Sneaky Little Ways Aldi Gets Us to Spend More Money

There’s not much you can say negatively about Aldi. The exploding retail chain usually wins in store-to-store price comparisons for everyday items and it has recently gained favorability with a whole new demographic by offering organic and vegan products. Frugal customers flock to their stores so often that the chain announced ambitious plans to open 2,500 U.S. stores by 2022.

Consumers blinded by such love have put all their eggs in one basket, rarely questioning whether shopping at Aldi is actually worth the trip. Most times, it is. But that doesn’t mean the store doesn’t have a few tricks up its sleeve to persuade you to buy more stuff. The mere fact shoppers expect low prices can loosen even the most taut purse strings. Unless you know how to guard against such persuasion, you’ll continue to waste money. Here are 10 sneaky ways Aldi gets you to spend more money.

1. Alcohol in front

aldi beer

Impulse-buying beer at Aldi? That’s by design.  | Megan Elliott/The Cheat Sheet

You must be on your best behavior from the moment you enter Aldi if you have any hopes of saving money during an outing. Like most large grocers, Aldi places alcohol and other big-ticket items at the front of the store. This is a sneaky way Aldi attacks your urge to impulse buy with cheap wine, beer, and kid junk food. What’s worse, it will get you further into the spending spirit by displaying heavily discounted bargain buys alongside the pricier items to get you once again.

Next: How the store enforces a profitable mindset among shoppers

2. A mindset of frugality

Aldi liveGfree

Products are priced less so consumers can buy more.  | Aldi US

From bagging your own groceries and forgoing extravagant register technology to using shipping boxes as shelf storage, Aldi purposefully drives home the notion that everything you’ll find in-store is cheap. This makes you buy more. Consumers continuously praise Aldi’s low, low prices online and Aldi does everything they can to confirm your suspicions while catering to a frugal mindset.

Customers also notice how each store slices overhead by hiring fewer employees — yet another self-affirming store tactic. The average store has just six to eight employees who do everything from stocking to check-out. In turn, they use the money saved to pay employees higher wages and health insurance benefits.

Next: You know what they say about people who assume…

3. Minimalist décor


Aldi’s no-frills styling shows that it’s focused on cutting costs. | Megan Elliott/The Cheat Sheet

Walk into any Aldi, and you’ll notice plain metal shelving, cardboard boxes, and minimal décor. This is an Aldi trick aimed at influencing consumer spending. Aldi’s unique style cements the notion that their products are cheaper than anywhere else because they don’t spend money on excess signage, technology, additional employees, or fancy lighting. Shoppers love this minimalistic approach, but it often leads to subconscious assumptions that every product they see is a good deal.

Next: A loss leader

4. Intermixing good buys with average buys

cart with aldi products

Aldi lures you in for a bargain in hopes you’ll buy other things. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Surely Aldi is not the first retailer to employ the “loss leader” strategy in-store. Its common practice for grocers to bait you with one sale while placing a few higher-priced products that aren’t good deals into the mix nearby. This is what’s known as a loss leader — a tactic researchers have proved shuffles more customers in store ready to spend money. In other words, Aldi will entice you with the cheapest cereal prices around, then bombard you with toiletries and paper products (which are notoriously bad Aldi deals) a little further down the aisle.

Next: Enforcing a “don’t wait” mentality

5. Rotating inventory

aldi sign

Aldi has its business model down to a science. | Megan Elliott/The Cheat Sheet

Aldi promotes a “see now, buy now” mentality using rotating inventory selections. The chain is famous for its weekly Special Buys which often features a temporary stock of non-grocery items to keep you coming back and checking in. This could be anything from a chainsaw to a chef’s knife set.

In addition, many locations restock their shelves on Wednesdays, at which time a whole new set of prices debut for new items that weren’t available last week. Urgency is always an undertone at Aldi stores. What’s there today, may not be there tomorrow.

Next: Tricky layouts serve a purpose at Aldi

6. Tricky layouts — but for a different reason

aldi produce section

Aldi is laid out for sensible shopping. | Megan Elliott/The Cheat Sheet

Costco is infamous for its wonky layout that sends shoppers on a scavenger hunt through the entire floor. It’s a tactic known as the “Gruen Transfer” which incorporates a crazy layout meant to disorient customers, slow them down, and increase the odds of extravagant spending.

Aldi employs a bit of the same strategy using random half-aisles and enticing end-cap displays. But they also created a layout with purchasing tendencies in mind that are most logical for families conducting big shopping excursions. Pantry items are placed near the front, so they can rest in the bottom of your cart, while fresh produce is last to circumvent squished strawberries. Frozen foods are near checkouts so there’s less time out of the freezer.

Staunch Aldi shoppers appreciate this effort and are willing to return time and time again for the simple peace of mind that comes with an Aldi outing.

Next: Processes built for speed

7. Speed is key

aldi store

Aldi wants customers in and out as quickly as possible. | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Aldi creates what This Is Money dubbed as a “thrill at the till,” meaning customers go through the check-out process faster than they would at most other retail or grocery stores. The chain purposely prints multiple barcodes on each product so cashiers can wiz through carts at lightning speed. Such a quick process allows Aldi to elevate the customer experience since shoppers spend less time on such a taxing errand.

Frugal expert Lauren Greutman tells Huffington post that store efficiency keeps her returning to the discount chain most. She whirls in and out of Aldi in under 30 minutes for a full shop. A similar trip to another grocery store would take hours.

Next: A built-in safety net

8. Double money back guarantee


Aldi wants happy, repeat customers. | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Aldi capitalizes on its efforts to provide shoppers with the best customer service using its double money back guarantee. Should you buy a product you don’t like, this policy allows you to return it with a full refund as well as a free, similar priced product of your choice. This safety net undoubtedly persuades customers to try new things (like they’re popular store brand chips) they’d be hesitant to buy anywhere else.

Next: A smart PR tactic

9. Their charitable ways generate loyalty

Aldi store

Aldi is known for being a charitable company. | Megan Elliott/The Cheat Sheet

Studies show people prefer to choose companies that are charitable over those that are not when it comes to both employment and shopping preferences. Aldi took this notion and ran with it. Countless employees say Aldi stores often donate leftover food to local charities. They’re also given permission to contribute to causes in the area as well. This type of service seems to resonate with loyal shoppers who often use the time to insert a quarter for a cart as an opportunity to “pay it forward” by passing their cart to the next shopper rather than return it.

Next: A winning marketing ploy

10. Reusable totes

Aldi sign

Aldi’s reusable totes are both greener and cut down on costs. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Just like shoppers prefer a charitable retailer, they’re also more likely to choose an eco-friendly one. So, the fact that Aldi recently began selling large reusable cloth tote bags rather than plastic bags, demonstrates just how they plan to influence your buying power. Environmentally-friendly tactics like energy-saving stores to recycled bags and cartons are some of Aldi’s most effective marketing techniques.

Of course, your seemingly innocent effort to go green only means you’ve entered the store pushing an oversized cart and extra-large grocery bag (stamped with a bold Aldi logo) to fill up with excess purchases.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

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