Not sure if you’re familiar with Aldi.
I wasn’t, really, until we moved here and Aldi followed shortly after.
There had been one in my college town, but I’d only been there once.
Anyways… I have not had the best experience with this little store. I heard excellent reviews about their prices and some of their quality. And while they’ve got their own brands and some of their meat looks questionable (so I’ve heard) I really wanted to check it out. Thought it would be good for our budget.
Back when Aldi first moved in next to our nearest Walmart, I decided to take it for a test run.
Picture this: I spend probably 20 or 30 minute browsing the aisles in Aldi, stuffed with boxes and crates of goods, vegetables, fruits, frozen foods and cheese. I walk up to the front with a rather large armful of stuff and my horrible experience begins.
First of all, they don’t use bags. I didn’t know that. I didn’t have a bag.
Secondly, you’re not paying for customer service. While the woman was nice enough, she was also flinging my stuff as quickly across that scanner as her arms could fling and before I knew it I was being asked how I wanted to pay. Of course, I whip out my trusty bank card, scan it, and look for the credit option… to no avail. The woman looks at me impatiently and says, “I’m sorry ma’am. We only take cash or debit.”
I blink. I blink twice. And suddenly I’m transported back to Asia staring at the woman in the market yelling something in Chinese to me and I don’t have a clue what is happening.
Deep breath. I can do this. It’s a debit card. Debit cards need a… a what? An I.D. A pin. A secret code that allows you exclusive access to the funds inside… and the groceries laying scattered in the bottom of the cart.
You see, at the time, we had just moved back to America and I was really not too familiar with my debit card. We had been apart for a year and we were just getting reacquainted… in other words, I didn’t have a clue what my pin was. But that’s ok. It works as credit everywhere, right?
To my horror, it slowly dawned on me that I didn’t know my pin. I had NO CLUE what my pin was. I hadn’t used my pin in over a year. And now this woman was getting impatient. I must have turned a million shades of red when I sheepishly confessed that I didn’t have cash and I didn’t know my pin. Therefore, I could not purchase this cart-full of groceries. And I had to leave. With nothing but my bruised pride and my useless debit card.
I didn’t return to Aldi for a year. I didn’t care that they had the cheapest mangos and the best prices on eggs. I was too mortified.
Finally, a couple months ago I decided to try it again so I could get eggs for Easter. This time I was prepared with my pin number. (still forgot the bag) But when I got there with my two-year old in tow, a new horror revealed itself.
The cart system.
All the carts are locked together. You put a quarter in the little slot on the cart and it unlocks from the cart next to it. That means it costs you a quarter to leave a cart in the parking lot. The Aldi cart system is not new to me. In Taiwan, every grocery store had this system. The difference there was I always had cash & change on me. Always.
You guessed it. I spent ten minutes digging through my purse, going through every compartment and crevice in my car, even turning P’s carseat inside out. And you know, we didn’t have a quarter ANYwhere.
As if I wasn’t already stressed enough to go into Aldi, now I had to go into Aldi with a two-year old and no cart.
Her attention lasted all of about thirty seconds.
We made it down the long first aisle, the sort of initiation aisle or barrier from the rest of the store, and at the end I piled four cartons of eggs on my arms, since I didn’t have a cart. We moved slowly, but we were making it. I thought maybe she’d help me carry the avocados and mangos, instead she thought it was fun to throw them on the floor, run down the aisle, and pull boxes off the shelves. Finally, I got her corralled, balanced a few more items in my arms, and we made it all the way to the front of the store.
Where she escaped.
I sighed, rolled my eyes, and sat everything down on a mountain of boxed macaroni and began after her. Then I walked a little faster. And a little faster. Suddenly my mom radar began going off. I couldn’t find her! Among all the tables of vegetables and huge shipping boxes of cans and jars, my little girl was no where to be seen.
I broke into a run. Past the boxes she had pulled down, past the mangos and the avocados, past the eggs until I stood at the end of the long first aisle. And there, thirty feet away, stood my little girl. Two feet from the automatic door that opened out into the parking lot. She looked at me and giggled as I shouted her name, surely loud enough for the rest of the store to hear.
Thankfully a woman with a cart was looking quite concerned and was also blocking the exit, so she ducked under a bar and headed back into the store. I caught her at the checkout counters. Spanked her as hard as I could (in public). Returned to where I’d left my stuff and tried to pick it all up with one arm. I was not putting this child down again.
So, you can imagine how I trembled this morning when I walked through the doors into Aldi. The long first aisle looming narrowly in my vision like an old horror movie, while somewhere I heard a voice screaming my child’s name. And I swear the woman at the checkout was the same one who had shamed me into walking away without my groceries on that fateful day so long ago.
But actually, we had an incredibly successful visit to Aldi. It was 99 cent strawberry day. They were well-stocked with mangos and cucumbers and blueberries! I remembered my pin. My daughter didn’t escape. And as we clipped the cart lock back into it’s slot, I slipped the quarter into my pocket and gave it a satisfying pat.
Sometimes accomplishing the most basic of tasks feels like a huge accomplishment.