— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY’s newsroom and any business incentives.
My first-ever job was working as a cashier in a local convenience store when I was just 16. I learned a lot of life lessons from that job—namely, how rude people can be—and I also got quite the education on the convenience-store business model (read: mark up everything).
Though my cashier days are behind me, there are still a number of things I won’t buy at convenience stores to this day. Why? These items are either:
- Ridiculously overpriced
- Readily available and/or higher quality in other places
- Kind of gross
Wondering which convenience store purchases I’m talking about? Here are 15 things you won’t ever catch my buying at the local corner store.
People go to the convenience store to buy things like bread, milk, and cigarettes—not to stock up on bananas.
The fruit in most convenience stores has probably been there for a while, and depending how clean the store in question is, may have had more than a few flies on it. So while your healthy mindset is admirable, maybe get a bag of chips instead.
2. Anything unwrapped
To that end, any food item that doesn’t have packaging is generally a no-go. This is usually just produce, but sometimes you might come across unpackaged pastries up at the counter. Flies regularly visit these small stores, and they’re hungry, too!
3. Dairy products (besides milk)
I’d be willing to bet that milk is one of the most commonly purchased items at convenience stores besides cigarettes and alcohol. For that reason, it gets replenished frequently and is usually safe to buy.
However, that heavy cream, yogurt, or ball of mozzarella has probably been there for a while. If you really need it, make sure you check the expiration date carefully.
Batteries are expensive to begin with, and the price gets jacked up even further at convenience stores—because chances are you need them now and will probably pay the sky-high price. You’re better off hitting up a pharmacy or other local store when your TV remote dies, or ordering some batteries on Amazon.
Shop for batteries on Amazon
5. Cosmetics or skincare products
Repeat after me: “I will not buy makeup at the convenience store.”
Even if you’re on the way to the most important date of your life, please don’t purchase cosmetics or skincare products at the corner store. Not only will it be overpriced and old as the hills, but there’s a good chance someone has opened it and stuck their finger in it, too. Get thee to a Sephora instead, ASAP.
6. Cooking or baking ingredients
Convenience stores capitalize on people’s willingness to pay a higher price for an item that they can get quickly. As such, they get a lot of customers who were in the middle of making dinner and forgot a certain ingredient, like brown sugar, extra virgin olive oil, or certain spices.
As a result, you’re probably going to pay double the price you would at a regular grocery store, and depending on what you’re buying, it might have been sitting on the shelf for many months before you can along. It’s worth it to just go the extra distance and hit up a supermarket instead.
7. Fast or pre-made food
There are probably some convenience stores out there that have high-quality pre-made food, but there are also a lot that don’t prioritize cleanliness as much as they should and employ some questionable food prep practices (ie. not wearing/changing gloves when handling food). Rather than grab lunch to-go at a convenience store, you may want to consider packing once ahead of time instead (these reusable containers can help).
Get the rezip Lay-Flat Lunch Leakproof Reusable Storage Bag 5-Pack on Amazon for $19.99
8. Bottled water
There’s nothing wrong with the water at convenience stores, per se, but it’s definitely more expensive than it should be. Plus, if you have a reusable water bottle—like our favorite one, the Hydro Flask—you can just fill it up at a coffee shop or fast food place for free.
Get the 18oz Hydro Flask on Amazon for $29.95
9. Coffee during non-peak hours
Corner store coffee is generally pretty fresh during peak hours—the breakfast rush, lunch time, and even when people get out of work. Beyond that, it’s probably been sitting there on the burner for a few hours. I always pitied the people who came in at 9 p.m. for a cup of coffee and had to drink the stuff brewed at 5. (Though, if you ask the cashier to brew a new pot, they probably will.) If you brew your own at home, grabbing one of the best travel mugs—like this Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug—can help keep your coffee fresh and tasty throughout the day.
Get the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug on Amazon for $25.89
10. Ice cream
While another very common purchase at convenience stores, ice cream is so gosh-darned overpriced. A half gallon that costs like $3 at the grocery store will easily cost $7 at the convenience store. Can you say rip off? You’re better off grabbing our favorite ice cream maker, the Cuisinart ICE-21, instead.
Get the Cuisinart ICE-21 on Amazon for $43.75
11. Your groceries
The whole purpose of convenience stores is to be able to grab a few items quickly when you don’t have time to go to the supermarket. However, I was always amazed at the number of people who would do pretty much all their grocery shopping in my convenience store! Given the ridiculous markups, this is a good way to waste money. If you want to shop and save, but don’t have easy access to a grocery story, you may want to try Peapod or Amazon Fresh instead.
Shop Amazon Fresh
12. Kids toys
Don’t let your kids pressure you into buying them toys at the convenience store. They’re overpriced and have probably been sitting there for a few years. (Do I sound like a broken record yet?) You can probably find more affordable options just by heading straight to Target or Walmart and shopping their sales sections.
12. Pet food or supplies
Again, the rational here is a mixture of “it’s so overpriced” and “it’s been there forever.” Canned food probably isn’t that bad, but bags of cat/dog kibble aren’t hot items at convenience stores. And if you need cat litter, you’re probably going to pay around $15 for a very small box. If it’s convenience that you’re searching for, you should shop at Chewy instead, since you can schedule deliveries easily and get supplies for your pet at a really affordable value.
13. CBD products
CBD products weren’t a thing way back in 2009 when I worked in a convenience store, and honestly, there are probably some stores that stock good CBD. However, I still get the feeling the CBD gummies and such you see at the front counter aren’t the best quality.
14. Gas cans
Picture this: You run out of gas on the side of the road and have to hike a mile to the nearest gas station. You don’t have anything to put the gas in to carry it back to your car, so you have to buy a gas can from the attached convenience store.
They’re banking on this very situation and, as such, you’re going to probably pay double for this dinky plastic container. If you like to take chances with your gas gauge, keep a gas container like this one in your car to avoid this unnecessary expense.
Get the GarageBOSS GB320 Briggs and Stratton Press ‘N Pour Gas Can, 2+ Gallon for $17.97
15. Anything without an expiration date
Did you know that stores put older items at the front of shelves so people buy them first? So if the first loaf of bread you pick up has an expiration date of today, pull a loaf from the back of the shelf. In general, it’s a good idea to check the expiration dates on food you buy. If the date is within a day or so, you might want to pass, and if it doesn’t have an expiration date listed, definitely pass.
The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest, deals, product reviews, and more.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.