EDITOR’S NOTE: This post refers to how Aldi shopping carts work during normal circumstances. Aldi has made changes in many stores to how carts are used during the pandemic; if you go to such a store, Aldi workers will explain what to do.
When you go to Aldi for the first time, you quickly learn the store is different. That starts before you ever set foot inside.
When you approach the Aldi carts, which are usually in a corral just outside the store, you’ll notice all the carts attached together. The only way to free one is with a quarter. You simply plug the quarter into the slot, pull the plug from the chain of the cart in front of it, and then proceed into the store.
That means a quarter is an indispensable accessory to bring to Aldi. Some people keep their quarters in their car, while others use a quarter holder on their keychain. Aldi sometimes sells quarter holders, but for my money I prefer one of these instead.
Some customers who are done shopping may approach you offering their cart in exchange for your quarter. This is not an official Aldi policy, but it’s an unspoken tradition with some Aldi customers. Just make sure that if you do this, you give the customer a quarter and not, say, two dimes and a nickel. That’s considered bad form.
When you check out from the store, the Aldi worker will usually load your groceries into the cart that went before you, which then becomes your cart. Then, the worker will load the next shopper’s groceries into your old cart. This is done because it’s faster than waiting for you to pull your cart around behind the cashier. (Don’t try to bag your own groceries at this point: it’s not going to happen.)
After you’ve checked out, and possibly bagged your groceries, you’ll load up your car. At this point the proper thing to do is return your shopping cart to the cart holder. Most often, you’ll reattach the chain from the cart in front of it to your cart, releasing your quarter back to you. Sometimes, though, other shoppers may offer you their quarter in exchange for your cart. As mentioned before, that’s an unofficial way of returning the cart.
It’s a little strange at first, but with some practice, it’s not hard to figure out the Aldi cart system.