I was curious what was still available new in SS, so I looked on B&H:http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=reel+stainless&N=0&InitialSearch=yes
Click on the reviews of the General Brand $9.95 reel for a possible warning on the cheapest reels on the market. The reviews of the Hewes seems to confirm that brand's reputation for quality. Myself, I would shop carefully on eBay for something that looked to be older and likely better quality than the cheap new ones. Often you see lots of several reels for not much money on eBay. You might even find genuine Hewes or Nikor,
I have heard that a good washing/scrubbing can sometimes help plastic reels. Wetting agent is supposed to be one thing that builds up in the grooves. It is recommended to take the film off the reel before dunking in wetting agent (Photo-Flo), although it seems to me hard water deposits could build up over time. Maybe giving the plastic reels a final splash in distilled water would be a good idea. I've switched to SS so don't have to worry about it.