Dollar Stores Sell The Most Bizarre Things

"I'll buy that for a dollar!" exclaimed Bixby Snyder, host of the RoboCop universe's beloved It's Not My Problem television show. And perhaps not understanding the nature of satire or idiomatic catch phrases, the Dollar Store looked him in the eyes and said, "Would you?"

Dollar stores are a time-honored tradition in the United States, and they do gangbusters business. Heck, in 2017, Dollar Tree was listed as on of the country's 25 most successful retailers. So why do we give them short shrift?

Because their products are cuckoo bananas, that's why.

Yes, the dollar stores have long been a veritable Island of Misfit Toys for everything from kitchen utensils to prophylactics. But when was the last time you took an afternoon to really soak in the weird, glorious musk of what your local Dollar Tree had to offer? Never? You're a stable person with a job? Alright, don't get mouthy. We did some legwork for you. Check it out. This stuff is odd.

An at-home drug test

The Dollar Store at-home drug test, aka the Stoner's Hail Mary, probably.

It's difficult to imagine the exact circumstances where a person would need to know, with scientific certainty, whether or not another person was under the influence of narcotics but also only have a buck and tax to blow on the venture. Bad news, you erstwhile Harry J. Anslingers: With the level of scientific accuracy you can expect to get out of this puppy, you're kicking 20 nickels at confirmation bias. You'd get a better feel for someone's predilection toward gas station glassware by taking a good long look at their record collection. If the case ever goes to court, there's probably more precedent for not hiring someone based on whether or not they own a Captain Beefheart album or how profoundly 2001: A Space Odyssey changed their lives than the results of a 99 cent drug test. There's a decent chance that, as often as not, tap water is going to fail this thing.

The last Faygo in the world

Behold, gentle juggalos, jugallettes, y las juggalas. Your cup runneth over. Your day has come. This is your room full of chalices from the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and there is no choosing poorly.

Some may be shocked to hear this, but there are parts of the United States where you can't get Faygo anymore. The West Coast has been hit especially hard by the Faygo drought. There are metric swaths of Washington state where you're forced to quench your thirst with such obscure brands as Coke and Pepsi, if you can even stomach those knock-offs. It's not unheard of for the citizens of these areas to be completely oblivious to the fact that Faygo still exists, with many of them assuming that the bottom fell out after all of America's ICP fans were forced to stop spending their time pursuing The Family because they got actual families and had to get jobs. Fear not, you Pacific Ocean adjacent. The dollar store has you covered.

An at-home pregnancy test

"Honey, guess what? We're pregnant!"

"Pregnant? That's wonderful news! Are you sure?"

"Not by a long shot, no!"

These are the words one must assume are uttered shortly after any of these dollar store pregnancy tests are taken home. The only thing you should learn from taking a dollar store pregnancy test is that you need to go buy a more expensive pregnancy test. The sole scenario in which using one of these puppies is appropriate is if you're Matthew Broderick in that scene from the 1998 Godzilla movie because it's a foregone conclusion that that's really, really dumb. You'll have a better idea of your pregnancy status if you pee on a Zoltar machine. One must assume that the standard "plus" and "minus" signs have been abandoned in favor of cosines and imaginary numbers. 

In case we're not being clear, it's a terrible idea to build your future around the prognostication of anything that costs less than Gatorade. Do not use this product for its intended use. Instead, buy 20 of them, dip them in different fluids you have lying around, and leave the bevy of positive and negative results in every cupboard, pantry, and closet you own. Then wait for your significant other to get home and enjoy an emotional roller coaster of an evening.

So many fragrances

There you are. You're spending a lazy afternoon reading at your favorite coffee shop, minding your own business, when you look up from your Michael Shayne paperback or whatever the kids are into these days and you see them: The most beautiful/handsome/nonspecifically attractive person of your preferred gender that you've ever witnessed in your life. You realize that they are too gorgeous/hunky/ambiguously good-looking for you not to risk talking to them. You walk over and notice that they're reading the same book that you are. By gum, it's kismet. You ask them out on a date, which they happily agree to. You rush home to prepare.

You pull out your best outfit. You avail yourself of the hair product that you only use when you're trying to look impressive. There's just one blank in your personal presentation that you still have to fill in: Do you want to smell like the hard-to-reach parts of an animal shelter or a diesel spill in a field of garlic?

Luckily, you can smell like both, and many other things, at bargain prices. Thanks to dollar stores.

Not dolphin

Behold, this can of what is definitely not dolphin. You can tell it's not a can of dolphin from the way that it's labeled "mackerel in brine" and not "dolphin in can." Heck, for further reassurance, look no further than the Pampa Mackerel slogan: "Holy mackerel! It's not dolphin!"

Look, there's a decent enough chance that there really isn't dolphin in this (yes, we're still on the dolphin thing), and here's why: There's no way that a can of dolphin meat costs less than $5. Right? They're majestic creatures. Dolphins can learn basic communication and even make the same demands as Tinder creeps. That's good for at least a buck an ounce. Unless being the subject of an infinite number of basic '90s girl tattoos has depreciated their value by a wide margin, selling cans of them at a dollar store is a premium example of diminishing capital returns.

With that in mind, here are a few potential candidates for the actual contents of these cylinders:

  • Beige Play-Doh

  • Ash from the 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption

  • Dampened DVD cover inserts from all of those unsold copies of Halle Berry's Catwoman movie

  • Actual mackerel

A chocolate Easter bunny that's hugging a ghost

We all remember that classic poem about the Easter bunny. You know, the one we all learned in school.

