Anytime a person goes to Aldi for the first time, it’s a little strange. We’ve previously documented some basics for the newcomer in our post Going to Aldi for the First Time: A Simple Guide. Here we’ll dig a little deeper into some of the dos and don’ts of Aldi etiquette.
Before You Go
Do: Bring your own bags
One of the big differences between Aldi and many other stores is that bags are not complimentary. You can purchase bags at checkout, but you’ll find things run a little smoother if you can bring some of your own. Reusable bags are invaluable if you shop regularly at Aldi.
Do: Bring a quarter
You’ll need a quarter to get a cart. (Don’t worry; you get it back when you leave.) It’s part of the system Aldi has devised so they don’t need to hire extra employees to return carts, and it ultimately saves you money. When you arrive, you simply slide a quarter into a slot on top of a cart, which releases the cart to you from the rest of the carts. When you leave, you plug the cart back in and retrieve your quarter.
Don’t: Expect to find everything
It’s a low-inventory store, and while we find well over 80%-85% of what we need, it’s probably inevitable that you’ll be unable to find a few key items. On the other hand, if you keep tabs on Aldi’s Special Buys, those elusive things you’re looking for may show up at special times of the year.
Don’t: Call it “Aldi’s”
The most common mispronunciation of the store, even by some longtime shoppers, is Aldi’s. It’s not: it’s Aldi, with no possessive at the end.
Aldi Shopping Cart Etiquette
Do: Feel free to give your quarter to a person returning their cart
It’s common and acceptable practice to approach a person returning an empty cart and offer them your quarter, and they, in turn, give you their cart. It speeds things up a bit by cutting out the returning person latching the cart and the arriving person unlatching it. (Just make sure, of course, that their cart is empty.)
Don’t: Give two dimes and a nickel to a person who is returning his or her cart
We’ve actually had this happen — a person came up to us, said, “I’ll take your cart,” and handed us change rather than a quarter. Technically, it’s the same amount of money, but it’s considered rude. Give them a quarter. My wife also once had a person hand her a fistful of change, and she later discovered she had been shorted a penny or two. It’s not a major loss, but for courtesy’s sake, don’t do this to fellow shoppers. If you need correct change, go into the store and ask a cashier to trade your loose change for a quarter. They will gladly do so.
Do: “Pay it Forward” if someone did it for you
Sometimes a Good Samaritan will hand off a cart with a quarter in it without asking for a quarter. Aldi doesn’t encourage this, and we understand why — the whole point is to create incentive for people to return their carts — but if someone does this, feel free do the same for the next person. It’s quite possible this pay-it-forward has been going on all day. If no one is around when it’s time for you to hand off your cart but you still want to pay it forward, simply put your cart in the cart collection area but don’t plug it back in, leaving it free for the next shopper to quickly grab.
Don’t: Leave your cart in the parking lot.
For some people, even the lure of twenty-five glorious cents isn’t enough for them to return their cart. So be a good person and return your cart. Remember, Aldi keeps their costs down by relying on customers to do a bit of work.
Aldi Aisle Etiquette
Do: Grab empty cardboard cartons if you need them
Sometimes you’ll see large metal bins with empty cardboard packaging in them. These are completely fair game for customers, and are actually left out in case people need them. I’m most likely to make use of them if I’m only there for a few items and didn’t grab a cart on the way in, or if I don’t have any bags, but they can also be useful in other ways. Just don’t gamble on them being there, because, depending on the time of day, they may not be.
Don’t: Linger too long in the aisles, especially on a busy day
Aldi stores come in various sizes, but many of the older stores have some narrow aisles, with alleyways between aisles especially tight. Be aware of your surroundings, especially during peak shopping hours.
Do: Ask questions of workers if you need something
I’ve found Aldi workers to be about as knowledgeable and helpful as any group of workers at any grocery store I’ve ever been to. Because Aldi stores are lean operations, with just a few employees, the people working there tend to know quite a bit about the store. A few months ago, for example, I couldn’t find a Special Buy item I was looking for. I wasn’t sure if it had sold out or hadn’t arrived. When I asked about it at the checkout, another worker in the next lane over said that she’d stocked those shelves and the product hadn’t arrived. (Delays sometimes happen with certain Special Buy products.)
On a related note, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need assistance with a specific bulk item. I did that when I bought the Gardenline Two Person Swing, which was far too big to put in a cart. The Aldi cashier got someone out to help me put it on a flatbed cart and helped me get it out to the car.
Don’t: Forget to check for clearance items
On occasion, Aldi will clearance out products that have been on the shelf for a while. Some Aldi stores have specific endcaps for this purpose, while others will simply keep the clearance items on the shelf. What gets clearanced, by how much, and when can all vary from store to store, so we suspect it’s a store-level decision. Often the items will be small, but not always: we got our aforementioned Gardeline Two Person Swing for $50 … half off.
Aldi Checkout Etiquette
Do: Push your cart into the space right at the end of the checkout line when you get to the front
The general flow of the checkout aisle is to push your cart up to the front where the cashier can get it. Often, the cashier will use the cart immediately in front of yours to fill your groceries, then use your cart for the person behind you. Make sure your cart, once unloaded, is near the cashier so he or she can get at it.
Do: Use cash, credit, debit, or EBT
Aldi’s payment options have expanded nicely in recent years, including the glorious decision in 2016 to accept credit cards. You can use cash, credit, or debit, and debit users can even get cash back. Aldi also accepts EBT cards for qualifying items. According to Aldi’s site, they do not currently accept checks or WIC (Women, Infants, and Children).
Don’t: Try to use coupons
Aldi almost never* accepts coupons or other promotionals. Don’t try to use a manufacturer’s coupon; they don’t take them, and you might get an evil eye from people around you. And don’t even think about sharing or printing that thing you saw on social media for a big Aldi coupon — it’s a fake. Of course, you’ll find that Aldi without coupons is usually cheaper than many places with them.
Don’t: Run off with a cart if you didn’t pay for one on the way in
If you didn’t bring a cart in, don’t take the one the cashier is using. It’s not polite.
Any other etiquette suggestions? Share them in the comments!
* There is one isolated exception to the coupon rule: when a new Aldi opened near us years ago, that Aldi mailed out coupons for that specific store only. This is rare, though.