Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Aldi

In the last several years, German grocery chain Aldi has become a power player in the competitive American grocery market. Customers love the store for its smaller layout and no-frills way of displaying merchandise with competitively low prices. Despite all the success Aldi has had in the grocery market, that doesn't necessarily mean its employees are over the moon about working for the store. Truth be told, many said the pay was the only good thing about the job.  

While some employees of course enjoy working for the company, quite a few absolutely hated the experience with many voicing similar complaints. The negative views varied from a difficult work/life balance to impossible performance expectations and a lack of gratitude. Still, Aldi continues to receive a ridiculously high amount of job applications for the few positions that become available. So, what's it really like to work there? Well, straight from the mouths of both current and former employees, here's the lowdown on landing a job with Aldi.  

It can be back-breaking work

If you think taking a job at Aldi is simply going to be checking out groceries and restocking a few shelves without so much as a bead of sweat on your brow, think again. The grocery store has a reputation among its employees for working them to the point of exhaustion. "It's not for everybody," Casey, an employee said in a YouTube video. "If you're not physically fit and if you're not willing to work fast... this job is not for you."

It's not so much that working a shift at Aldi is like a CrossFit workout involving groceries, but that the strenuous work takes its toll on the body. "I've often come back home with back injuries and arm and leg injuries," one employee said on Quora. Another employee went on to say that the company "works their employees to the bone" and that they felt the pay and 30 minute break didn't balance out with the physical demands. Hey, if you're looking for a workout that doesn't require a gym membership and gives you a paycheck, Aldi might be the place... if you can keep up.

Employees are timed on their speed

If the idea of working at a leisurely pace is something you look for in a job, Aldi isn't the place for you. In fact, it's probably a good idea to stock up on Red Bull or some highly-caffeinated coffee if you do take a job at Aldi because you'll need the energy to keep up with the speedy pace. One former employee told Daily Mail the company times its employees on how many items they can scan through checkout in an hour — with the expected target at about 1,000 items. Slackers need not apply and those who can't keep up are kicked to the curb.

"If you don't hit these targets, you are shown your actual speed and have a performance review meeting with managing staff. If this happens three times you can be let go," the ex-employee explained. 

And it's not just the scanning that gets timed. "You get timed doing pallets from the truck in the morning, it's usually a max of half hour a pallet and if you're the main cashier that morning you better be done by the time the store opens," one employee on Reddit said

Knowing your employee rights is crucial

It's important to know your employee rights with any job that you take, but it's especially important if that job involves a heavy element of physical labor. According to reviews on Indeed via Daily Mail, lower level employees are looked at as expendable and "you consistently have to know your rights and put your foot down in a confronting manner to get what you are entitled to in regards to breaks," though that seems to be an issue that varies from store to store. According to the US Fair Labor Standards Act, federal law doesn't actually require employers to provide rest breaks, and it's generally a state-by-state decision. It's probably wise to find out the laws regarding rest breaks in your state before taking the job, unless you don't mind working around the clock — at least according to these employees.

It's not just having to speak up when they want a break that some Aldi employees take issue with. One employee claimed on Quora that sexual harassment was silenced to prevent the store from having to fire its managers. Another former employee on Glassdoor said the company will let you go on a technicality if you complain of sexual harassment.

It should be noted that Aldi's website says sexual harassment and other forms of harassment "as defined by law" are prohibited within the company. Like we said, knowing your employee rights is pretty important. 

You'll learn to do almost every role

One of the ways that Aldi keeps their prices low is by keeping fewer staff in their stores compared to other grocery chains. Many stores only keep around 10 employees on staff and this of course means that those employees are often juggling multiple duties. One employee told Reddit that they had started as an associate before being promoted to shift manager and that "you have to become good at everything in the store." Sometimes you might be cleaning and other times you could be checking people out or unloading a pallet of product — all within the same shift!

"Aldi is all about get up and go," Linda Richie, an Aldi shift manager said in an Aldi YouTube video. "If you come in as an associate that doesn't mean that you're gonna come in and ring. You can come in on any given day and will be placing the grocery products on the shelf, placing our produce out, refilling the cooler, stocking the freezer, or helping the customers." 

One of Aldi's veteran employees, Eric Kaiser, has worked at the company for 20 years and though he's now a perishable receiver, has done countless jobs within the company. "I'm not even sure how many different jobs I could potentially do," Kaiser said in another Aldi video. "I've definitely learned to be very, very flexible, because there's not just one job to be done, there's dozens."

The pay isn't terrible

With long hours and multiple job duties, nobody can tell an Aldi employee that they don't earn their paycheck. While some employees may find that the job duties don't equate with their pay, other employees are happy with the money and feel that it's better than other jobs of similar work. One employee told Reddit that they were still happy with the job after 10 months and said they felt it was better than average pay and benefits.

"A $1,300 check every 2 weeks is pretty good for a job that requires no discernible skills," they said. "We also get many cool little perks, amazing healthcare, on the clock lunch breaks, dollar an hour bonus working on Sundays, paid holidays, etc. They definitely take care of you and reward you for your dedication." 

Aldi generally seems to pay its employees several dollars more than the required minimum wage and employees appreciate that aspect about the company. For example, in London, where the minimum wage is £7.20 an hour, Aldi pays its employees  £9.75 per hour. "The pay is great and your raise can be different amounts each year," an employee who had recently gotten a $2 raise told Reddit.

Even if Aldi employees are working their fingers to the bone, at least they're doing it for more than minimum wage.

Work/life balance can be difficult

Working at Aldi isn't just incredibly tiring because of the fast pace of the job or multiple job duties that store associates are assigned. The long hours can take a toll as well and numerous employees have said that achieving a good work/life balance with the grocery retailer can be tricky. "The company will push you until you injure yourself or quit from exhaustion," one employee who had been on the job more than a year posted on Glassdoor (via The Sun).

