Friday, December 17, 2004

James snobs Aldi

James Lileks doesn't like the discount grocery store, Aldi. His riff on it is pretty funny - the "brand" names are very alternate-universey. "Grandessa" for example - it's on the ice cream, the tomato sauce, etc. That doesn't mean that the quality of the products is poor, however. My kids love Aldi's sandwich bread and cinnamon rolls. Their "frozen chicken things" - Kiev, Cordon Bleu, etc. you know what I mean? - are just as tasty as the ones costing 50% more at Cub (or here in Cleveland , Giant Eagle or Tops). They have a really good muesli-type cereal, and their diet cola is drinkable, unlike the Wal-mart diet coke knockoff. (Sam's Choice Raisin Bran is the best on the planet, however.) Milk and butter are commodities - why pay more than you have to? I don't like their take on "Wheat Thins," but the kids like them, and their version of "Cheeze-its" is indistinguishable from the brand name box. Renting the carts for a quarter and selling the (sturdy and reusable) bags must help keep costs down. Think about what a place like Cub in our old stomping ground of SLP paid to keep carts back in the store - at least two stockboys making at least minimum wage, plus the depreciation on the radio-controlled "mule" they use. It's gotta add up to thousands of dollars per year. Cut that out of the budget, and you can reduce prices across the board. They also don't take checks or credit cards, which probably saves a huge amount in bank fees and write-offs. Aldi doesn't just use the savings to pass on low prices. They also pay their employees well - the ads say starting pay is $12/hr. It's annoying that they never seem to have enough checkout lanes open, but you can manage that by timing your trips to avoid the crowd.

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