I’ve shopped at Aldi grocery stores for years. They always have the products I’m looking for, and I know can depend on the quality to be good and the prices to be low. I’m not ready to tattoo their logo across my heart or anything, but they’re definitely my first choice when it comes to grocery shopping.
(Not my only choice, mind you. I’m not some obsessive weirdo about them. They’re just my first (and fourth) choice.)
Because I’m such a fan of their particular shopping-positives, it has always surprised me to hear some of the reasons folks have given me over the years for why they don’t- or won’t- consider shopping there themselves. It’s rarely a matter of the quality of the food, the prices, or the proximity of the nearest location. Those are nays I’d understand. No, it’s generally stuff like:
1) “They make you bring your own bags! That’s so inconvenient! I would never shop at a place where they don’t just give me bags.”
This might be my *favorite* anti-Aldi comment. As the nation moves ever closer to eliminating plastic shopping bags altogether, and as using cloth bags for grocery shopping is one of the few eco-friendly trends that’s actually catching on, this excuse just doesn’t hold up.
Not to mention the fact that by not having to keep a constant supply of bags on hand for free, unlimited distribution to every customer, they’re able to lower their overhead. Any time a company can lower its overhead: be happy! The less it costs them to run their business, the less they have to charge you to keep things going.
And for the record: You don’t have to bring your own bag. You can also buy cheap paper ($0.06), cloth ($1.99), and insulated plastic bags ($0.99) when you check-out, or round up empty pallet boxes from around the store and use those to collect your purchases.
As for the “convenience” argument, personally I like to save my purchased paper Aldi bags inside a larger bag in my trunk at all times so I always have them available in case I decide to pop in to Aldi on an unplanned trip. I store them alongside a few purchased bags you might have, too; my Target bags, Roundy’s bags, Trader Joe’s bags… True those stores don’t *make* patrons buy those bags and will provide freebies no matter how much you’re purchasing. Heck– they’ll even double bag your stuff if you ask ’em to. But then– when you don’t have to buy your own bags it’s hip to buy your own bags.
2) “You have to put a quarter in your cart to use it? That is so lame! Why don’t they just do a better job of collecting carts? And what if I don’t have a quarter with me?!”
This one is generally followed by a series of “Ugh”s and “Guh”s and “Pfffft”s. And for the life of me, *psh*, I can’t understand why.
Want the store to be responsible for collecting carts and returning them to cart corrals at the front of the store? No problem! But keep in mind their operating costs increase when they have to find, hire, pay, train, insure, etc. additional employees to perform that task.
They also have the added cost of buying new carts to replace the ones that don’t get returned. Having to insert that quarter to get the cart in the first place means you’re that much more likely to return it when you’re done so you can get that quarter back.
And it’s impossible to gather every cart as soon as it leaves a patron’s hands after they unload their buys into their vehicles. So the next time some selfish, ignorant, short-sighted, mouth-breather leaves their cart outside their car instead of returning it to a cart corral 10 feet away (can you tell this one really bugs me?), it’s still just as likely to slam into your vehicle even if there are people on staff whose sole occupation is collecting carts. But who’s going to leave their cart out if they have to return it to get their money back?
As for not having a quarter on you– yeah, it’s possible. It’s possible the first time you go to Aldi you might not have a quarter handy. But there will be people all around you with “Aldi quarters” lining their car cup holders. Toss ’em a couple dimes and a nickel and you’ll be on your way. And next time? Next time I guarantee you’ll remember to leave your own “Aldi quarter” in your car for your imminent return trip.
3) “They only accept cash? That’s so stupid! Why would they only accept cash? Don’t they know people only use plastic these days?”
Let’s break this one down a bit:
They don’t “only” accept cash. They accept cash, debit cards, food stamps, and EBT cards. The only things you can’t use are credit cards and checks. The reasoning behind that is that it costs them more to process payments from credit cards and checks because the CC companies charge vendors a fee for every credit card transaction, and because bad checks = Aldi not getting paid the money the check was written for, in addition to the cost of attempting to cash the bad check.
Again: It’s all about lowering their overhead in order to keep customer prices down. If they keep charging you less than everybody else does, you’ll keep coming back. Wild concept, I know.
4) “Those stores are all so tiny, and they don’t have the brands I normally buy. There’s no way they’re going to have what I’m shopping for.”
They’re certainly smaller than your average Mega-Conglomo-Mart, but isn’t that the hip way to shop right now anyway? And no fair railing about the ‘ugliness of corporate America with their SUVs and their over-sized supermarkets and their blah blah blah’ if you’re also the sort to say Aldi stores are too small! Not cool, man. Pick a side.
Besides which: Have you ever been into an Aldi store? They’re not like gas station chip-and-soda aisles, dude. They’re full-sized, fully-stocked grocery stores.
And before you write them off for having a more limited selection than your corner Pick ‘N’ Save or Food-4-Less, take a peek inside to see what they do have. You might just find their 25 varieties of breakfast cereal meet your needs as well as the 60 varieties at your usual grocery store. Especially when you consider the fact that most shoppers aren’t generally found stacking 60 unique boxes of any given product into their carts every time they hit the aisles.
And if you really just are not satisfied with what you bought there, they’ll give you a replacement product AND your money back. That’s not bad, right?
But I digress. Let’s get this “love letter to Aldi” back on a more positive track, shall we?
Before leaving for a month-long missions trip to Honduras this July, I emptied my kitchen of all-things-perishable, and of all-things-I-shouldn’t-be-eating-anyway. I came home to a refrigerator housing six cans of Diet Mt. Dew, a half-filled Brita water pitcher, a seven week old bagel, 12 slices of cheese, and a door full of half-empty* condiment bottles. It was time to do some major grocery shopping, so I paid a visit to the Aldi store on Bluemound in Brookfield, WI.
Twenty minutes after hitting the aisles I was checking out with my 41 items for a total of $66.84. I never leave this place without feeling like some kind of Grocery Shopping Conquistador. Minus the violence, pillaging, disease, and gold-lust.
Pictured: Two Mama Cozzi’s 12″ frozen cheese pizzas ($2.29), four boxes of Ghirardelli‘s Double Chocolate Brownie Mix ($1.99), two avocados ($.49), four plums ($.29), two GIANT nectarines ($.29), a gallon of low fat skim milk ($1.88), flat leaf spinach, hummus, protein bars, two boxes of cereal, tuna fish, yogurt, sliced mushrooms, a pint of grape tomatoes, seven boneless chicken breasts, light salad dressing, three pounds of bananas, broccoli, mixed veggies, mixed salad greens (the good kind, not the *iceburg stems* kind), chocolate yogurt covered raisins, a bag of shredded mozzarella, three pasta mixes, spaghetti-o’s, a loaf of oat bran bread, canned ravioli, 30 kitchen trash bags, an 8-pack of paper towel rolls, and a bottle of Bolthouse Farms Strawberry Banana fruit smoothie ($2.69)
Side note: That particular bottle of juice (same brand, flavor, and size) is “on sale” at Pick ‘N’ Save this week for $4.99 a bottle. I was so stoked at this particular find I had to Tweet the price for use by any fellow Bolthouse loving friends in the Brookfield area. Yeah– the price was that good.
Every piece of fruit I bought today is fresh, firm, and beautifully colored. The spinach and salad greens are clean, healthy looking, and whole. The bread is soft. The hummus is creamy… No cart wranglers, no baggers, no fancy displays. Just affordably priced, quality goods in a clean, bright, well-lit store staffed by friendly people.
*(For the record: I’m not really a “half empty” kind of girl. I just felt bad at my potential over-use of variations of the word “full” in that paragraph. We still friends?)