This Is The Wrong Way To Shop At Aldi

If Trader Joe's had a tight-fisted cousin who ran a store for folks who refused to spend unless they had to, that cousin would be Aldi (fun fact: Trader Joe's and Aldi are owned by sister companies Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord). The up-and-coming, German discount supermarket has made a splash over its ability to offer rock-bottom prices on essentials, thanks to a combination of low labor and operating costs. But just because Aldi is more cost efficient doesn't mean you get less. They offer all the essentials that a typical supermarket would, albeit in a much, much more limited range — 1,300 instead of the 30,000 at a regular supermarket. They also offer organic and gluten-free products, as well as a rock-solid replacement and refund policy (via Capital Strategies). 

Aldi's laurels rest on its ability to deliver on cost-savings and quality — and because the chain cuts corners in ways you might not have expected, there are a few things that can making Aldi a challenging place to shop. Here's the wrong way to approach shopping at Aldi.

Don't expect service with lots of frills

In order to keep costs down, Aldi runs a very tight ship; this means only hiring a small team to keep shelves stocked, and supermarket tills manned. "[Y]ou don't see a ton of people working there, just running the cash register and stocking shelves," consumer savings expert Lauren Greutman tells NBC News

Because there is no one around to chase your supermarket carts around the parking lot, this means you have to go to the shopping cart corral and leave a quarter as a deposit to rent one (via Kiplinger). Getting your quarter back depends on how desperate you are. If you leave the cart outside the store, someone else can return the cart and claim the quarter on your behalf (which only sounds fair). Aldi's supermarket bags come with a cost, too, so if you forget your own shopping bags, you'll have to buy one. And as part of its no-frills shopping service, don't expect Aldi staff to help you bag your groceries, because they won't. 

Don't search for brand-name items

Aldi doesn't hide the fact that that more than 90 percent of the products are brands that are private labels — which means they cannot be found at any other store, per Taste of Home. The supermarket chain says keeping the supply chain, that is from supplier to shelf, in the family means they are subsequently able to pass savings on to its customers. Their in-house labels don't carry the hidden costs, which are normally associated with bigger brands. 

Before you walk away from Aldi because it doesn't carry the right brands, you need to know that the chain has been able to deliver on both cost-savings and quality. Reader's Digest reports a number of Aldi's house brands have won Product of the Year awards. This includes its Happy Farms Deli Sliced Cheese, Simply Nature Coconut Cashew Crisps, the Earth Grown Meatless Meatballs, and the Countryside Creamery Pure Irish Butter. 

Don't look for Aldi coupons for extra savings

While supermarkets have coupons, Aldi has its Weekly Ads, which it circulates online and through local newspapers. The ads may not feature anything you can clip and save to use at the store, but it tells you what grocery items will be on special for a specific week and in a specific area. You can sign up for your digital copy of the store's Weekly Ads by visiting their site. 

Aldi also has a special section it calls Aldi Finds, where it features all its specially-priced deals, which cover anything from consumables to essentials and gadgets that you never knew you needed (collapsible pet pool for $12.99, anyone?). Clark Deals says it's important to remember that Aldi Finds are only available in a limited number and can only be purchased while supplies last, so it's important to get to Aldi early.

Don't expect prices to be the same at all stores

No, you're not imagining things. If you've attempted to visit an Aldi in a city you don't live in, you might notice that prices between two different stores can vary. Aldi is transparent about this fact, too. On its site, the store says it considers a number of factors when it sets the prices for its stock. These include operating costs, market conditions, consumer demand and the competitive landscape — and let's face it, no two markets are ever completely identical. These factors can cause prices at different shops to go up or down from city to city.

Still, the company is thinking of its customers. It has a return/exchange policy (which it calls its Twice as Nice Guarantee) that allows you to replace a purchase you're not satisfied with and get a refund, too. If a price of something has dropped and you want a price adjustment, Aldi also will do it. All you need to do is have a receipt for the purchase with you when you ask for the adjustment. If you want to return something, the product packaging and unused product must also be returned to the store manager.