The Aldi Question: Does One Bad Experience Spoil the Soup?

Whenever I mention

the grocery stores where I tend to shop, someone always asks me about Aldi. I tend to usually avoid that question because the answer makes me uncomfortable, but after several emails following

my post yesterday about personal finance recommendations, I realized that it was actually a subject worth digging into.

I don’t shop at Aldi because I’m personally uncomfortable with the chain as a result of a bad experience when I was young.

When I was a young child, my family used to shop at Aldi somewhat regularly, usually just to buy certain items that complemented our purchases elsewhere. I remember going there and not minding the trip at all – in fact, I would usually help my parents by going around the store and picking out specific items that they wanted. “Trent, I need two loaves of white bread,” for example.

One day, something horrible happened. My mother was looking at a stack of floor mats. I was standing right next to her minding my own business when suddenly she shouted and backed up rapidly, bumping me to the side. When I looked over at the mats, there was a horde of cockroaches coming out of the pile of floor mats. Hundreds of them.

We immediately abandoned our cart and ran straight for the exit, then out to the car. I had squashed two of them under my shoe and I felt very uncomfortable all day. For the next several nights, I had nightmares about the incident.

As a result of that experience, every time I see an Aldi logo, I feel nervous. I basically refuse to go in the door because when I do, I feel really, really uncomfortable.

One strong negative experience has shaded my feelings towards Aldi for life.

I have visited the local Aldi and found it relatively clean, but during the entire visit, I had a strong desire to just leave the store. I constantly have a sense that if I touch anything in the store, bugs will start crawling out from underneath them.

This personal sentiment prevents me from truly giving Aldi a fair shake.

I know quite well that Aldi has the lowest prices of any grocery chain around (for the most part). Many of the items they sell simply can’t be found at cheaper prices – the only way you can compete is by playing a very careful game with the grocery store flyers and knowing the best deals at warehouse clubs.

I also know rationally that such an experience could happen (theoretically) at any grocery store chain. Hypothetically, I could pick up an item in another grocery store and find a bug infestation. Also, the incident occurred almost twenty years ago at a different Aldi than the current one I use.

That doesn’t change the fact that one horrendously bad experience has spoiled the soup for me. Is that rational or fair? Maybe not – I’m judging an entire chain/brand based on one specific bad experience. But that bad experience personally makes me question the safety and sanitary nature of the food I would buy there, and I feel uncomfortable feeding it to my family.

I’m quite sure that Aldi fans will show up in droves in the comments, stating how they never had a bad experience at Aldi, and I don’t doubt that at all.

But that bad experience – and the personal questions it raises for me – is enough for me to feel much more comfortable using Fareway as my “economy” grocery store. I’m quite happy to pay a few cents’ more for my staple foods at Fareway when I feel comfortable in the store and confident about the quality of my food purchases.

Have you had any nightmarish experiences with specific brands that have (fairly or unfairly) tarnished your view of that brand? Do you think it’s rational or fair to feel that way? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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