christmas perfume boasting a "Christmas-like” aroma, numerous banana-scented baby-bottle shaped candles and fake flowers"before finding what she wants. "My favorite part is finding surprising, cool stuff,” she says, pointing to a pair of plastic lime-green hoop earrings. "For a dollar, that's pretty awesome,” she adds.

The "surprising stuff” that Jones mentions comes in many forms. Jones bought her sister a butterfly thong last year as a gag gift. "Like this one,” she says, dangling a lacy version of the present from her finger. That same year, she also bought her sister a hair weave piece from the dollar store.

Jones is not alone in her penchant for dollar-priced presents. Sophomore Sarah Curcio also willingly confesses that she indulges in her dollar store cravings every time she goes to the mall. She admits that she has bought presents for both her parents and her sister there.

Freshman Iliya Smithka shares Curcio's passion, though she says she will buy holiday presents there only for her closest friends. "Our friendship is so deep, we don't have to give expensive presents,” she says.

Others aren't so eager to admit to their cheap buys. Junior Jessica DuBose has bought friends presents like candy, cards and balloons, yet when asked how her friends feel about her low-priced purchases, she says with a laugh, "I don't think they even know.”

The downsides of a dollar

While in the food aisle, Jones points out a dented box of Vanilla Wafers. Just behind her is a container of open Animal Crackers. Across the aisle a smashed, half-open box of Sanitex tampons has fallen to the ground. Needless to say, the question of quality looms in the air.

Over in the candy aisle, Jones shares a candy disaster she experienced earlier this year. "I got a bag of lollipops,” she says. "They were all broken and not wrapped.”

Junior Gillian Carey, a dollar store regular, can also relate to Jones's disappointment. When she was younger, she says, the dolls she purchased at the dollar store often broke easily.

While Jones draws the line at candy, Curcio draws it at underwear. "I wouldn't buy underwear or bras. Some stuff just looks sketchy,” she says.

While the quality of dollar store items is questionable, Curcio says this doesn't lessen her fondness of discount shopping. "If something breaks, it's not a big deal,” she says, reasoning that each purchase only costs her a dollar.

For most customers, it is this logic that continually brings them back. Despite unsealed products and store disorganization and disarray, for Jones, finding exactly what she wants for the low price of"you guessed it"a dollar, is something that can't be beat.

On her last trip, she left with hair clips in hand, knowing that she had only spent one hundred pennies. Her friend, junior Sophie Esparza, who had accompanied her, left with a pair of black gloves.

"This is the best find ever,” Jones laughs.

"Only at the dollar store,” responds Esparza.

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Emily-Kate Hannapel. If Emily-Kate were to die tomorrow, she would want to be eating ice cream when it happened. Ben & Jerry's Heath Bar Crunch, to be exact. She is the president and sole member of Blair's Vegetarian Club, a captain of the Varsity Field Hockey Team, … More »

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