Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stars & Stripes Cola 3-Liter Bottle (Dollar Tree)

Stars & Stripes Cola, available at all Dollar Tree locations.

The price of soda is absurd.  Twelve-packs of the major brands have climbed up to about $4 (maybe more) for a 12-pack when not on sale.  Even two-liters, which seemed to be much more affordable when I was younger, are approaching $2.  This is why the wife and I buy mainly only private-label offerings, indulging in the national brands only when a local store is running a 4/$10 sale (and when we have an extra $10 to blow, which is far less frequent than it probably should be…we’re talking once or twice a year).

On top of this, my wife and I have also decided to try to cut back on the carbonated stuff, simply because it really serves no purpose--outside of sugary deliciousness, of course.  But having a hankering for some on a recent trip to Dollar Tree, I decided to grab some Stars & Stripes Cola, which is offered in gigantic 3-liter bottles.  And yes, like everything else in the store, it's only a buck.
Upon first inspection, it looks like any other cola--dark brown, and carbonated.  Even the smell is rather typical, though it does seem to be a little “softer” than similar sodas.  Taste is the most important element, and it also happens to be where Stars & Stripes Cola fails the worst.  I guess it’s not so much that its taste is really THAT disgusting (though the aftertaste is rather bitter until you get used to it)--it just tastes like a diet soda, only it’s not supposed to be (a diet version is available).  It’s a biteless, severely watered down cola that really just isn’t much fun to drink.

Even for those on a budget, I would recommend Aldi’s GT Cola, which is sold in two-liter bottles and will only run you 69 cents.  Liter-for-liter, I guess Stars & Stripes is a little cheaper, but what GT may slightly lack in price, it more than makes up for in delicious cola flavor that, at the very least, isn't watery or bland.

Overall: 4/10.  If you like your full-flavored soda to taste diet, then this is for you…Stars & Stripes Cola is a biteless, watered down version of cola with an aftertaste that starts off bitter, then gradually just shifts to that fakey taste you get with diet sodas.  The value is there, as you get 3-liters for only a dollar, but even in its price range, you can find better (GT Cola from Aldi immediately springs to mind, and will only set you back 69 cents for two liters).  A diet version is also available, which scares me (though to be fair, it‘s surprisingly getting incredibly high marks from users on Dollar Tree’s own website). Purchase and consume this beverage with caution.

Global Brands Shake 'n Go Drink Mix: Lemonade

It tastes about as good as the bland, unimaginative packaging and brand name would lead you to believe.
While perusing my local Deal$ store (company owned by Dollar Tree that carries most Dollar Tree products, as well as those with price points higher than a dollar) for powdered beverages to aide in forcing me to drink water at work (how I loathe the clear stuff, unless I’m playing hockey or otherwise active), I came across something I’d never seen before:  Global Brands Shake ‘n Go drink mixes.  While most, if not all, of Dollar Tree’s name brand offerings in this area (Hawaiian Punch, Wyler’s, etc.) all give you 8 packets for $1, Global Brands gives you a whopping 14 (well, normally 12, but this was a bonus pack).  Fourteen servings for a dollar?  Sign me up!  Eagerly, I grabbed a box of the lemonade flavor.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I definitely had some reservations heading into this purchase.  First off is the company name:  Global Brands.  Wow, there was certainly a lot of thought put into that.  There was also just as much thought put into the packaging, which is a bland illustration of the mix being poured into a water bottle, while pictures of whatever fruit the mix is supposed to taste like (in this case, obviously lemons) right next to it.  In other words, if it weren’t for the very low price point, I would have walked right on by and never even given it any sort of thought whatsoever.

I can just sum up the experience by saying that I will probably never ever buy another Global Brands product again…that’s how terrible this mix is.  The taste is so ridiculously fake that it doesn’t recall fresh lemons as much as it does lemon cleaning products, which is also ironically what it smells like.  Seriously.  Out of the fourteen packets, I think I used three over the course of a couple weeks, trying to give it a fair “shake” (embarrassingly poor pun intended), but I could never even finish drinking one full bottle of the stuff.  Needless to say, the rest ended up in the trash can.

Not surprisingly, ever since I bought this stuff a couple months back, I don’t recall ever seeing it again on repeated trips to Deal$, so maybe they’ve already gotten the hint and pulled it off the shelf.  Either that, or I have selective sight and am just subconsciously overlooking it.  Whatever the case may be, you’d be doing yourself a favor to ignore this stuff, and stick with the name brand drink packets, which offer a great taste:value ratio that this stuff can't even come close to matching.