 Another former employee who worked at Aldi for a year and a half posted on Quora that the company doesn't respect employees on their days off and "Would call you all hours of the day for something that could have waited. And God forbid you don't answer the phone." Another employee complained management expected employees to adhere to a "business comes first" mentality over other responsibilities in their lives.

Not every employee, of course, feels that a good work/life balance can't be achieved with the job. Store associate Glenda McKeever said in an Aldi video that she likes the flexibility in her schedule that Aldi has offered. "I work mornings and I can spend the afternoons with my granddaughters." Of course, that statement was made in a video made and posted by Aldi, so you can probably take that comment with a grain of salt.

There's not much time for customer interaction

If you've ever been shopping at Aldi and noticed that the employees are so busy they hardly have a second to look up and say hello, there's a reason for that. Because the employees are trying to work within the time guidelines for certain tasks, there's generally not a lot of time for interaction with the customers. "Customers are hustled out like cattle, one employee posted on Quora, before adding "you don't have time to talk with them or make them smile."  

According to one now former Aldi employee, the sheer speed that cashiers are pushed to work at can even be off-putting to some customers. "I had to be fast and many customers were not happy about it," Andrei Ignatescu told Cambridge News. "Sometimes customers would swear at me because of how fast I was going." Ignatescu said that during his two years working for Aldi, eventually as a deputy manager, he brought up the issue with upper management but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

If you're the sort of person that hates small talk, you can certainly take comfort knowing the employees at Aldi won't be chatting you up.

Guilt trips by management might be a regular thing

Critical feedback is part of any job and generally isn't considered a bad thing. Aldi employee Casey stressed on YouTube that it's important to know how to accept criticism if you work for the company. "If you can't accept criticism, this job is not for you." Fair enough, but some employees have voiced their concerns that Adli managers aren't doling out constructive criticism, but threatening guilt trips instead.

One employee said on Quora that while their manager noted they had shown improvements, it was never enough. "Aldi can never say 'you did well today' it's always 'okay this was better but you have to do more or you will have to be held accountable for your efficiency,'" the employee said. A store manager on Glassdoor (via The Sun) voiced similar concerns and said that area managers could benefit from training in listening to workers, but instead followed a leadership culture that was more about "threats and pressure."

The opinion that Aldi's upper management is ungrateful of staff isn't limited to just a few newer employees. Another Glassdoor job review by one manager who had been with Aldi for over a decade said they were never given praise for a job well done and employees were "expected to work like robots."

There might be room to climb the job ladder

While Aldi does ask almost a superhuman amount out of its employees in terms of workload, they do at least seem to offer employees plenty of room to advance — or at least some of them. One employee told Reddit that in less than a year on the job they were promoted to shift manager and saw a significant pay  bump of "an extra 500 or so a month." That sort of money is nothing to scoff at, and according to the employee there is "huge potential for growth if you are dedicated."

On the flip-side, some Aldi employees on Glassdoor have complained that the company is reluctant to promote people past managing a single store. One shift manager who hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything session said that while they like the company, getting a shot at moving up isn't easy. "I've applied for the district manager position (which is the gatekeeper for any corporate job). I didn't even receive a generic pre-interview rejection letter. In my opinion, that's very distasteful and rude," he said. "Any company worth it's salt promotes internally and respects it's employees enough to contact them about their goals and ambitions. This isn't the case with Aldi from what I've experienced."

This isn't to say crossing over from the store to the office side of the business is impossible though. Aldi employee Brittany Sayles has been with the company 14 years and started as a cashier before working her way up to an inventory accountant position on the corporate side of the business. 

Having good coworkers makes all the difference

The old adage that a company is only as good as its employees rings especially true for a business like Aldi that is so dependent on a small number of people in each location. Multiple accounts from employees attest to the fact that having dedicated coworkers makes all the difference in the world when it comes to store efficiency and job satisfaction. 

One employee said that they had worked at two different Aldi stores and had contrasting experiences at each one. "There is not too much time to be socializing during store hours, but I became great friends with the entire store... However, when I transferred to a store in Massachusetts, I didn't have the same experience. The store wasn't run well and the management was poor so my time there was short and not enjoyable."

It's simply not the kind of job where a person can coast by without dragging everyone else down. If one person isn't pulling their weight, it's a guarantee other employees will notice. "We are a smaller group of people and we all have to do everything," store associate Glenda McKeever said in Aldi video.

Corporate doesn't agree with many employee claims

Alright, so we've heard from Aldi's store employees and store managers, about what it's like to work for the company. Is it just bitter employees lashing out and biting the hand that feeds them? Perhaps higher-ups at Aldi agree with employee concerns and admit that the work environment could feel a little less like a Roman slave ship?

As you might have imagined, that's not the case and Aldi doesn't especially agree with the negative opinions of some employees. A spokesperson for the grocery retailer in the UK pointed out that in a "recent independently-conducted employee survey, 85 percent of our employees rated Aldi as a great place to work, which is higher than the industry benchmark of 80 percent." A statement from Aldi Australia to Daily Mail defended claims of poor work/life balance by pointing out employee schedules are "planned well in advance so people can book holidays and other commitments around their work schedules."

While there certainly are some pretty nasty opinions from employees in regards to working for the company, Aldi still has a pretty solid job rating. According to the Glassdoor, Aldi has 3.3 stars out of five based on its 3,000+ reviews, as of April 2019. While 55 percent of employees might recommend working at Aldi to a friend, the other 45 percent... well, you know how they feel.