Unique Features That Separate Aldi From Other Grocery Stores

Aldi began in Germany in the 1960s. Even then, it wasn't like other grocery stores because it was specifically designed to help shoppers spend less money on their groceries. Since its debut, Aldi has continued its original mission by sticking with efficient practices that lower costs and finding new ways to bring savings to shoppers, which brings shoppers back to Aldi stores. And although saving money is number one at Aldi, the brand must strive to balance lower costs with high-quality products.

These practices keep Aldi very budget-friendly, and they're also the very practices that make shopping at Aldi a one-of-a-kind experience. Shoppers who frequent Aldi know that it differs from other grocery stores, but those differences are probably the best reasons to shop there. If you haven't yet been to Aldi and can't seem to understand why there's so much positive chatter around the brand, then stick around for this guide, which explains the reasons why Aldi is unique.

Aldi really stands behind its products

Need to return an item that you're not fully satisfied with? Aldi's Twice as Nice Guarantee is one of its most popular features, allowing shoppers to return items to the store for a full refund and replacement. Just remember to bring your receipt with you, otherwise you'll be eligible for a store credit gift card rather than a refund to your original payment method.

There are a few items this guarantee won't work on, including brand-name items and alcohol. You also can't use the perk on non-food Aldi Finds items, which are usually located in a marked aisle in Aldi stores.

Although the Twice as Nice Guarantee can usually be used easily, it seems that Aldi shoppers find some variance among their stores. In a Reddit thread, some Aldi fans say they've had problems returning produce, for example, or don't receive the guarantee unless they specifically ask for it. If it's your first time shopping at your local Aldi, we suggest asking a team member about the guarantee and how they handle it, just so you're prepared if you need to use it.

There's one aisle almost every Aldi shopper gets excited about

In each Aldi store, you'll find an aisle or small section marked "Aldi Finds." Aldi Finds aisles are filled with items that either rotate seasonally or every week. Here, you can find everything from pumpkin-scented candles to car accessories to furniture for your back patio, which you're not likely to spot in traditional grocery stores. Most items here don't last long, so Aldi enthusiasts know that they need to snatch them up quickly. Many Aldi finds are stocked on Wednesday, but Aldi advertises them the week before so shoppers know exactly what to look for when they visit.

The Aldi Finds aisles have given Aldi fans something to get excited about as they look forward to what each new week will bring to their store. As a result, the Aldi Finds aisle has humorously been dubbed the "Aisle of Shame" by Aldi fans because it's grown such a massive following over the years. In fact, as of this writing, the Aldi Aisle of Shame Community Facebook Group has more than 1.6 million Aldi fans who love hunting for deals in their local Aisle of Shame.

Real customers can test Aldi products before they hit the shelves

Several grocery stores allow you to test product samples in-store while you shop to help you decide whether you'd like to add them to your cart. But not many give you the chance to test potential products before they're even available in the store. However, Aldi puts some of its testing right into the hands of real customers to gather their opinions before launching a new product.

In addition to having an intricate testing process within its own test kitchens, Aldi fans around the world have opportunities to test products before they find their way onto Aldi's shelves. For instance, U.K.-based Aldi shoppers can participate in a beauty-focused testing club to try Aldi's Lacura brand of makeup, skincare, and hair care products. Some participants in the Aldi Testers Club have reported receiving 10 household and food items to rate and review.

Aldi workers really hustle

Once you spend some time in an Aldi store, you might start to notice that Aldi employees aren't quite the same as employees you see at other supermarkets. First, there aren't as many of them to go around. Depending on the size of the Aldi store, there may be only three or four employees on any given shift. Because of the lack of helping hands, those employees take on multiple roles, including stockers, cashiers, and cleaners.

For this reason, Aldi employees are pretty much always busy. Aldi employees are some of the most efficient workers in the industry, which aligns with Aldi's mission to make its stores efficient, affordable, and convenient for customers. By reducing the number of employees needed, it lowers costs for Aldi, which lowers costs for you. Plus, employees are timed per transaction, according to Redditors.

Therefore, when you're ready to check out, don't expect things to go slow. You'll quickly see that your cashier expects you to be swift when lining up your items on the conveyor belt and using your card to pay. This way, they can help more customers in a shorter amount of time and get back to their other tasks. It might take a few visits to get the hang of speedy Aldi checkouts, but you'll grow to appreciate it. 

You have to bag your own stuff

Another part of the Aldi checkout process that you may not see coming is cashiers do not bag your items for you like they do in other grocery stores. Instead, your cashier will place your scanned items back into a cart sitting by their cash register, allowing them to move quickly through your items to complete your checkout. Bagging, of course, slows down that process, essentially making Aldi employees less efficient. Therefore, the bagging is up to you.

If you didn't bring any bags with you, don't worry; Aldi always keeps a stash of them at the register, but you'll need to buy them. Aldi stocks paper bags, reusable bags, and thermal bags, each with a different price tag. The good news is that you've only got to buy bags once; you can keep bringing the same bags back to Aldi for future shopping trips.

Aldi stores have convenient bagging counters to help customers bag their stuff before going back to their vehicles. But some people have concocted new hacks to make the bagging process easier, like using stay-open grocery bags placed in the cart so the cashier loads scanned items directly into them. One Redditor also keeps laundry baskets in their vehicle's trunk to load items into for easy carrying into their house.

Don't have bags? Grab a box instead

If you've gotten started on your Aldi shopping trip only to realize halfway through that you forgot your reusable bags, you're not alone. We've been there, too, and we don't always want to cut into our budget to buy more bags at checkout. Instead, we use what's readily available to us: Aldi boxes.

