The Dos and Don’ts of Proper Cart Etiquette at Aldi

updated Dec 9, 2019
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You know a shopping cart system must be complex if there’s a need for a post like this to be written in the first place. See, using a cart at Aldi is more than just not flat tire-ing the person in front of you and pulling off to the side to let others pass. It’s also about paying things forward and following the rules! To help you do both of those things, I’ve come up with this handy list of the dos and don’ts of shopping at Aldi when it comes to their iconic shopping carts.

1. Do always have a quarter ready.

Aldi doesn’t staff its parking lots with employees who have to bring abandoned carts back up to the entrance. (It’s one of the many ways the discount grocer keeps costs down for its customers.) To help incentivize shoppers to return the carts, the handles have a little locking mechanism: Put a quarter in and the cart can be unchained from the next cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. So, clearly you’ll need a quarter handy to get a cart.

There’s also a big pay-it-forward mentality among Aldi shoppers. It’s not uncommon for a stranger who’s just finished loading up their car to ask a shopper headed into the store if they want to use their cart. Fellow shoppers are usually more than happy to pass the cart along for free, but it’s nice to have a quarter ready to be offered up for the good deed. Even if your quarter is turned down nine out of 10 times, someone may want it on the 10th time! And it really should be a quarter — not, say, two dimes and a nickel.

Fun fact: Aldi actually sells super-cute Quarter Keepers or you can find tons of sweet handmade ones on Etsy.

2. Do be extra thankful if someone gives you their cart.

Knowing what you know now from Number 1 (above), make sure you’re gracious when someone offers you their cart! They’re not being lazy — they’re being generous! Offer them a quarter in exchange and, no matter their response, be sure to thank them! And then consider paying it forward when you’re done shopping.

3. Don’t leave your cart in the parking lot.

Again, Aldi doesn’t task staffers with patrolling the parking lot for abandoned carts. So if carts get left there too consistently, they could go missing, and grocery prices could go up — for everyone. I urge you to consider passing your cart off to a shopper who’s headed into the store. If there’s no one going in, bring your cart back to the entrance and dock it. I have seen people leave their cart undocked right by the entrance, and I get the sentiment, but it could end up causing problems if other people do the same. (I’m curious what you think of that, so please discuss in the comments below!)

4. Do put your cart in the right spot during checkout.

Aldi cashiers have a whole system: They’ll use the cart from the person immediately in front of your to hold your groceries once they’ve been scanned. While you’re paying, you can move your new cart out of the way and slot in your original cart next to the cashier. This way, the same thing can happen for the person behind you and so on and so on.

5. Don’t take the cart from checkout if you didn’t bring a cart.

Of course, the system described above only works if everyone’s using a cart. And that won’t always be the case. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever run in JUST for some chocolate bars?) If you didn’t use a cart to shop, don’t take the cart that the cashier uses to ring you up. Because that would ruin it for the people behind you! When I’m just getting a few things, I like to open up my tote bag and get it set up in the cart next to the cashier. Because it’s just a few things, the cashier is usually able to toss everything right into the bag as she scans — then I can grab the bag and be on my way.

6. Do pull over to load up after checkout.

The Aldi checkout process is a fast one. (Most packages even have an extra-long barcode so that cashiers can scan items super quickly!) So unless you’re only getting a few things, there isn’t time to bag your groceries as they’re scanned. Instead, the cashier just (carefully!) piles things up in the cart that’s waiting for you. (Aldi also doesn’t give out bags. You can buy them, bring your own totes, or grab any empty cardboard boxes you see on the shelves.) There’s a big “loading zone” of sorts just beyond the cash registers. Once you’ve paid, you can pull over there and load your bags/boxes as you wish. Just don’t leave your cart there either.

Got any other shopping cart dos and don’ts for Aldi? Leave them in the comments below.