Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Dollar Tree Shopping Spree Bonanza!

Featuring bizarre Chinese toys, books from five years ago that nobody read, several food items being sold past their expiration dates and totally out-of-place commentary on the exploitation of impoverished consumers!

I have what you could consider a  “love/hate” relationship with the Dollar Tree. On the positive side of things, there are the occasional moments where I need AAA batteries and a pouch of grape Big League Chew at  8 P.M., and being able to purchase said items with only a handful of dimes and quarters is unquestionably a pretty great feeling. Now, as far as the things I don’t like about the store: everything else.

The neighborhood Dollar Tree is far and away the most depressing locale in any town in America. In fact, just having one seems to create this seismic effect where everything within a 200 foot radius of the building is a cone of human misery. No joke; in college, whenever I was feeling unmotivated, I would just stroll down the aisles of the nearest Dollar Tree - after seeing the 20 year olds with EBT cards, the cashiers with blackened eyes and at least two or three homeless individuals just hanging out in the parking lot, I guarantee you my ass got all sorts of motivated come homework time.

The Dollar Tree has become something of a cultural whipping boy, that go-to-insta-joke whenever someone wants to mock the poor and the disadvantaged. In the process, that means people tend to overlook the fact that the Dollar Tree is a multi-billion dollar a year, Fortune 500 company listed on the NASDAQ 100, with a 2009 net income that’s staggeringly fatter than those fostered by more “reputable” companies, including Sears and Whole Foods Market.

Lead-soaked, shoddily made Chinese toys + impoverished U.S. consumers = CAPITALISM CLEARLY WORKING.

If you’re wondering whether or not there’s a non-ironic/non-Schadenfreude reason to ever walk into one of these stores, there really isn’t. Yeah, you can laugh at the hastily whipped up book section, or the toy section littered with dozens upon dozens of lead-infused, knock-off action figures from China, but the palpable gloom and despair emanating from every human being within a good block of the business is just too much for anybody that isn’t an out and out nihilist. All in all, you’re likelier to walk out of a Pol Pot exhibit with a smile on your face than you are a Dollar Tree anywhere in the continental U.S.

The only (and I do mean ONLY) major positive I can think about visiting a Dollar Tree is that it sort of makes you feel like a higher evolutionary being whenever you get the hell out of there. Even in today’s downcast economy, you can waltz into a DT with a $20 bill and amble out with a good week’s worth of produce (and for me, produce means $16 worth of frozen cheese sticks and a composition book or two). Hell, you can even create a virtual smorgasbord of foodstuffs for about a fraction of the cost of eating something that was, you know, good. The rationalization process, I imagine, is that people that go into a Dollar Tree do so with this inflated sense of self-superiority - as in, “I don’t REALLY have to buy my stuff here, but I’m going to, just for the LULZ.”

Which, ironically, is exactly what you will do if you ever go into one of these stores...

I guess you’re wondering why I would even bother doing a blog post about something so utterly irrelevant. Well, that short answer is that there’s a pizza place with a rare Sega “Airline Pilots” cabinet in it, but since there was a 300 pound man with Down Syndrome and a family of five playing DDR (no, seriously), I couldn’t wedge myself through the human fiesta and get around to recording it. And since there’s a Dollar Tree right next door…well, I might as well take pictures of SOMETHING, right?

Every Dollar Tree in America is different, but at the same time, they’re all pretty much the same. The actual in-store products may vary, but on the whole, you’re getting the exact same kind of stuff no matter which store you walk into. I’ve never visited a Dollar Tree in Spokane, Washington, but I’m pretty sure, they too, have a dizzying array of turkey basters and travel sized deodorant on display. I guess the biggest variable is that some stores feature frozen goods, and some have expanded grocery sections. For a while, there was one in town that advertised “bread”…as in, with the full quotation marks and everything. I guess now is a good time to remind you that when you eat Dollar Tree produce, you pretty much are taking your life into your own hands.

Just look at all of that VALUE! And by "value," I really mean "crap I don't need."

Since I really, really needed change for a ten, I decided to take a walk around the local Dollar Tree, and pick up as much useless crap as necessary to ensure that I got at least four singles in the aftermath. In a store consisting of nothing but absolutely superfluous overstock, what did I burn an exact $5.27 on that evening? Well, since you asked, here’s what I picked up on my impromptu visit to the “Tree of Woe…”

A Book Written By That Guy That Started RegretTheError.Com!

The book section at Dollar Tree is always a total crap shoot; most of the time, the aisle is littered with stuff nobody in their right minds would ever want to read, but every now and then, you get lucky, and find yourself that book O.J. Simpson wrote about killing his wife, or one of the myriad discounted Ron Paul manifestos, or if fortune is really smiling upon you, perhaps even a book written by John Walsh, who looks really, really vengeful and constipated on the front cover. That said, nine times out of ten, you’ll probably find a grand total of nothing worth a damn on your visit - but since you’re only spending a measly one dollar, American, on something that was originally hawked at about 25 bucks, who cares if you end up taking home a brick in literary form?

