Last Updated on April 5, 2021 by Kelly L. This post may contain affiliate links. Regardless, I only recommend sites I've researched and/or used and trust.
Shopping hauls for pennies?
In short, yes.
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Well, they can be… but they’re not supposed to be. It’s complicated.
These too-good-to-be-true finds do, in fact, exist. However, it can be a huge undertaking to hunt them down.
So here’s the question: Ultimately, is getting necessary household items at such a serious discount worth some sleuthing?
We think so.
Disclaimer About Penny Deals
DG Penny items are never meant to make it to the register. Furthermore, there is no sure-fire way to tell if the item in question will ring up for 1 cent. There are many factors that have to come into play for you to actually get your item at this crazy discount.
Certain clues indicate a high probability that your item will be a penny, but there is no guarantee, and you cannot find out without bringing it to the register.
In other words, you need to be prepared when you go to the register to either pay the listed price or tell the cashier you’ve decided against purchasing it.
An item that rings up at one store for a penny will not necessarily be a penny at another. And if it does register as a penny at the check out, there is no guarantee the store will sell it to you.
They can but they don’t have to. Apparently, each store decides its own policy.
So, What’s the Deal with Penny Deals?
Occasionally, items that are out-of-season and discontinued get overlooked by store employees who forget to take them off the shelves.
They ring up at 1 cent, or “penny out” of the system, indicating that the item should no longer be sold. Traditionally, it has been Dollar General’s policy to sell them to customers for a penny anyway, and then immediately remove the rest of that item from the floor.
However, due to the ‘frenzy’ this deal can create, certain stores have experienced crazed penny hunters wreaking havoc in the aisles. Some customers have torn stores apart looking for penny items, leaving merchandise strewn about for workers to clean up and arguing or being rude if they don’t ring up for 1 cent.
In extreme cases, store managers have opted to refuse to sell penny items altogether. Dollar General has left this decision up to individual store discretion.
The First Rule of Penny Deals is: You Do Not Talk About Penny Deals
The second rule of penny deals is: You do not talk about penny deals. At least not to DG store employees.
Too many questions for employees or arguing about prices at the register has, and will, lead to a change in store policy and Dollar General may ban the sale of penny deals altogether.
Some stores allow the items to be sold as a kindness extended by the store and with too much attention or abuse, it will be available no more.
So, please don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
It’s All in the Tag: How to Decode the System
At Dollar General, each item’s tag provides clues to those in-the-know whether it is likely to continue to be sold at full price, moderately discounted, severely discounted, or pennied out of the system altogether. Of course, not all products have these tags to begin with, so the system only works for select items.
There are two tag indicators that can help you determine if an item is likely to be a penny deal.
The Codes for Dollar General
Codes are found directly under the bar code on tagged items. There are four seasonal codes, indicating the season in which this item entered the floor, which include:
These are not the only codes, as certain items and brands have their own individual codes. You can also find season combination codes, such as SS for Sping/Summer or FW for Fall/Winter.
Next, you’ll see the year the product came out, such as:
As you can probably guess, the older the item, the more highly discounted it is likely to be. This is not a guarantee, especially if it is currently the marked season of a previous year or a previous season of the current year.
For example, if you find an item marked SU17, this means the item is from the Summer of 2017. As long as it’’s not currently Summer, there is a very high probability that it will at least be severely discounted, if not pennied out completely.
But, there’s more..
The Symbols at Dollar General
Not all tags will have symbols, but if you see one that does, it indicates the item is marked to be discounted at some point. There are many different symbols used on Dollar General tags to indicate the schedule and degree to which the items will be discounted.
The discount schedule can start at anywhere from 10% on up to 25%. Depending on the symbol, the item is then increasingly discounted, potentially up to 90% off. In most cases, the item is discontinued 2 weeks after the last scheduled discount.
The known symbols include:
Secrecy shrouds what discount schedule the individual symbols indicate, but some Dollar General penny hunting insiders say the pink dots tend to be your best bet.
However, at any given time, a store can choose to reset the item back to full price if they think they can sell it, regardless of the code or symbol.
Finding the right combination of codes and symbols at your local Dollar General may take some sleuthing. Following the sales and noticing what you see on the corresponding tags is a good way to get to know what means what at a specific store.
Timing Is Everything and Tuesdays are Magical
Perhaps the best secret we’ve learned in our quest for pennied out items is the timing.
Per Dollar General corporate policy, employees are to remove all to-be-discontinued items from the floor each Monday before closing.
Tuesday morning, all items that have been discontinued are pennied out of the system. If certain items get overlooked or forgotten, this is your window of opportunity to benefit from the oversight. However, most stores will send employees out to make sure there are no items left behind eventually, so you’ll want to get them while the getting’s good.
Interested? Join a Group!
There are several social media groups dedicated to finding current penny deals at Dollar General, such as Dollar General Penny Shopping on Facebook. These groups can be invaluable in finding currently discounted items and learning the ropes of how it all works.
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