The truth about 99¢ Only Stores

When you go to a 99¢ Only Store to buy, let’s say, a Colgate toothbrush that at Rite Aid would set you back four dollars; or a Tupperware that runs $3.50 at Walmart; or a rubber spatula that costs $2.75 in Ralphs…Quite naturally you expect to be charged 99¢ for the thing.

But look more closely at the receipt when you leave the store. That 30-page Hanna Montana notebook with lined pages you bought actually costs 99 and 99/100¢. Yes–you’re paying over nine-tenths of a cent more than you’ve been led to believe, and this is before taxes–despite the name of the store, and the tag on the shelf where you found it. And this goes for every item you’ve bought.

This might seem like a petty sort of fraud that isn’t worth your while to protest. But think of the millions of SOS Pads, plastic flowers, car air-fresheners, simulated 9mm semi-automatic squirt guns, bottles of Suave shampoo (for dry, normal and oily hair), ice cube trays, vinyl shower curtains, and pairs of foam flip-flops that are sold each day by this huge commercial enterprise. Those 99/100s of a cent for each one accrue and accrue, and soon we’re talking real money, unwittingly paid by you, the consumer.

Shouldn’t we take some kind of action on this? Why shouldn’t we stand firm in the checkout lane and demand that the total charge for that can of Mrs. Wainwright’s pork and beans, or that package of Zipee Lighters (three to a pack), or that can of Arid XXtra Dry (now 30% more) be recalculated at the advertised price? After all, who’s to say they won’t raise it even more, to 999/1000 of a cent extra, extending the parabolic curve of their pricing ever closer to the forbidden dollar?

Not sure this is a Great Debate.

I also find it hard to get in a fuss over it since the difference to me at checkout is likely only a bare handful of pennies.

That said I would think truth in advertising would demand they are lying. Simple rounding-rules should be in place. So, if it was $0.9949 then fine…advertise $0.99 as that rounds down to that. $0.995 and over should be advertised as $1.00.

I think a simple regulation from the FTC or whoever watches this should just mandate that. Use accepted rules of rounding when advertising your price.

(looks around)

All I’ve ever seen are dollar stores. Not $.99 stores.

For once I’m not the victim. Yay me!


I’ve never heard of 99¢ stores. I’ve seen Dollar Stores, Dollar Mart, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Everything’s a $1 (which I call “Everything’s a one dollar”), Dollar General and Dilford’s Daily Discount Dollar-n-Dash Depot.

Dollar General and Family Dollar don’t price all their merchandise at a dollar. Instead, they will generally price goods at dollar intervals, for instance, instead of pricing something at $1.99, they’ll price it at $2.00. These stores also have some pretty cheap merchandise, both price-wise and quality-wise.

As far as I know, you can’t buy Tupperware at a store. Perhaps you’re thinking of Rubbermaid or some other brand. Tupperware is sold at home parties only, last I heard.

This sounds like basis for one of those frivolous class action lawsuits, in which consumers get back about a nickel each for the 10 products that they purchased. The lawyers, of course, take a cut of the total and end up with $millions.

Wasn’t this the plot of one of the Superman movies?

It was the plot of all of them. The actual crime took place at area box offices.

By the way, there’s a “dollar” store in Elizabeth, NJ that proudly advertises “Everything 99 cents or higher”. Hilarious.

I just found it on Google Maps:

Let’s try this one:

99 cent store is the finest emporium in this burg!

This was a recent change, a few months ago, the first ever in over 30 years according to corporate flacks. Before that it was 99 cents for everything indeed.

and as for rounding, it is worth noting that the register receipts actually go out to 1/10,000 th of a dollar. That novelty alone makes it almost worth it!

dollar tree locally does not seem to have seized on the competitive marketing opportunity to compare our crap and their crap side by side:dubious:

When I was a kid the five and ten cent stores charged more than ten cents for a lot of things. The horror.

What is the forum for misplaced outrage, btw?

I’m confused - I went to a 99c store this past Sunday (there are many on Long Island), and purchased 2 items (a case of 1000 pins, and some wood dowels), and both were 99cents on the receipt (which I looked at). No 99.9 or any sort of gas-price-style trickery
I failed to see any attempt at fraud. Well, there might not be exactly 1000 pins in the case, I didn’t count them…

Yet this is a question of principle. When we buy our matching sets of refrigerator magnets, our Sponge Bob-shaped pencil erasers, our three-pack of Palmolive soap bars, our ten-packs of day-glo clothes hangers, our Teletubies soda straws, our Las Vegas-themed ashtrays, our Arizona Diamondbacks pennant flags, our hanging doorway beads in multiple colors, we expect a higher degree of integrity. As consumers we hold the potential power to exact a higher standard from our vendors. If only we stood together, we could bring back the voice of the buyer.

In this case, I’m willing to let the rounding slide and give them the extra cent. If not, the Give a Penny/Take a Penny tray would be overflowing, causing undo administrative strife and an unnecessary temptation upon the minimum wage worker who mans the counter and could use the extra 5 cents an hour.

Years ago I needed some rubber gloves for a home project. I went to the 99¢ and found a pair. They were 99¢.


I saw a tupperware booth at the Springfield mall in VA.

Ah, good. I had a spare brain cell way back in the back that wasn’t busy worrying about something for the last few seconds. Now it’s got something to concern itself with.

There is a store here in NYC called 99 Cents or Less or More. That is truth in advertising, right there.

We got places like that here, too. They are called “every freakin’ store”!

You New Yorkers are a strange lot. :smiley: