That quote is NOT in the Bible.* In fact, I think it comes from the ALDI Food Store employee handbook.
I generally shop for groceries meal-by-meal, only a few items at a time. My wife can’t understand it, but it just works for me. I prefer fresh fish, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. I just like to shop “European-style,” getting exactly what I want to cook and eat each day. Convenience and quality rather than cost are usually the primary considerations in my choice of a food store. I normally shop at Whole Foods, the Dallas Farmer’s Market or Tom Thumb.
Recently, however, on my way home from downtown, I stopped at the ALDI on Gaston to buy a loaf of bread. I knew from their commercials that ALDI was a low-cost grocery store, but more than that, I was just in a hurry.
On this stop, I thought that I was only buying bread, so I didn’t get what would have been my first surprise at ALDI – paying for the use of a shopping cart. To quote their website:
“ALDI regulars have come to find our easy-to-use shopping cart deposit system downright endearing, figuring that paying too much is a much greater inconvenience.”
I’m not sure “endearing” would have been my word of choice in describing my feelings had I needed to pay to get a cart as I entered the store – even if I would have earned my quarter back when I returned it. Paying a quarter to use a cart just seems like an annoyance to me. I just don’t understand the point. For a quarter more, I would rather have someone else put the cart back, and, if I really wanted to steal it, I don’t think a quarter would have been much of a deterrent.
From my own ALDI shopping experience, the first real surprise came at the checkout counter. Instead of just buying bread, I got sucked into the ALDI bargain pricing and ended up getting about 10 or 12 other items – which I must admit, were at a very good price.
As the checker scanned my items, they just stacked up at the end of the counter. I paid my $16.34, and the checker and I just looked at each other. After a pregnant pause, she asked if I wanted my groceries in a bag. Well, I thought that was a ridiculous question. My response was: “Of course I want them in a bag! What am I going to do, just stack them on the seat of my car?!?” My first thought was that they were saving money on staff by requiring self-bagging. I understand, and don’t even object to self-bagging, so I looked for the little rack of plastic bags like they have at Tom Thumb.
There were no bags in site. So naturally, I asked the cashier where they kept their bags. At that point, I was instructed with an eye-roll that I was “supposed to get bags at the start of the line” (I still have no idea how I was supposed to have known that important little tidbit). So, I asked the ladies behind me in the growing line to please pass me a bag. By now, everyone in the line was snickering. I thought they were snickering at the checker’s lack of service. In reality, I soon came to realize that they were laughing at me for not knowing the ALDI system.
It was also then that I recognized for the first time that everyone in the store spoke Spanish, the announcements over the store’s speaker were in Spanish, and I was one of very few non-Hispanics in the store. No problem – yet. I am not disparaging Hispanics. I like their culture and I appreciate their work ethic and family values. Since I had lived in Costa Rica and still remembered a little Spanish, I was able to ask them to give me some “bolsas de plastico, por favor.”
I got my bolsas (bags), packed my groceries in them, and started to leave when the checker asked me for another twenty cents – for the grocery bags. Again, like the pay-per-cart policy, I wonder if that customer inconvenience is really worth another quarter to ALDI.
In consulting their website, I learned:
“Loyal ALDI shoppers appreciate our simplified shopping process and the pride they can feel by being responsible and forward-thinking consumers.”
I am not a loyal ALDI shopper, and never plan to be. I obviously was not forward-thinking enough on that day or any other to carry shopping bags in my pocket. I didn’t read the rest of their website, but I think it likely at some point said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” If not, I am sure some astute readers will notify the publisher and I this week.
* WRITER’S NOTE: I want to apologize to the many readers who so kindly pointed out that the quote “There but for the grace of God go I,” which I used in my July column, “The Homeless Among Us,” was not in fact from the Bible, as I had erroneously stated. I honestly don’t know if I was more surprised by 1. The number of people who actually read my column and then took the time to write, pointing out the error to me and to the publisher, or 2. The number of Bible scholars there are living in the area. I am thankful for both and I sincerely am sorry to those who were disappointed, shocked, dismayed or otherwise upset by my error. I should have said, correctly, that I thought the quote came from the Bible. I still think my mom taught me that when I was very young.
To be clear, in all likelihood that mistake or others like it will happen again (though I do not plan the quote the Bible again anytime soon). I do not research everything in this column as was suggested by some readers. This column is just what I know, or more clearly, what I think I know. It comes from my life, my head and my heart. Please read it with that caveat.
As to the frustrated readers who suggested that it was this publication’s responsibility to fact-check every column. Please understand that the staff and time required for that level of oversight of a group of freelance writers would force this publication to become, at best, the White Rock Lake Monthly, and it certainly would no longer be FREE to the readers.
However, in response to so many readers finding an error in something that I was told as a child, I have decided it necessary to fact-check the things told to me by my mother. I am sorry to report that I have learned that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy, and I am still not certain what actually happened to a large litter of puppies that my dog had when I was about 4.
Keep those comments coming! But remember something else that my mother said. “If you don’t have something nice to say, it is better not to say anything at all.”
David Hollowell is a freelance writer living in Lakewood. He can be contacted by e-mail: David@DavidWHollowell.com.