Aldi has several features that set it apart from other grocery stores. One: the discount grocery store does not have fancy shelves or pretty product displays. Instead, Aldi sells items directly out of shipping boxes, and sometimes those boxes are set atop wooden pallets. Two: Aldi has speedy cashiers in the checkout lanes. And three: you have to bag your own groceries.
However, if you asked someone to name the one thing that most sets an Aldi shopping experience apart from other grocery stores, they’d probably tell you about the fact that you have to use a quarter to rent a shopping cart at Aldi.
Does that mean Aldi charges customers to use shopping carts? Technically, no. If you’re new to Aldi and unfamiliar with how the cart system works, read on.
Do I have to pay to use a cart at Aldi?
The carts at Aldi operate using a refundable deposit, so you’re not really paying to use the carts. Instead, you put a quarter in your cart handle to use it, and then you get that quarter back when you return your cart to the cart corral.
Here’s how it works. As you approach the store’s entrance, you’ll find carts nested in a corral and chained one to another. To release or unlock a single cart, put your quarter in the slot near the cart handle and tug the chain behind the quarter slot. If your cart does not release, make sure the quarter is in the slot as far as it will go, and don’t hesitate to give a good pull on the chain. Sometimes it takes a little extra effort. Then, pull the cart out and do your shopping.
When you’re done shopping, simply push the cart back into the corral so it’s nested with the other carts. Then plug the chain back into the cart handle, which will pop your quarter out so you can grab it and be on your way.
If you want to see exactly how Aldi carts work, you can view our YouTube video here showing how to remove a cart from the corral and how to return it.
Why does Aldi do it this way? The Frequently Asked Questions page on the Aldi website states:
This 25 cent deposit ultimately saves our customers money because we don’t have to hire extra staff to collect grocery carts. To unlock a cart, customers have to insert a quarter, and this deposit ensures shoppers return their cart to the corral to get their quarter back.
At Aldi, it’s always about saving money and passing those savings on to customers. It allows stores to function with fewer employees because they don’t need workers to gather up all the carts customers leave scattered around the parking lot. A smaller staff in turn allows Aldi to pay competitive wages compared to other grocery stores. Many customers also appreciate that their cars are less likely to get hit by random unattended carts rolling around the parking lot. The quarter deposit system is an effective nudge that encourages everyone to “clean up” after themselves.
Bonus tip: If you don’t have a quarter on you when you arrive at Aldi to do your shopping, the cashiers will happily exchange your other coins for a quarter.
While you do need a quarter to use a cart at Aldi, you do not actually have to pay to use the carts at Aldi. It’s a refundable deposit system. This helps Aldi keep prices low by encouraging customers to return their carts to the corral, so Aldi does not have to hire extra workers to collect carts from the parking lot. When you’re done shopping, you always get your quarter back. Unless you decide to perform an act of kindness and pass your cart on to a fellow shopper, but that’s a whole other story.
This is an Aldis feature I love. It’s rare to find shopping carts in the parking lot. That means it’s rare that your car gets dinged by a shopping cart at Aldis. It’s just as rare that there are no carts at the entrance to the store. With staffing issues so common these days, it’s becoming more common that grocers fail to recover carts from the parking lots and carriage corrals. On top of that, the occasional handoff of a cart from someone leaving to someone entering the store creates a social opportunity. Sometimes people return the carts without recovering the quarter. 25c can put a smile on someone’s face. I wish all stores would implement this innovation.
I agree with you. When someone is around when I return my cart, I tell them to take mine. They offer the quarter and tell them to keep it. Its a good feeling to pay it forward!
My local Aldi’s has stopped requiring the .25 deposit. Previously there was a great ‘pay it forward’ with cart hand-off, while some offered .25 to take your cart. I preferred to just give it to them and ask them to do the same. But, unfortunately I now see cart left in the parking lot. 🙁