Opinion: Can’t buy that for a dollar


The dollar store as we knew it is gone. Oh, it’s still there. I can see the helium balloons from the street — hugging the ceiling, beckoning me to enter. But don’t you fall for it. It’s not a dollar store anymore, it’s the Dollar and a Quarter Store, regardless of the store name. One chain considered the name 2 BELOW. That would give them the option of two more price increases without having to buy another new sign.

I’m addicted to all dollar stores. But with this price increase, maybe it’s time to break my habit. Years ago, when pay phones went from 10 cents to a quarter, that was the last phone booth I ever walked into, except to check the little coin return to see if anyone had left any change in it. I’ll pause here while younger readers Google what a phone booth is. By the way, for older folks, the five-and-dime store has also raised their prices.

Several weeks ago, I was in a dollar store in my neighborhood, unaware this seismic shift in my budget was about to occur. In the checkout line, I thought I knew exactly what the total would be. I kept track of my items, and I know to how multiply 1 times 16.

“Wait, how could the total be $20? I only bought 16 items!”

“Everything is $1.25 now, sir.”

“Even a can of okra?”

“Sir, if you really like okra, why not just spring for the extra 25 cents?”

“Because I hate okra. Everyone hates okra. I was buying it because it was a dollar. How about those helium balloons? How much are those?

“Everything is $1.25.”

“I understand the increase with food, but why did balloons go up?”

“Because we put helium in them.”

I wandered around the store, putting my willpower to the test. At $1.25, could I resist a half-gallon of generic cola, a set of screwdrivers, or five pounds of dog food? Hey, we could get a dog someday.

I considered starting a support group for people getting sucked into an increasingly more costly addiction. My group would have six steps to recovery:

1. Admit you are powerless to pass up a $1.25 bag of ginger snaps.

2. Resist the notion that lower prices are a higher power.

3. Never question the price of goodness.

4. Share your story with others so they can be savers, as well.

5. Pray the $1.25 stores never go to $1.50.

6. Before buying on impulse, look deeply inside your shelf to be sure of what you really need.

I just saw a rumor online that the dollar store may revert to the old dollar price for less popular items.

My goal now is to find a really good okra cookbook.