The Real Reason Aldi Cashiers Sit Behind The Register

When you approach the checkout line at Aldi, you might be surprised to see the cashier sitting on a stool behind the register rather than standing. This is not an attempt at taking a break while on the clock. Rather, it's a policy Aldi's management put in place: Employees are told to sit down while ringing you up. 

The reasoning behind this unusual tactic comes back to what seems to be one of Aldi's main objectives: productivity. Aldi focuses a lot of attention on efficient procedures within the store, including a cart rental system which eliminates the need for employees to round up carts in the parking lot, and placing multiple barcode stickers on items so they can be scanned from any direction (via Lauren Greutman). Call their obsession with efficiency overkill but, according to Business Insider, Aldi is on track to have over 2,500 stores open in the U.S. by 2022, making them the third-largest grocery store in America, only behind Walmart and Kroger.

Working at Aldi is intense

The truth of what it's like to work at Aldi has received a lot of attention online, but company reviews on sites like Indeed prove there are two sides to every coin. Several five-star reviews of the company cite the pay and benefits as major pros to working there, but just as many negative reviews mention unfair treatment in the form of being made to work past the end of your shift, and even the occasional injury on the job. 

Actually, a typical day working at Aldi sounds surprisingly similar to racing against the clock on the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course. Not only are responsibilities like unloading pallets and keeping the store clean physically demanding, but most tasks are also timed. Aldi fosters a long-held belief that great quality should come at a low price for its customers. The key to keeping prices low is keeping efficiency among their staff high.

Seated cashiers are better for Aldi's bottom line

So, what does sitting down behind the register have to do with efficiency? Turns out, employees can scan your items faster from a seated position. According to Mental Floss, employees' ringing speed at checkout is constantly tracked and measured; the results of these observations revealed seated cashiers equal speedier transactions. Employees are expected to ring up somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 items per hour and are given performance review reports at the end of their shift that shows their stats. 

A deep-dive into this Reddit thread reveals there is quite a bit of strategy to increasing your "ring speed." User dbrianmorgan is full of tips for his fellow Aldi employees that will shave seconds off their time, including occasionally leaving their seat behind the register to help customers that are slow to unload their groceries. He boasts there are days he has broken 1,600 items scanned per hour — far above the expected amount of 1,200.

Aldi cashiers know how to make the system work for them

As a customer, you might notice that Aldi cashiers have other tricks up their sleeve to make their ring speed even faster. An Aldi shift manager described their tricks on the same Reddit thread, saying, "There are a few factors that come into play when it comes to ring speed. I'd say the number one factor is the customer. It can be VERY stressful dealing with slow people, and your numbers can plummet... To avoid this, I don't start the transaction until they have almost all of their stuff on the belt. By doing this, yes they look at me funny, but by the time I'm done, they are still digging through their wallet for change. Usually it helps because it maximizes efficiency, and I'm not sat waiting for the next item to come down the belt."

Who knew so much goes on behind the scenes when we're just there to grab the latest Special Buy?

The real question might be, why don't other grocery cashiers sit?

While Aldi employees no doubt appreciate their privileged position as perhaps the only seated grocery cashiers in the U.S., many people wonder why checkout clerks in other stores don't get to sit down. In fact, even OSHA recommends checkstands with stools. Safeway spokesperson Craig Muckle told The Washington Post in 2007 that standing cashiers were a cultural thing, but also admitted that existing checkstands would need significant modifications to fit stools. Union spokesperson Jill Cashen also theorized that sitting might make grocery checkout duties more difficult, but stores such as Aldi that do allow seated cashiers find that sitting doesn't impede their work.

On an interesting side note, it would seem that California state law actually does allow for, or perhaps even require, that most cashiers be permitted to work from a seated position. According to a 2016 ruling, employers have to prove that the majority of an employee's tasks can't be performed while seated. In the absence of such proof, seats must be provided. As of a 2022 case involving Auto Zone, though, it seems as if some California employers not named Aldi are still out of compliance. Is this an issue that's ever going to be addressed, or will grocery stores (perhaps even including Aldi) move to more of a self-checkout-based model in order not to have to deal with seating arrangements? We can't say for sure, but we'll keep you posted on any new developments.