On my trip, “Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech,” was far and away the most interesting sounding title I uncovered. Actually, it was the ONLY interesting sounding title I uncovered, and since I direly need something to read after I finish “The Hobbit,” I figured what the heck - I once spent $50 plus tax to play “Brute Force,” so throwing down a one dollar bill for a five year old book is relatively sane behavior in comparison.

The author of the book is a fellow named Craig Silverman, who founded the website RegertTheError.Com. Admittedly, I’ve never heard of the site before, but then again, I didn’t find out that the guy that played the principal in “Ferris Bueller” was a registered sex offender until a half hour ago, so consider me WELL out of the loop when it comes to contemporary culture.

By and large, Silverman’s book isn’t my typical reading fare, but I have this thing where I can’t go to sleep unless I read something of considerable substance and weight. And since the thing is about 350 plus pages, it’s most definitely of both considerable substance AND weight. And if it proves an entertaining read, I’ll get back to you on its contents…probably.

Extreme Fighting Action Figures from China!

By now, we all know that I am a huge mixed martial arts enthusiast. By now, you should also realize that I have a fondness for both low culture, consumer-grade crap and finding any reason at all to discredit the Chinese as an economic superpower, so consider this “Extreme Fighting” play set to constitute an early Christmas gift for me.

I really don’t know where to begin here. First off, it seems to me that the Chinese notion of “cage fighting” is culled entirely from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” with the “adversaries” decked out in war paint and safety goggles. The figures themselves are lawsuit bait, with the guy in the glasses looking a LOT like former WCW grappler “Buff Bagwell,” while the other toy is, essentially, an African-American version of Kratos from the “God of War” games.

Apparently, the "Vale Tudo" days were a whole lot more hardcore then we imagined them...

There were actually quite a few variations of this set on sale, including one that featured a dude in a lucha-libre mask packaged with a more Caucasian-looking Kratos and a piece of guardrail. Obviously, this set became an absolute must-buy for me, since it features the most bizarre MMA-accessories in history. Granted, the early days of the UFC were pretty brutal, but I don’t seem to recall Tank Abbott ever breaking out a baseball with spikes in it, or Keith Hackney finishing off a foe with a goddamn chainsaw. Then again, I haven’t seen EVERY PRIDE FC show, so who knows? Maybe there’s a rare Frye/Takayama bout out there with the two pummeling each other with power tools or something.

Aim Toothpaste!

Because I have teeth, and periodically, I like to clean them. Umm…yeah, I guess there’s not too much to add to that, I suppose.

A Four Pack of Freedent Spearmint Chewing Gum!

Once again, not really an exciting product, and a purchase made more out of basic utility than guffaws, but I still got a laugh out of the fine print that PROMISES that the gum won’t stick to “most dentures.” Also, I noted that the expiration date on the package was about two weeks ago, so…uh-oh. 

A Bottle of Brisk Raspberry Tea (That Was Really, Really Warm!) 

You know, I don’t normally drink giant-assed bottles of tea, but then again, it’s not normally 117 freaking degrees in Atlanta, either.

I guess the peculiar thing is that the staffers at the DT didn’t feel the need to refrigerate the bottles…so these things were jutting out of the middle of the aisle, while some nice sunshine radiation heated the beverages to the point where the things were basically Pasteurized. Needless to say, my first swig of this stuff wasn’t a pleasant one…a notion that I will blame partially on the drink’s inherent warmness, and the other half because the beverage was CLEARLY past its expiration date.

...and what's the worst that can come out of beef stored at inadequate temperatures?

So, what did I ultimately learn on my recent expedition to the Dollar Tree? Well, absolutely nothing, outside of the fact that the place sucks, is an unfathomably depressing environment, and a great place to purchase products that are not only out of date, but possibly filled with volatile chemicals that could cause your children to explode.

Some people say that stores like the Dollar Tree are a boon to the economically disadvantaged, providing them with cheap products that they, otherwise, couldn’t afford. I tend to think it’s the opposite case, with a bunch of corporate masterminds taking advantage of the downtrodden and selling them damaged, shady and in some instances, life-threatening goods at a monumental profit…

…but, since they DO have pretty good deals on batteries and bubble gum sometimes, I guess I can overlook the whole “exploiting/kinda’ poisoning the poor” thing. Hell, eight AA’s for a dollar is worth an incinerated crib or two, I imagine…


  1. Good article, and a funny one. I didn't click on most of the links, but I did watch the Brute Force trailer. Dear god.

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