Don’t mess with Aldi customers

I hereby renounce the sin of being critical of Aldi, and pledge myself to shop there from now until the end of time.

SHARE Don’t mess with Aldi customers
The Aldi supermarket on Willow Road in Glenview.

The Aldi supermarket on Willow Road in Glenview. On my first visit, I was slow to grasp the superlative wonderfulness of Aldi. Its devoted customers set me straight.

Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

On my second visit to Aldi, I paused in the parking lot to admire its lovely logo: twin trios of stylized wavy blue lines, representing the rivers of life and happiness, perhaps.

My quarter was already in hand. I slid it into a slot and a cart was released. An ingenious system that frees Aldi from having to hire someone to wrangle carts — maybe so they can go to college, study to be a doctor, cure cancer.

Where to begin? Romaine hearts, $2.69 — I’d bought the exact same trio of lettuce for $4.99 at Sunset several days before and they’d already started to rot. A bag of white cheddar popcorn, $2.19, almost half what I usually pay. But equally delicious.

Opinion bug

Opinion

Words cannot convey the magic of Aldi. The products. The bargains. My fellow shoppers, spanning the ages of humanity, from the pair of energetic little boys racing around, to the elderly lady being guided by her attentive grandson. They were all so ... beautiful.

OK, a bit of background, so you don’t think I’ve gone mad. I have a personal blog, everygoddamnday.com. On days when this column doesn’t run, I cook up something else, often conveying moments of staggering banality, of the “Neil discovers ordinary life” variety. A week ago I went to the discount supermarket Aldi, where I’d never been before, accompanying my wife.

Granted, I wasn’t in the best mood. My report, “Wrangle carts, earn quarters” was, shall we say .... ungenerous. The passage that got me in trouble, I believe, was:

Aldi was new and kinda empty, not enough products filling the void and what they had were off-brands that I’d never heard of. Millville? I’d have left immediately, but my wife declared the prices low, and wanted to walk every aisle, exploring.

Have you no pride? I muttered, immediately realizing that I have enough for the both of us.

In my view, that last clause is redemptive. Arrogant but aware. A nuance lost in the free-fire zone of Reddit.

“The Reddit post I made about this has 305,000 views, 250+ comments, and counting,” read one of the hundreds of comments on my blog post. “If you want to check it out!”

I did not.

“I hope you know this blog has been posted on Reddit. Lol everyone hates you.”

Golly.

“The most entitled post i have ever seen. Go check the reddit comments buddy.”

Again, no. My social media strategy is, “keep the poison out.” Enough vituperation finds you, unbidden. Don’t go looking for it.

“Hello fresh!” I exclaimed, to no one in particular, trying to get in the spirit of the place on my second visit to Aldi. It worked.

“Hello fresh!” I exclaimed, to no one in particular, trying to get in the spirit of the place on my second visit to Aldi. It worked.

Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Still, 25,000 hits on my post. Not bad for a Tuesday. Something obviously is going on here.

I approached the Aldi folks. And this is the amazing part; truly, the reason I’m writing this. If you recall, I spent months in vain trying to get Smucker’s to explain why their natural peanut butter is so delicious. I sent several questions to Aldi’s, and they responded. The next day.

Q: Have you noticed a certain fierce dedication among your customers?

A: Yes, we have a strong, growing base of ALDI shoppers. In 2022, ALDI opened and remodeled 139 stores and welcomed approximately 9.4 million new customers. ALDI is on track to continue that momentum this year, having welcomed 5M+ new customers in 2023 already. ALDI shoppers’ loyalty and passion is unmatched, and our fan community is a huge part of what sets us apart from other stores.

Q: To what do you attribute it?

A: Our innovative business model challenges the traditional grocery industry and allows us to adapt to consumer needs quickly. This is great for our shoppers because we get the new products they want to shelves faster than competitors.

There’s more, but you get the idea. A responsive company. I’m tempted to note that the $3.99 bag of “Midnight Blend” coffee is nowhere near the bold flavor of a $13.99 bag of Peet’s “Major Dickason’s Blend” coffee from Sunset.

“It tastes like coffee,” was the most charitable thing I could say. But I’m reluctant to make any critical remarks about my new favorite supermarket, lest Aldi’s legions come after me again.

I returned my cart, leaving the quarter there, a little gift to the next customer. As I’m told Aldi fans sometimes do, their way of contributing to the communal happiness and joyful discount shopping that characterizes the Aldi experience. My previous folly is renounced; I love Aldi.

The Latest
McClain, a longtime confidant of Madigan, is set to go on trial with him Oct. 8 on racketeering, bribery, fraud and attempted extortion charges, but his lawyers argue that Madigan’s apparent defense strategy involved blaming McClain.
The fundraiser will be at the home of a family friend on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The campaign has at least 10 other fundraising events over the last 10 days of July.