My in-laws have been swearing for years by Aldi, the grocery store known for rock-bottom prices and what corporate calls “private label brands.” Even with the ringing endorsement of grandma and grandpa, every time we went over the river and through the woods for a visit, we would blow right by their local Aldi outpost, one of over 2,000 in the United States.
Aldi apparently took notice of this snub and vowed not to be ignored. They’ve plunked themselves down in our area, just celebrating the Grand Opening of a 12,000 square-foot store at 321 Speen St., in Natick, at Cloverleaf Mall just off Rte. 9. Expect the usual grocery store items: meats and chicken (organic options available), fresh produce, gourmet cheeses, sustainable seafood, gluten-free products, bakery items, and more. The difference is what an employee explained to me as their private-label focus. “It keeps prices low. It’s a cost-saving measure. Shoppers can get top quality and not have to pay the extra for the name brand,” he said.
Aldi is so convinced that they can lure shoppers away from the big names that they’ve got what they call a “twice as nice” guarantee (there’s that corporate-speak creeping in again). That means if you don’t like their private-label brand for any reason, they’ll refund you the purchase price and replace the product.
Here are a few pro tips for those visiting for the first time:
Bring a quarter to access a shopping cart
Don’t worry, you’ll get your quarter back. What’s going on here is a cart rental program. All the carts are chained together. When you insert your quarter into the doo-hickey on the cart handle, your cart will be released for your shopping pleasure. When you bring the cart back, your quarter will be returned.
Aldi says this saves customers money because the store doesn’t have to hire extra staff to collect grocery carts.
Manage your expectations
As the store employee told me, “It’s a very simplistic shopping experience.”
What that means is instead of coming in for organic habanero ketchup, just look for “ketchup.” The ice cream doesn’t get an entire aisle all to itself, with dozens of brands and flavors. It must be content with a single freezer unit, about twice the size of the average home refrigerator. If you really, really like select-a-size paper towels of a certain ply and pattern, just know that Aldi has already made those choices for you, and it really is fine.
They do have Gatorade, though. That happens to be important in my house.
Bring your own bags
Many of us do so already, but just know that if you happen to forget your bags, Aldi has got you. But you’ll have to pay a nominal charge for each bag. They say it’s just one more way they keep down expenses and the sustainability of the bring-your-own-bags practice fits in with their mission.
Also, there are no membership programs and no rewards cards, but they do put items on sale.
The cashiers aren’t lazy—they’re optimized
All Aldi cashiers sit in upholstered seating while they work at the register because according to the top brass at Aldi, studies have shown that they can work faster that way. They’re not strapped in or anything. There are no rules that employees may not get up and, say, stretch during a slow moment. Aldi says they reject the idea that cashiers look lazy when they are sitting, and that the practice is ergonomically healthier for employees.
So there you have it, Natick’s newest grocery store has entered the market. Welcome, Aldi, and we wish you well.