The Dos and Don’ts of Aldi’s Checkout Etiquette, According to a Superfan

published Dec 15, 2023
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check out at aldi
Credit: Patty Catalano

Do you feel like you spend far too much time in the grocery store? Even a quick stop for a jug of milk and a loaf of bread can turn into an hour-long affair spent weaving through a supermarket stacked with shoppers. The possibility of a quicker checkout from a smaller store was a big draw when I first started shopping at Aldi.

Aldi does a lot of things differently than the big grocery chains (where else do shoppers fork over a quarter to unlock their shopping carts?). Another spot you’re sure to notice Aldi zig where other retailers zag is at checkout. Whether you’re a new Aldi shopper or are a superfan like me, here are some tips on how to navigate Aldi’s checkout experience. 

1. Do use a cart — no matter the size of your shopping trip.

It can be tempting to shop for a handful of items without using a shopping cart — especially at Aldi, where you must have a quarter handy. But the carts are actually an essential ingredient in Aldi’s checkout procedure. Aldi’s quick cashiers scan items and place them into a cart in a single, fluid motion. They can do this because of “cart swap.” 

Cashiers sit at the end of the register line with no extra counter space to corral purchases, so they load directly into an empty cart. This cart is the empty cart taken from the previous shopper (and the current shopper’s cart will subsequently go to the next person in line); if you don’t have a cart to add to the rotation, the fast flow can come crashing to a halt. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

2. Don’t be discouraged by long checkout lines.

Aldi staffs its stores with a skeleton crew, so often there is a single cashier working up front. Another employee may jump in and open another register to help clear the line before returning to other duties, but, ultimately, Aldi manages the long lines by requiring its cashiers to work incredibly fast. (It’s also why the barcodes on Aldi’s store-brand items span the entire length of the package.) Rest assured that even if the line is several shoppers deep, you will make it to the front in no time.

3. Do unload heavy items first.

Some grocers, like Costco, allow you to leave heavy items or duplicates in the cart, but not at Aldi. Help cashiers load your exit cart with ease by placing large or heavy items onto the conveyor belt first. Cashiers are loading directly into a new shopping cart, so scanning these items first ensures that they are placed in the bottom of the cart. Lightweight and fragile items can wait until the end so they are loaded on top of heavier groceries. 

4. Don’t try to chit-chat with the cashiers. 

Aldi’s employees are a friendly and helpful bunch, so it’s OK to greet them kindly and thank them for their help. Take their lead on any additional conversation. Employee productivity and efficiency is monitored closely (it’s part of how the grocery chain keeps costs down), so don’t be surprised or take it personally if they don’t slow down to discuss the weather. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

5. Do double check for extra discounts.

If you have picked up an item with a red $1 off sticker, make sure to check that you received the discount. Cashiers have to manually input the correct price, and the stickers can sometimes be overlooked. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

6. Don’t expect employees to bag your groceries.

Groceries are placed into a cart waiting at the end of the register to avoid bottlenecks after each transaction. As the cashiers scan your groceries they will place them into a shopping cart — not a shopping bag. After completing your transaction, quickly move to the long, open counter opposite the registers to bag or box groceries yourself before leaving the store. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling; Tom Hoerup

7. Do bring your own bags or boxes to pack up your groceries. 

Many grocery stores hand out plastic or paper bags for free, but not Aldi. You must bring your own reusable bags, boxes, or laundry basket from home to pack your groceries. You can purchase paper bags for $0.12 each or reusable bags, which range from $0.69 for a standard bag to $0.98 for an insulated grocery bag. Employees may let you take one of the large boxes used for shipping (and displaying) products on the shelf, but there’s no guarantee that one will be available when you need one — Aldi employees break down boxes for recycling throughout the day. 

8. Do alert the cashier if you are reusing Aldi paper or reusable bags.

A paper grocery bag can often be used for more than one shopping trip. If you’re using a paper bag or reusable Aldi bag that you previously purchased, simply mention that you have already paid for those bags so that the cashier doesn’t charge you for them again.

9. Don’t wait to slide or tap your card.

Efficiency is everything for cashiers at Aldi (no wonder they slide the barcodes across the scanner so fast). That includes inviting card-paying customers to slide their cards before the scanning is even complete. 

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