Not everything is $1 at this dollar store

January 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
If you shop in a dollar store, you might expect to pay a dollar for each item. But one store in a poor neighborhood was charging more than it advertised and giving no receipts.

For some of us, shopping the dollar store is a fun way to find cheap stuff. For others, it's a lifeline, especially in this economy. So when this dollar store charged more than it advertised, 7 On Your Side went down to find out why.

Kirby Hudgins lives in a public housing unit in San Francisco and to make ends meet, he shops at a dollar store on Market Street. At least he did until recently.

"Look at the store, it's got four big signs saying everything's a dollar, but it's not," says Hudgins. "It's false. It's unfair advertising "

Hudgins says the huge signs attract the poor with the promise that everything costs just $1, but many items actually cost more. When he complained, he says the owner brushed him off.

"It really upset me so that's why I called 7 On Your Side," he says.

So we checked it out, and sure enough, the sign says everything's a dollar, but as soon as you go in, another sign says all clothes are $1.25. Not only that, all food is $1.25, all sunglasses are $1.25, as well as walking canes, eyeglasses and all medicines.

Hudgins says it's still cheap and the extra 25 cents may not seem like much to some folks, but it means a lot to the poor who shop there.

"They see a big sign saying everything, everything's $1, so they rush into the store and everything's not $1, and I think it's just taking advantage of the poor that way," he says.

Hudgins says he didn't even realize until recently that some items cost more. The store does not give patrons a receipt. You have to ask for one ahead of time if you want one.

Shopper Lashawnda King-Talley was furious when her bill for two bags of items came to nearly $50, but there was no way to check the receipt.

"They told me they do not give receipts unless the customer asks for one," she says. "I asked for one before she even rang my things, so she threw my things on the ground."

The store re-rang the woman's order and the receipt showed she paid $1.25 for many items. Other shoppers noticed it, too.

"Well, it's kind of a misconception there," says shopper Christopher Thomas. "You're not going to get anything for just a dollar."

"No, it's not right, but when you don't have that much money, you got to shop," said shopper Nicky Starr.

We asked store owner Damoon Arman why his sign outside says everything's a dollar, when it really isn't. Arman did not want to speak on camera, but insisted the sign is correct, it's just that there are some exceptions, like all the food and all the clothes.

"The owner of the store has agreed to fix the problem and we are waiting to see that happen," says assistant district attorney Seth Steward.

It turns out the conflict caught the attention of the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, too. The district attorney told the store owner to make the sign reflect the true prices.

"He could either change the signage in the store or he could change the prices or he could remove the things that cost more than a dollar," says Steward.

So we went back to the store and the big signs were still there. However, Arman told 7 On Your Side that he indeed did change the signage, it was just very hard to see. Tiny print next to the big print says "and up."

"Four times and big signs saying 'everything,' says Hudgins. "I think that's what's so bad."

The district attorney's office says it is still reviewing this case to determine whether the store is complying with law and why it is not providing receipts.