One highly unique feature of Aldi is that its workers place items on shelves in their original boxes. Crackers, pastries, drinks, bacon, and most other items that ship to Aldi stores in boxes stay in their boxes rather than getting stocked directly on shelves. Why? It's another way to improve the efficiency of Aldi stores. Employees don't have to spend more time removing items from boxes and placing them on shelves. Instead, they put the whole box of items on a shelf and only need to worry about breaking down boxes once they're empty.

Often, Aldi shoppers make that process even easier by grabbing empty boxes off the shelves to store their groceries in. However, one Aldi employee mentions on Reddit that while it's acceptable to do this, you should remember to take your items out of their boxes before you place them on the conveyor belt to avoid interfering with checkout speed. You can always re-box them later at the bagging area.

Need a cart? That'll be 25 cents

Imagine that you're ready to go on your first shopping trip at Aldi. You leave your car and stroll to Aldi's entrance to grab a cart, only to realize they're locked together. Time to head back to the car to grab a quarter, because that's what you need to unlock a cart.

What gives? Though this might seem like an unusual practice to those unfamiliar with Aldi, there's actually an excellent reason for the required payment. When you return a cart, you get your quarter back. So, by locking the carts together and requiring a quarter to unlock one, the person paying the quarter is more likely to bring their cart back when they're done. Instead of venturing into the parking lot to bring back carts multiple times a day, employees can focus on their necessary in-store tasks instead.

Frequent Aldi shoppers know all about cart etiquette, too. For example, it's okay to catch someone who's bringing their cart back and ask to have the cart as long as you can hand over a quarter to the person. After all, it saves you both time by skipping the locking and unlocking process. However, as this Redditor explains, don't expect someone to hand over the cart they paid for without offering a quarter in return. Yes, it's just a quarter, but quarters are gold in the eyes of Aldi customers.

Not bringing a cart to checkout might be frowned upon

If you only have a few items to pick up at Aldi, you might think it makes sense to just bring a bag for your items or hold them through the store until you're ready to check out. The problem with that is that Aldi counts on each customer having a cart at checkout. Cashiers keep a cart at the end of the checkout aisle so they can swiftly place each item into the cart as they scan it. This helps keep things moving when a customer might still be unloading items onto the checkout belt. Once the customer pays, they take the cart that everything was just loaded into and move their cart over to the end for the next customer.

Therefore, when you show up to the checkout with no cart, you leave the checkout aisle cartless for the customer behind you. When this happens, the cashier needs to grab another cart. The good news is that many Aldi stores in the U.S. are now adding self-checkout lanes, allowing customers with a few items to shop how they want without worrying about carts.

Coupons are not allowed

Most grocery stores not only have their own sales that rotate weekly, but they also let customers save money by bringing in manufacturer coupons clipped from mailings or printed from their favorite coupon-clipping websites. We can't say the same about Aldi, unfortunately.

That's right – Aldi doesn't accept coupons of any kind, including manufacturer coupons geared toward some of the name-brand products it sells. According to Aldi, most of the products in its stores are Aldi-exclusive brands, and no manufacturer coupons are available for them. As for the name-brand items, according to Aldi reps, "We always negotiate the best possible prices with our suppliers, and because of this, we are unable to accept manufacturer's coupons." They added that Aldi's no-coupons policy is better for customers, too, saving them from the time drain of clipping coupons to reduce their costs when Aldi already provides fair pricing. It's just another way that Aldi leans into its mission of smart, convenient, and affordable shopping.

Don't expect an early-morning or late-night shopping trip

Many grocery stores open early in the morning and stay open until a lot of people have already gone to bed for the night. Some even stay open for 24 hours to ensure that everyone can get their shopping done when it's convenient for them. Aldi isn't quite as lenient with its hours, with many stores opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m. Although this is still a good chunk of time for shoppers to visit their local Aldi, it's not quite as welcoming as the hours offered by some of its competitors.

As you might guess, the shortened hours are just another way to improve the overall efficiency of Aldi and cut costs. The majority of Aldi customers shop during the day before the 8 p.m. cutoff, so staying open past 8 p.m. isn't cost-efficient for the store. However, some Aldi stores open a bit earlier at 8:30 a.m., if their customers' shopping trends warrant the extra half an hour.

Aldi stores have mostly private-label items

Aldi definitely isn't your typical grocery store in regard to the types of products it carries. While you can go through each aisle and find the occasional brand-name product, like Dawn dish soap or Oreo cookies, these items don't necessarily stay stocked all the time the same way they would in a traditional grocery store. Instead, what you'll find is products very similar to name-brand items that are sold under various brands like Simply Nature, Heart to Tail, and Nature's Nectar.

These off-brands are Aldi's private labels, of which there are dozens. For example, Parkview sells hot dogs and sausages, rivaling well-known products like Johnsonville sausages and hot dogs. And then there's the beloved Kirkwood frozen chicken products. According to Aldi, its private-label items make up about 90% of what its stores sell, and its representatives say it tries to "guarantee the quality is as good as or better than name brands." Aldi even leads competitors in the private-label market share, beating out favorites like Trader Joe's, Wegmans, Costco, and Sam's Club (via Supermarket News).

You can't reach your local store by phone

Are you trying to call your local Aldi store with a question, concern, complaint, or praise? You can find a number to call when you use the Aldi website or search for your local store online, but the number won't be specifically for your store. In fact, if you look up the numbers for other Aldi stores around your area, you'll notice that the same number is listed for them, too. That number will take you to a recorded line that explains that individual Aldi stores have unlisted numbers. As you might have already figured out, the company's reasoning for not listing store numbers is so that employees don't have to answer phone calls and can, instead, focus on their many other tasks.

The good news is that Aldi's website is extremely helpful in answering a lot of frequently asked questions. Its email form is also helpful if you have specific feedback you'd like to give about a specific store, as it provides space to input the store's information, your detailed comments, and uploaded photos, if necessary.