Welcome to Aldi, exactly what is wrong with America

Last week I went down to see the grandparents, and to help them out I went grocery shopping for them. They asked me to go to Kroger, but it has been awhile since I lived in Fort Worth, and the location where the Kroger used to be has now changed. Instead of Kroger I was greeted by Aldi. a new supermarket you may see popping up in your neighborhood some day soon. Aldi, which is based in Illinois, but is German-owned is a new kind of smaller supermarket designed to lower costs and pass the savings onto consumers.

When I was a kid their was a store called Sack-and-Save that used the same premise. At Sack-and-Save customers had to bag their own groceries and the store used paper sacks because they were recyclable and less expensive. Not having baggers saved the store money and so they could pass the savings onto consumers. Since I was a kid when they were around I can’t honestly say I know how much you saved at Sack-and-Save, but since my mom shopped there a lot I will assume it was worth the trouble.

Aldi takes this premise to a whole new level. At Aldi the first thing you will notice is that you can not simply grab a cart, you have to pay for them. The carts only cost a quarter, but it is rather annoying. Instead of being able to just pull up and grab a cart you have to go dig for your change, or try not to buy a lot of stuff! I don’t know how paying for your cart saves you money, but I am guessing because they don’t have a lot of carts flying around they don’t have to pay someone to go retrieve them from the parking lot. I don’t really know, I am just guessing here.

In the store you have a very limited selection of goods, and the store is designed more like a Dollar General than a grocery store. There is a little of everything, but in very short  supply. You might see a giant can of nuts next to assorted jams that you have never heard of. For the most part Aldi does not carry any name-brand goods but rather stuff that local grocers put out or stuff that they can find at a cheap cost. The store is poorly organized, and you have to kind of walk around to find anything. There are no aisle’s or signs, just rows of random foods. Iceberg lettuce is in one section, Romaine is in another. Some of the costs are cheap but not significantly more than what you would see anywhere else. Wal-Mart has them beat on meat, but Aldi had cheap coffee and produce. If you shop there you can decided if the savings are worth it to you.

When you go to check out there is one cashier working at the front, sitting on a stool (because her job is so hard). I can’t imagine this store ever being real busy, but I’m guessing if it is you will be waiting awhile. They do not give you bags at Aldi, you have to pay for them. Only ten cents each, but you have to tell the cashier in advance or you are out of luck. And lastly, no cart when you leave, so you better have strong arms or not a lot of groceries.

Aldi is like shopping hell, but for some reason it is really trendy now, I can’t think of any way in which Aldi is superior to other grocery shopping, except maybe in costs, but even this is nominal, especially when you add in those bag and cart fees. But more importantly Aldi is symptamatic of what is wrong with American indsutry right now. Short sighted, cost-effective thinking.

I recently read a book called “The Value of Asthetics” and in the book the author makes the case that people around the world, regardless of class, desire objects that are asthetically pleasing. Even in China, where billions live below world poverty levels, there is an emerging middle class, and these people want new, exciting items like European fashion, Ipods, and new Computers. Of course everyone wants to save money, and Americans have always been known for valuing cost effectiveness, but strictly basing a customers wants on cost alone is a foolish business model.

The truth is that America can not and will not compete with China or India for cheap labor and goods. When it comes to manufacturing we have entered into an age in which we will always be behind. But what Americans do understand is the value of new, innovative technology, and how to make new, nice things that the world wants. Think cars in the fifties and sixties, VCR’s and televisions in the eighties, and computers in the nineties. We can’t make things cheaper but if we work hard we can make things better.

Right now retailers are hurting, and I hear many people claim that the reason for this is that Wal-Mart and foreign investment has put them under. But in many cases the retailers have done the damage to themselves. Yes, sometimes consumers want cheap goods, but they also want nice things, and a nice shopping experience. I go to Hastings to rent my movies not because they are cheaper, but because I like to shop a little, and the people are nice. I could go to Redbox, or rent from Netflix, but I don’t base every decision on cost.

When I go to a grocery store I like to have friendly people helping me, I like wide aisles that are easily marked. I like certain brands, regardless of costs. In short, I like to shop at a real grocery store, and I just don’t see Aldi as being one. I don’t know the future of this store, but I think they have read the American public wrong. Aldi is in many ways exactly what is wrong with American businees right now, and if we want to be number one again this will have to change.


Jack B.

2 Responses to “Welcome to Aldi, exactly what is wrong with America”

  1. 1 jr
    September 2, 2011 at 7:32 am

    I disagree with your post. This seems like a biased essay that promotes larger supermarkets vs the Aldi, smaller store, experience. There are several errors in your post. For one, you don’t lose money using a quarter to use the cart. Once you’re done taking your food to your vehicle using that same cart, you take it back to the cart bay and retrieve your quarter! Another wrong statement you make is about the lettuce being in different sections. I disagree. The fresh vegetables are all kept in the same location, usually in the back of the store towards the meats and cheeses and perhaps bread.

    I don’t think that Aldi can replace your most visited supermarket, but I definitely believe that it can supplement it.
    There are staples that I only buy at Aldi and would never buy at the local supermarket and vice versa.

    • September 3, 2011 at 2:31 am

      I was unaware that you can retrieve your quarter, not having bothered to use the carts once I was charged one. However, at best this is a moderate inconvenience. As for the lettuce, I can’t speak for all stores, but the one I visited was disorganized. Perhaps you had a better experience, but my broader point was about customer service. Thanks for the comments though.

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