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Shopping at dollar chains may save you money, but you sacrifice this one aspect

Many people make special trips to the dollar store to save a few dollars. The prices can be great but are you getting a good deal? Here's what we found.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With inflation pushing prices higher, every dollar counts. And with high unemployment leaving millions of people out of work, many people are making trips to the dollar store to find a bargain. But are they really getting a good deal

These are complicated times. With labor shortages and demand issues holding up the supply chain, shopping is getting more expensive. Is it worth it to poke around affordable chains like Dollar General and Dollar Tree? The answer is actually yes and no, and it depends on what you're looking for. 

Stores that promise big savings really do deliver. A recent study from Consumer Reports compared the deals by purchasing items at both dollar stores and big-name grocery stores. The results were clear: Dollar stores are cheaper. 

“At Consumer Reports, we had secret shoppers around the county go in and look for 12 items, and for every one of those shoppers, when compared to a local grocery store, the dollar store returned the lower overall price," Brian Vines, who wrote the article for Consumer Reports, said. "So, deals are still being had at dollar stores."

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What items did they look at? Common household goods that everyone buys, including Campbell's tomato soup, Hunt's pasta sauce, toothpaste, dish soap and pasta noodles. 

Vines said the only drawback is the selection. In the dollar store model, selection can be a bit shallow. The bigger grocery stores offer more of those name brands to choose from. 

Credit: Bill McGinty

Vines and Consumer Reports say 90% of consumers are shopping at the dollar market chains with some regularity. The pandemic has in fact changed habits.

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Vines told WCNC Charlotte their research showed something else. These cheaper stores have a way of creating such good deals, they drive competition out of the neighborhood and that, in turn, creates less choice for the consumer living there.

Contact Bill McGinty at bmcginty@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook.