Many months ago I saw these Temkin Customer Service Ratings that included the top and bottom rated companies. I noted that USAA is at the top (as it should be) and Comcast and Cox cables services were at the bottom. This is exactly how we feel about these companies, so it wasn't a surprise. My wife feels the same way, so I sent an email to her with the article.
Her email back to me was a surprise, "Number 15 is Aldi Grocery. It is opening up near us. I saw the sign when I drove by this AM."
As far as grocery stores go, I'm pretty much all set. I've got the military commissary and a Wal-Mart near by. I've got a BJ's Warehouse near me for bulk purchases. (It's a competitor to Costco in New England.) In fact, I grocery shop at 5 different stores.
I have no need for another grocery store, until I walked into Aldi... It's very different from any grocery store I've ever seen. I wasn't the only confused person, everyone was trying to figure it out.
To start with, I couldn't get a grocery cart. Simply couldn't figure out how to pull them apart. It seemed like they were all stuck together. However, these were brand new and they don't typically stick like the old banged up carts. Someone walking in gave me a clue... I had to put a quarter into a slot do dislodge a chain that locks everything together. I could have read about this from the sign above, but who is looking to read signs when you get a grocery cart? It's like looking for a sign when you approach an elevator, you just expect it to work as every other elevator does.
The sign explained why the carts worked differently. When you return the cart and hook it back up it dislodges the quarter so you get it back. The idea is that you put a deposit on the cart and that deposit ensures that the cart is put back in its proper place. This saves them from having to hire people to gather carts and bring them back. It also ensures that carts are usually brought back to a nice covered area that helps prolong their life. The store saves money and passes savings on to customers.
Another difference that I found at Aldi is that there are limited brand names. For some that might be a bad thing. For bargain hunters like myself, it is a great thing. I found that the products are even cheaper than Wal-Mart's "Great Value" brand. I've found many are even cheaper than I can get at the military commissary. The commissary typically gives me brand names, but I'm generic brand kind of guy when it save me money. The milk, $1.99, and eggs, $1.29, are values that are hard to find elsewhere. (A few months later Aldi had to raise prices on these to $2.49 and $1.69, but that is still a good value.) They have their own value energy drink brand at a buck for 16 ounces. It tastes just like Monster. I've bought a 10-pound bag of potatoes for $2 and a pound of baby carrots for $0.69 cents. These are just a few of the values that I found. It's just scratching the surface of the values Aldi offers.
Beyond the values, they keep the products limited. You aren't going to find a whole cereal aisle with every option known to man. You can zip in and grab a few items and get out very quickly. There's no hemming and hawing about the best price... as I'm typically guilty of. The aisles are wide. Perhaps because the secret hasn't caught on, there aren't many people. I tend to shop in off-hours. When I do, they seem to have one employee, a check out person.
Finally, when checking out things are, again, a little different. You have to bring your own bags, or buy reusable bags from them... there's no in-between. I appreciate this from an environmental perspective. In fact, Aldi doesn't employ baggers. The cashier puts the groceries in your cart and you take it to the bagging area and do it yourself.
Don't try to use a credit card at Aldi. They'll take your debit card, but it seems like they don't want to pay those fees to credit card merchants saving them another few percent. It means I don't get to stack up rewards, which is a shame, but when the total bill is so much cheaper, I don't mind about the 3% too much.
Aldi is doing everything it can to keep prices low. I appreciate how they are thinking out of the box. It gives me a great resource to jump in and grab a few items and get out of there... at an exceptional price. I've never had to deal with their customer service, but it seems like Temkin's research is reflective of the value of the business as a whole.
If you get a chance, I highly suggest you give Aldi a chance. I think you'll like it.
(I realize that some may think I was paid by Aldi to write this. I wish. Safeway has invited me to review them before, but this is just me sharing a what I feel is a great value with readers.)
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