What is the Aisle of Shame?

Aisle of Shame

A famed meme about a famed place.

Sometime back in early 2019, I started noticing Aldi shoppers on Facebook using the expression “aisle of shame” when they talked about shopping at Aldi. My wife noticed it, too, and she has even used the expression from time to time.

It’s become common enough that I decided to look into the phrase. What is the aisle of shame, exactly? What does it mean? And where did the phrase come from?

What is the Aisle of Shame?

In strictly Aldi terms, the expression “aisle of shame” — sometimes abbreviated AOS — refers to Aldi’s middle aisle where the store’s rotating stock of Aldi Finds or Special Buys are kept. Many of these products are non-food items, and some can be quite a strange sight for a grocery store, like lawn mowers or tents. The “shame” seems to revolve around the joke that people go to Aldi intending to get bread and milk, but they end up shamefully drifting into the middle aisle and purchasing things they may not need, from teal cabinets to pressure cookers.

Aldi, it should be noted, didn’t create the expression and doesn’t use it.

The Origin of the Phrase

When it comes to expressions, some origins can be easier to figure out than others. We have a decent idea of where the expression “silver lining” probably came from, for example, but the origin of the word “OK” is a lot harder to figure out. I don’t expect anyone to do a serious etymological study of “aisle of shame” anytime soon, but I did try to dig a little bit to see where it might have gotten its start.

A while back, I floated a question out to various Aldi groups on Facebook and Reddit: Where did you first hear the phrase?

The majority of people said they’d first heard it on one of the Aldi-related Facebook groups, while a few people admitted they hadn’t heard of it at all. Almost no one I heard from was able to pinpoint hearing about it from anywhere other than Facebook, and almost everyone said they’d first heard it starting around 2017 to 2018.

I knew the expression had to go back farther for that, so I did more digging.

Now, there are other uses of the expression “___________ of shame” that appear to be older than the specific phrase “aisle of shame.” The most common one I found was the expression “walk of shame,” which goes back to at least the 1990s, if not further. That expression can have one of a few different meanings, including some with PG-13 undertones that I’m not going to get into here. To what extent “walk of shame” is the predecessor to “aisle of shame,” I couldn’t say for certain.

The earliest I can find a reference to the specific phrase “aisle of shame” are in Google posts made in the mid-to-late 2000s. There are just a handful, and none of them refer to Aldi. Instead, the term was used during that time to refer to, among other things, the fantasy section of a bookstore, lines of food in a reality weight loss TV show, the aisle in Walgreens that stocks the most embarrassing products, and the long walk to one’s seat after being a late boarder on an airplane. The people who used the phrase came from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, so it seems to be an expression used in more than one part of the English-speaking world. At some point it came to be applied to Aldi, but it was not original to it.

I also noticed that a pair of “aisle of ___________” phrases appears in searches specific to Aldi in the United Kingdom, both of them more vulgar than aisle of shame. The earliest I can date these terms is 2016, and the usage seems a lot more common in the last year than the years before. Americans don’t seem to use these terms as much as the British do, maybe because Americans tend to be a bit cleaner online than their fellow shoppers across the pond.

What Do People Think of the Expression?

When I first asked about the phrase on Facebook and Reddit, I realized that Aldi shoppers could be pretty polarized about what they thought of it. Some shoppers indicated that they thought aisle of shame was downright hilarious, while others hated it, preferring alternatives like “treasure aisle,” “aisle of style,” or “happy aisle.” The sticking point appeared to be the word “shame,” which implied that people who went into the Aldi middle aisle were doing something wrong or embarrassing, and not everyone liked that.

Aldi, for its part, doesn’t use the expression. It doesn’t officially have its own term, although in at least one press release its PR firm once used the term “aisle of fun.”

Nevertheless, it’s become a common expression in Aldi fandom circles, and it looks to be around for a while.

At least, until some other expression comes along and replaces it.

About Joshua

Joshua is the Co-founder of Aldi Reviewer. He is also a writer and novelist. You can learn more about him at joshuaajohnston.com.


  1. No way. I’ve been shopping at Aldi, faithfully, for at least 10 years. I’ve only EVER heard it called the fun aisle. I live in the midwest. We gotta do what we can to make ‘The Fun Aisle’ be the go-to term.

  2. Yep, got sucked into buying a dog bed in this aisle. I paid $50 for it. I don’t know why I didn’t box it up right away & take it back, because the stench of it was so bad, but I figured I’d put it outside & air it out. It’s been outside since Sunday & it’s now Wednesday. I went outside today & I can still smell it …outside. I’m thinking it’s very unhealthy for my pet.

  3. Yes, my daughter saw it on a Facebook group and told me and we had a good laugh about it so we are those people that think it is funny. We text each other when in the store about our finds.

  4. We call it the Vegas Aisle … sometimes you win but more often you lose. Of the dozen or so items I’ve bought there in the past year, most have been returned (silicon storage pouch with the weird closure, insulated coffee mug could not get the lid off without spilling everything, scratchy sheets, compost bucket with charcoal filter that immediately fell into the compost, and microfiber furniture cover that perfectly traps dog fur and does not wash clean). Oh well, we’ll keep trying the Vegas Aisle.

  5. My favorite is “Fantasy Aisle”! Regardless of what you call it, I love it.

  6. I have been shopping in Aldi for years, but never found anything to be shameful, in that store. What ever I buy is always very good and fresh. I have not found anything that was unsatisfied.

  7. Love the “aisle of Shame”. Most of the items I purchased from that “aisle” were of good quality. The few that were not I took back. The ones I kept were still useful for the price I paid. Also, thanks Aldi for getting motorize shopping carts.

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