Overall: 0/10.  Though a zero may seem a little harsh, I really can’t think of a single positive thing about my experience with Global Brands Shake ‘n Go Lemonade.  In fact, the mere thought of the taste is literally enough to make me cringe (and that is honestly not an exaggeration).  The packaging is boring, the stuff tastes and smells like lemon cleaning products, and I couldn’t even finish a single full bottle of the stuff, despite multiple attempts.  Sure, the dollar price point is rather enticing, but if it’s undrinkable, that certainly does me no good.  Skip this and stick with the Hawaiian Punch and Wyler’s drink mixes, which offer much better value (and excellent taste) for the price.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Home Store Fabric Freshener (Dollar Tree)

Just like Febreze, only not overpriced to the point that it's pretty much a scam.
I’ll admit that, as the laundry man of the house, my schedule is based solely on my hockey schedule.  Since I have to wash my hockey clothes anyway, I figure it’s a perfect time to toss in my work clothes, and anything my wife needs, as well, without having to exert any extra energy.  But especially now that I have cut back to playing only once a week (down from as often as four nights), I definitely don’t wash clothes as often as I should, meaning that having a fabric refresher is a necessity.

Like many people, I found the national brand to be pretty expensive, and knew there had to be a cheaper option, especially considering it’s essentially just air freshener for fabric.  I mean, seriously, it’s not like it kills odors, or fights bacteria…it simply sits on top of your clothes to fool people into thinking that you’re not too lazy to do laundry.  I figured developing a private-label brand that does something similar would not be rocket science.  Not surprisingly, Dollar Tree came to the rescue, offering 33 oz. of off-brand Fabric Refresher for $1.  After previously being made available under the “PowerHouse” label, it has now been rebranded under Dollar Tree’s new “The Home Store” label.  But how does it stack up to the national brand?

It’s the exact same damn thing.  I mean, how can it suck?  It’s just a liquid that makes fabric not smell like shit…that’s kind of impossible to mess up.  Just like the national brand, you simply spray it all over your clothes, dry them, and they come out smelling like you actually washed them.  Only, Dollar Tree doesn’t have the gall to charge upwards of $5 a bottle for something that no doubt costs less than a dollar to manufacture.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when companies tack on a little more profit by essentially charging extra simply for the "brand name" on the label.  But then again, I guess if people are stupid enough to buy it, why not?

Overall: 10/10.  The Home Store’s Fabric Refresher does the exact same thing as the one-trick-pony national brand, and all for a fraction of the cost (not to mention six extra ounces).  Why wouldn’t you buy it?  You’d technically be an idiot not to, unless of course you want to encourage the one-trick pony national brand to come out with another line of smelly-good things that essentially is just their original product in a different container and with a slightly different scent.  It’s your call.

Hairvitalize Balsam and Protein Shampoo (Dollar Tree)

Never judge a product by its cringeworthy brand name...
Given the number of shampoos I’ve already reviewed, one must think I’m obsessed with my hair.  I assure you that’s not even the case.  In fact, it’s just the opposite:  Since I don’t care, I don’t really have a go-to brand, hence the reason for me jumping around and trying so many different kinds…but now, thanks to Dollar Tree, I might just have my “go-to” shampoo.

You have to be skeptical when approaching Hairvitalize (a brand name that makes me cringe).  At least, I know I was.  32 ounces of shampoo for just a dollar?  Considering I have also reviewed 12 and 20 oz. bottles from the Tree, and was underwhelmed with each one (though for different reasons), I thought for sure this would be another one for the discard pile.  But I was wrong.  This stuff works! 

First things first, it has a proper consistency for shampoo, something that Silkience didn’t have.  Also, unlike that brand, it lathers up pretty well, so you actually feel like you’re cleaning your hair, rather than just rubbing soap in it.  I’ve used this product for probably two full bottles now (and since my hair is generally short, one bottle ends up lasting me at least a month), and my hair is pretty much the same as it always was.  I’m not sure if it really moisturizes all that much, but it certainly doesn’t dry it out, and that’s good enough for me.  And can you really go wrong with 32 oz. of the stuff for a buck?

I will give in and say that the scent pretty much sucks.  It reminds me of straight-up rubbing alcohol, actually.  But even when smelling it in the bottle, it’s so weak, that I highly doubt it has much of a fragrance once it’s in your hair.  I could be wrong, but no one’s ever said my hair smells terrible after I’ve used it, and that’s some information that I know my wife wouldn’t hold back.

In contrast, I will say that while I find it to be a great shampoo, my hair-obsessed wife is less than enthused with this product…in fact, she flat-out refuses to use it, opting instead for some kind of salon-wannabe-bullshit.  So if you treat your hair as if you’re constantly expecting there to be a sudden hair contest wherever it is you’re going, and you want to win first prize, then maybe this isn’t the shampoo for you.  Or if you want your hair to smell like it’s made of strawberries, then you definitely will want to look elsewhere.  But if you just want something that’s going to do what shampoo is supposed to do, and clean your hair, then the retardedly-named Hairvitalize might be just what you’re looking for.

Overall: 8.5/10.  It’s not the greatest-smelling shampoo in the world, and it’s really not going to take your dry hair and turn it into moisture-filled locks of beauty, but if you’re just looking for a product that simply does what it sets out to do, and for a phenomenal price, look no further than Hairvitalize.  It’s easily the best shampoo product I’ve found at Dollar Tree, and it’s also the cheapest, making this a highly-recommended product!