Where can you find white thirty-somethings lined up to bag your groceries? (Besides Tiburon.)
Trader Joe’s! Yes, you, with the MFA! Grab a Hawaiian shirt and join the grocery chain that sounds like it was named after a sex trafficker.
Here be treasure in delightfully-priced little packages. $7.99 for coffee – good coffee! $2.99 for real Camembert! They even have their own wine, their very own cheap wine!
But, you don’t NEED to shop at Trader Joe’s, asserts somebody at church. They have EXACTLY the same things at Aldi for EVEN LESS!
There’s an Aldi in my neighborhood. It’s certainly… German. The first time I went, my daughter was a toddler. It was late fall (drizzling!), and I had her in one hand and my reusable bags in the other. When I got to the carts, I realized they were chained together and I needed a quarter to “rent” one.
Another woman was returning her cart and saw me with my baby. As I rummaged in my purse, she said, “Do you need a quarter?” She took it out of her cart and held it out toward me. As I was thanking her, she changed her mind and pocketed it. “This is my lucky quarter,” she explained.
Cartless, and downtrodden, I went into the store. I wasn’t even looking at the prices because I was too distracted by the “Designer Impostor-ness” of the merchandise: “Lundt Chocolate Truffles” and “Pressed Oat Snack Bars” displayed in their own cardboard shipping cartons. Unlike a German store, the floor was a little gritty, and the employees were not making a living wage. I felt punished for my years of suburban consumerism.
I wanted to walk right out, but even that wasn’t possible. I had to exit through a check stand, only wide enough to fit eins Wagen! That meant waiting in a checkout line with a little kid. She was savvy enough to grab hold of a plastic satchel of faux Legos, so I bought it (for 2.99), but we donated it after a few weeks because instead of interlocking, they just “interfit,” making unbelievably unstable structures.
Yesterday, I was in Aldi again – “The short name saves you $$!” – shopping for cheese. Someone I know* insisted they had the same cheese at Aldi that they had at Trader Joe’s! Sure, they had cheese… But would I want it…? Nope.
*You know who you are.
This time, with my second kid in tow we escaped with just 2 packs of breath mints. I beat a path back to Trader Joe’s, where I found my cheese, just as nature intended: fair-trade and wrapped in smugness. Trader Joe’s! How I’ve missed you! Let me tell you how bad your brother has been…
Aldi’s website has justifications for every complaint an American shopper can think of like, “Why are your hours so crappy?” (Being open more convenient hours would drive up prices!) and “Why don’t you have any bananas when you had bananas last week?” (Don’t get too comfortable – my italics – with your shopping list. Grab it now because it could be gone tomorrow.)
Don’t worry, they have an off-brand comedian to explain it to you. (I’m sorry, he’s not a comedian, he’s a “funny man.” – Another way Aldi lowers prices!)
They’re the same in much the way the Wiggles and Judas Priest are both musical acts. Trader Joe’s is an indulgence. Aldi is where you go when you’re fresh out of options and have just one lucky quarter.