I was browsing the list of perks that come with an Amazon Prime membership recently, and the online retail giant continues to add more and more features. For $119 a year, you get expedited shipping that includes free same-day delivery on eligible orders, plus access to a host of streaming movies and television shows, along with ebooks, audiobooks, and music. All of these things — food, toiletries, household goods, furniture, entertainment — are at our fingertips, just a click or two away.
Amazon is the ultimate in instant gratification in a world where we have grown accustomed to getting what we want when we want it, and without even having to leave the house. It’s so successful other retailers are adapting to compete with Amazon, including Target that now offers same-day delivery through Shipt.
But then there is Aldi. Aldi makes us wait for stuff.
Of course, Aldi always carries staple food items year round, but the grocer is known for its weekly rotating specials that include both edible and non-edible products, called ALDI Finds (Special Buys). One week Aldi might stock pressure cookers. Another week it’s exercise bikes, and another week it’s French onion soup. Aldi gets a limited supply of these items, and once they sell out, they’re gone until next year, or possibly forever.
One of the most common questions we get from Aldi Reviewer readers is where to find an item that is currently out of stock in stores. Readers often ask if they can order online or if there is another retailer that carries that exact same product under the same brand label. Unfortunately, the answer to those questions is no, although you might be able to find similar-but-not-identical alternatives from other retailers that are not connected to Aldi.
If you want something specific from Aldi, you have to be patient. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weekly ads. Because ALDI Finds are not usually sold or delivered through Aldi’s partnership with Instacart, you have to get in your car and drive to the store to buy them, and you have to haul them home yourself.
I can think of several reasons why we benefit from not getting immediate gratification from Aldi: less impulse spending or “retail therapy,” more patience, more walking because you have to actually go to the store (although you can now have Aldi products brought to your vehicle via curbside pickup).
But Aldi did not create its particular business model to build our character, to combat consumerism, or to help us reach our daily step goals.
Instead, Aldi is about efficiency and making the most of its status as a low-inventory store, often selling products at just the right time of year: camping gear and lawn and garden supplies in the spring, dorm furniture in the late summer, exercise equipment in January, and holiday gifts and decor during the appropriate seasons.
Also, just as important, Aldi creates Christmas. You never know what will show up in the Aldi ad from week to week, and that adds an element of fun, surprise, and mystique that we never feel clicking through Amazon’s site where everything is there all the time.
This is why Aldi has superfans who gush on social media groups and post photos on Instagram. Aldi cultivates an experience that you don’t get at other retailers. That probably was not Aldi’s original intention, but as the store has grown in popularity, we’re seeing that the approach appeals to a lot of customers. The element of surprise is also what makes Aldi stand out from other low-inventory stores such as Save-A-Lot or Ruler Foods.
Amazon and Aldi’s vastly different business models both work well, and they simultaneously fill unique niches. Amazon stocks just about everything you might want or need at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Aldi gives us something to look forward to at the beginning of each week as we wonder what will show up this time.