the sky floor

May 5, 2021

Setting Expectations: Why Dollar Stores Drive Me Mad


Cue the Seinfeld slap bass line and imagine Jerry on stage, “what’s the deal with dollar stores, nothing is a dollar.” That is the voice and sentence I hear every time I walk into a dollar store. 

What is the deal? It can’t just be that every item is some increment of a dollar, right? That is how a Rolex store works too, but there aren’t any inexpensive products there. 

I get it; the implication is low prices. Come in here and grab a deal. Many of these stores did start with a variety of $1 products. Everything in Only $1, the predecessor to Dollar Tree, cost one crisp George Washington. Nothing lasts forever. Inflation forced the prices up, and an expanding nationwide footprint increased the variety of products available. 

Every piece of your business communicates expectations. You want to meet or exceed those expectations, or you risk losing the customer’s goodwill. I expected everything in a dollar store to be one dollar. Instead, you can become the proud new owner of a $15 raft

It took a reset in my mind of what a dollar store is, and now it doesn’t bother me as much. But if you can avoid creating that tension for your customer, you will be a step ahead. 

Speaking of being ahead, think about the future! Dollar stores could erase my gripe with many other names that indicate extreme value without the untenable implication that items will cost a dollar. It is impossible to be future-proof, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. 

Think about how every component of your business communicates expectations and build a circle of success, setting and meeting those expectations – and then do it again.

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