"Gather 'round, children, and you shall all hear / The tale of your friend with a big, floppy ear / He brings Easter chocolates to kids coast to coast / And wait, holy crap, is he holding a ghost?"

There's a lot to unpack here, even if you ignore the fact that ambiguous grammar might lead one to believe that the rabbit is the flavor of hollow milk chocolate. And yeah, technically it's flavored exactly like milk chocolate, in the same way that a Twinkie is flavored like a Twinkie full of Twinkie. You just don't see a lot of products advertising themselves as being hollow-flavored. That's semantics. 

Putting that aside for a moment ... yes, upon careful inspection, there's a decent chance that the rabbit in question is giving a sneak-from-behind hug to the world's most albino duckling, but if that's the case, it's the most ghosty-looking duck in the history of confections. Maybe it's the ghost of a duckling? That's sad. Let's try not to focus on that. Come on, get it out of your head. Back to reality. Rabbits don't look like that, there's no such thing as ghost ducks, and Palmer's doesn't make chocolate, they dispose of sawdust by dying it brown and tricking kids into eating it. See? Everything's back to normal now.

The last game in town for circus peanuts

Great news for elderly relatives who don't understand how to buy the affections of children! No longer will your hopes of a brief but very polite visit with your grandnephews hinge upon that sweet, sweet Game Boy knockoff you found at the kiosk in the mall that's going to disappear like Brigadoon next week. Put away your checkbook. Then take your checkbook back out because you're absolutely going to pay for dollar store candy by check, which is fine, because obviously no one behind you in line had anything else to do today. The point is, you've found the only place left on Earth where they still sell circus peanuts.

For those of you who aren't caught up, circus peanuts are a cruel and long-running practical joke perpetrated by the man who invented styrofoam in the hopes of convincing unsuspecting children to eat caustic trash. They taste like the material that pads the swivel chairs at McDonald's booths. In 5,000 years, when alien archaeologists are combing through the irradiated, pre-scavenged wastes of what was once America, they will abandon any hope that a species once flourished here the minute they find a still unopened bag of circus peanuts because circus peanuts are anathema to life.

Self-realizing anti-itch cream

At some point, some mastermind is going to start making salty beer. Their friends will laugh at them and say that nobody would ever buy it, but that genius is going to make a billion dollars producing a drink that makes you thirsty for more drinks. A self-contained problem and solution, poetically rolled into one.

This is the next-level thinking one witnesses when gazing upon dollar store anti-itch cream. Consider for a moment all the other products you might purchase at the dollar store, and how much you could safely bet that you'd be less itchy if you rubbed them on your skin. It's a fool's gamble. You'd be crazy to consider it. Now what are the chances that dollar store anti-itch cream is any different? Whatever the opposite of hypoallergenic is, that's probably dollar store anti-itch cream. If you really want to be frugal and get the same results, just grind some cayenne pepper into your Bengay and really go to town on your bursitis shoulder.

Hair color

Coloring your hair is a delicate science, sitting on a precarious chemical line between looking 8 percent more youthful and losing your hair in clumps like Doctor Scratchansniff. Who do you trust to do it? Or, more accurately, how little are you willing to pay, knowing that permanent baldness is on the line? For real, this stuff will likely take your mane off quicker than that meteorite in the pilot episode of Smallville.

Honestly, dollar store hair dye seems like a great way to Nair your whole head while simultaneously giving yourself a bold new look that will henceforth be known as the jet black Mikhail Gorbachev. With colors running the gamut from printer toner to running-out-of-printer-toner, then skipping a few steps to "birthday party clown red" and all the way up to actual straw, your options are nearly limitless.

No, not limitless. You have two options. One is chemical burns. The other is not buying hair dye at the dollar store.

The world's least secure bicycle lock

The modern bicycle enthusiast has a plethora of options when it comes to securing their beloved velocipede. Most prefer a U-lock for its simplicity and sturdy build. Some like a cable lock, as it is versatile and can be used almost anywhere. Still others prefer the dollar store bike lock because getting your bike stolen is a surefire way to get a day off from your bicycle delivery job.

The dollar store bike lock: It's like a regular bike lock that didn't finish cooking. There's so much to love, from the fact that it's only a (generous) 22 inches long, to the way the combination lock numbers only go up to six, to the way the thin rubber guard is completely transparent, allowing any bike thieves a look inside. And what do they see? Why, a ridiculously thin chain made out of what we can only assume is the best "metal" that "money" can "buy."

This breakable toy robot

There is a long and storied tradition of lying to kids about the capabilities of the toy they're about to buy. Harold von Braunhut made a living out of it, broadcasting promises from the backs of comic books. X-Ray Specs that would let you see through flesh. Your new best friends, a family of anthropomorphic sea monkeys. His mail-order invisible goldfish? Well, you were never going to see it, that's for sure. All falsehoods, spun to ensnare the dreams of the young.

With that in mind, it's refreshing to see a toy at the dollar store that advertises exactly what it's going to do. This toy robot may not fly by remote control. It may not light up or make cool sounds or be recognizable as a member of the Avengers. But there's one thing it for darned sure does do, and it tells you right there on the box: It snaps apart. Points for honesty, toy robot packaging. Points for honesty.