Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A quick trip back to Germany

I can't take credit for this picture, it was borrowed from Mid-Michigan Dining. Go there for a true American perspective on Aldi.

"Are you from Europe? You don't look like you're from here." That was a pleasing greeting from my friendly Aldi cashier today. Somehow it was nice to hear after being fully annoyed this morning doing my laundry and being stared at like an alien in Beaverton, having a gas truck driver pull out in front of me (hey, my car's already smashed up, so what does it matter?), and having some lady cut in front of me in the supermarket line. Twice. Once as I was talking to Wilhelm when she just oh-so-casually slipped in front of me, and the second time when an extra cashier opened up a new lane. I was headed over to the new lane and this spry bun-wearing senior with dyed brown hair hopped in front of me for the second time. Then I saw her in the parking lot and swore at her under my breath.

But back to our little trip to Germany. Aldi is always refreshing, because it's so different. Well, Saginaw is different too. After living in small-town Beaverton and working in white-bread Midland for 7 months, we are sort of losing contact to the world. It felt so nice to be somewhere with such a colorful mix of customers, all friendly, not staring and suspicious like the Beaver-townies, or even the Midlanders. And everyone says such bad things about Saginaw, but everyone was very nice, returning Wilhelm's shoes to us when he kicked them across the store in a fit of rage, or asking if other dropped items were ours when the child screamed.

At Aldi, it feels so nice and homey to have to put a quarter deposit in the shopping cart to unlock it, rather than just grab a cart and leave it stranded in the parking lot somewhere as at all other American supermarkets. And not to have the cashier pack my items into 10,000 plastic bags (of which I now have a collection of probably a million overflowing from under my sink), but into another cart and let me fend for myself on how to transport my goods home. The Aldi shopping experience in America is pretty authentically German, with two major differences: the cashiers and the other customers. The other customers are nothing like German Aldi customers. They aren't complaining about some weird obscure price problem, or just about any other thing from the store to their health to the weather, they don't have sour looks on their faces, and they don't push and shove other customers or stand too close in line. They actually say "Excuse me" if they would like to get past you, or just wait patiently while you block the aisle, knowing that at some point, you will move. The American Aldi cashiers are also always very nice, with a friendly greeting and they will often chat with you about your purchases, or whatever else may interest them about you, as mentioned above. American Aldi cashiers seem genuinely nice, whereas cashiers at other retailers seem fake nice. Maybe my perception is altered because of the excitement of shopping at a German supermarket chain, but in my few trips to Aldi, I have had nicer, chattier cashiers than in my thousands of trips to Wal-Mart or Meijer. Yay, Aldi! You made my day.


Mid-Michigan Dining said...

Thanks for the link. I think it' funny you linked me for what an American thinks of Aldi. I was really trying to be nice...most Americans think of Aldi as a place where poor people shop. It's an unfair stigma that Aldi did nothing to deserve.

Reading your post also brings up some interesting points about how American mega marts are set up. There's so much waste and so much that we've just gotten used to as a matter of convienence. For the most part, I bring my own bags to the grocery store now, but even as little as two years ago, I would have been disgusted with a place that didn't bag my groceries.

Thanks for the perspective!

Anonymous said...


Remember White Rabbit said...

Dear Anonymous,
WTF is up with your comment? Please watch your language on my blog. Anyway, I don't understand what's up with Wal-Mart. Shouldn't I shop there? Do you find that they have friendly service? I don't. Whatever. They are cheap, at least some things there are, but I know some people have political problems with them, so please express yourself a little more clearly.
Remember White Rabbit.

Anonymous said...

Who has time for politics? Wal-mart sells toys with paints harmful to kids. The employees are paid squat. Ain't that enough?