When I was a teenager my parents took our family to a local horse racetrack. We came to watch, surrounded by fans who came to win money off of predicting the right winner. During one of the late races, a jockey led a horse named Sir Josh-A-Lot out toward the gates. Sir Josh-A-Lot was a 13-1 underdog. My parents, who had placed no bets that day, nevertheless asked if I wanted to place a bet on a horse that shared my name. I thought about it and said no.
You can probably guess what happened next. Yes, that 13-1 underdog won the race. We didn’t fret much about the lost opportunity, though. We had a great time that day.
Truth is, I’ve never been much of a gambler. I’ve only once played the lottery (as part of a pool when the Powerball went over $1 billion) and I’ve never dropped a dime in a casino. It’s just not my thing. I’m not skilled enough to win at poker, and I don’t have much interest in putting my money in luck-based slot machines or betting on sports events I have no control over.
For a long time I never quite understood gambling. However, a few years back I read an article on Powerball play that opened my eyes. A mathematician in the interview recounted how remote the odds were of winning. (Hint: you’re more likely to be struck by lightning while drowning than win the Powerball jackpot.) However, the mathematician also said that he played Powerball himself. Why?
Because he found it fun.
The truth is, some people have a gambling addiction, perhaps hoping they’ll one day strike it rich. Most gamblers, though, play for the fun of it, or what economists call consumption value. There’s entertainment in buying the ticket, then sitting in front of the screen waiting to see what numbers will drop. It’s the anticipation and the drama that’s fun, just like the anticipation of Christmas is sometimes more fun than Christmas Day itself.
I’ve thought about that this fall as I’ve kept watch over the Aldi weekly ads. Over the last year, some of Aldi’s limited-stock Aldi Finds have been increasingly hard to find. Some of that has to do with Aldi’s growing superfan numbers. In 2020 the Aldi Find shortage also has had to do with the pandemic, which has created a huge demand for certain items.
A lot of the pandemic demand has been practical: with kids stuck at home during the summer, for example, pools and water toys were big business. Keeping family entertained was important. But as the fall has set in, some of the shortages haven’t been over products that necessarily provide instant entertainment. Around the time of this post, for example, there was a sudden frenzy toward more unexpected items.
Why would Halloween candles be so scarce? For most people, the reason isn’t practical. Instead, it’s about the fun of it. And not just the fun of owning the candles and smelling them and having them look cute on the kitchen counter: it’s about the fun of finding them, too. When everybody’s talking about something, but only a few can find it, there’s a sense of accomplishment.
Entertainment has been harder to come by in 2020. Few movie theaters are open, and few new movies have hit those theaters. In many major cities, restaurants are either restricted or closed. Major gatherings like festivals, fairs, and concerts have been cancelled. Vacations and trips aren’t nearly as easy to do. For many of us, finding entertainment has required a little more creativity. You can only watch so much Netflix, after all.
There’s always been some fun in Aldi Finds, starting with opening each weekly ad to see what Aldi is planning next. There’s also some fun in scouring the middle aisle with all its wonders. Now more than ever, though, the hunt has become as much a part of the experience as the product itself, including the satisfaction of scoring that hard-to-find product.
And while it’s also cool to take pictures of your Aldi Finds and post them to Instagram, there’s also the thrill of the hunt that helped you get the product in the first place.