Yesterday, my family and I went grocery shopping at Aldi. Each time we visit Aldi, I remember again that I like it so much, and I was struck with inspiration that this topic should be entered into the record of positivity that I am attempting to construct on the blog.
As soon as I started writing, however, I realized that it’s really tough to write about grocery shopping. This is the third draft.
But I shall endure, and I shall beg indulgence in the endeavor to elucidate the intricacies of the experience.
Like most of you, before I was enlightened, I regarded grocery shopping as a bland matter of necessity. It hardly mattered which store one visited, they were all the same. Each one has a specific type of “deal” like Kroger Bucks ® or Lion’s Share ® or something like that; and shoppers comb the aisles trying to spot the little yellow SALE stickers and rack up their bonus points. Remember the flashing little coupon distributors? Is there anything more like cheese? Anything more like a maze?
And they collect data about us, these experimenters. Get your rewards card now! If you spend a thousand dollars at our store, you can earn STORE CREDIT to buy more stuff in our store! (While we collect and aggregate your shopping habits, run algorithms, and adjust the prices, layout, and lighting of the store; while we use your information to mail more coupons and flyers; while we intrude into even your home life — like us facebook today!)
But I’ve wandered into negative territory. It’s really not that bad, but once I started shopping at Aldi, I recognized it because I saw what shopping could be like without it. There’s not one simple thing that sets Aldi apart. Rather, it is a different attitude that permeates the whole place. An attitude of efficiency. They don’t have rewards points; they don’t accept coupons.
You have to pay a quarter to get your cart, which is refunded when you return it, so the parking lot never, never, has stray carts! And you have to buy grocery bags as well; it’s only 6 cents for a paper bag, but it’s enough that we always remember our reusable bags. And, just in case you don’t know, reusable bags are simply fantastic. You can fit about 6 plastic bags’ worth of groceries into one canvas bag.
While I’m on the subject, you bag your own groceries at Aldi. They have a separate, long counter set up for it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who always watches the check-out workers bag my groceries with constant anxiety. They just throw the stuff in there, and even if they organize it, they don’t organize it well — because they don’t know my house. I can bag my groceries at Aldi based upon which shelf in the pantry they will be placed. You’re not living right until you bag your groceries according to their final destination.
The bagging counter also affords an excellent opportunity for adventure, especially with small children. They’ve usually run out of patience by that time, so you get to bag your groceries while they either fall apart with whining languor, or try to enthusiastically help you. Once, while Liam was operating at an interesting middle pace, he dropped a jar of spaghetti sauce on the floor. The Aldi employees were instantly on the scene, not only with towels, but with a free replacement.
I think I’ve failed again. Third time was not the charm apparently. I was trying to create something along the lines of Dorothy’s entrance into Oz, but reading over it, I think I’ve produced something more like a guided tour of a lawn chair factory.
Let me end with this: I think the best part of Aldi is something I realized during the last visit. There are no impulse buys lining the cash registers. Well, there are a few, but it’s not like everywhere else where you have to wade through a mass of cleavage, loud font, and candy wrappers (and a lane that’s not wide enough for you and your cart for some reason).
It’s nice to not be played for once. That’s it I guess. Shopping at Aldi is not an exercise in Game Theory. I don’t have to count points or keep track of coupons. It doesn’t take everyone an extra minute to check out because they have to fumble for their keychain or recite their phone number or make up an excuse for why they don’t want to get a rewards card today.
If you ever want, I’ll take you shopping there with me. I can’t promise that I’ll serenade you about the wonders of the place, but I bet I can still make a believer out of you.