Why Aldi Requires A Quarter To Unlock Carts

When customers shop at Aldi for the first time, they may be surprised that the store requires a deposit of a quarter to unlock its shopping carts. If you don't slide the coin into a slot on the cart, it won't unhook from the row of carts in front of it. At other major grocery chains, you can just grab a cart and go, so what's the deal?

Aldi's curious practice is simply a way to encourage shoppers to return their carts to a designated spot, rather than leaving them strewn around the store or parking lot (and yes, you get the quarter back when you're done shopping, so the company doesn't see a profit). Unlike larger competitors, Aldi doesn't hire staff for the sole purpose of collecting and organizing shopping carts. The discount chain is relatively small, and the reason why its products are so cheap is because it doesn't hire as many workers. Aldi even lacks major grocery departments like a deli section, which would require more staff to maintain.

When shoppers stick a quarter into an Aldi cart, they have to return the cart to the same place they found it in order to get the quarter back. Thus, there's no cart-collector needed. This is just one factor in Aldi's dedication to cutting its costs in as many areas as possible, so the chain can keep its prices lower than what you might find at other grocery stores.

Shoppers have interesting solutions to Aldi's cart deposit

Aldi's cart policy may save money for both the company and its customers, but not everyone is thrilled with it. For some shoppers, it's a hassle to return the cart, particularly if they have children to watch or a disability that makes the whole coin-in, coin-out process difficult. If you don't remember to bring a quarter, you could forgo the cart and use a shopping basket, but this is impractical for large grocery hauls and (once again) shoppers with disabilities, who may have trouble carrying goods in their hands or a basket.

Of course, people have figured out ways around the issue. Some shoppers grab a keychain to hold a quarter on their key ring, so they never leave the house without one. You can even buy a small tool that mimics the shape and size of a quarter, but can be taken right out once your cart is unlocked. Some kind shoppers choose to enact "pay it forward" system by giving their cart to another shopper, with no care for a refund.

That being said, if you find yourself without a quarter for the Aldi cart deposit, don't expect to be given another shopper's cart. Not everyone is willing to give up their designated Aldi quarter, and rightfully so. Instead, you can try asking an employee for a quarter or a loose cart left in the checkout area, and they'll likely be happy to help.

Not grabbing a cart at Aldi can ruin the checkout rhythm

Although you might be able to get a free cart from an Aldi employee in the checkout area, you shouldn't bank on this lucky occurrence. Even if a cart seems unattended, it's really just waiting for the next shopper in line. The Aldi checkout system works like this: As one person unloads their groceries, the items are scanned and reloaded into a separate cart by the cashier, allowing for quick service without confusion over what has and hasn't been scanned yet.

For this leave-one-take-one system to run smoothly, each shopper coming through the line needs to have a cart of their own. If someone were to skip picking up a cart for any reason, taking a cart from the checkout line would leave the cashier (and the shopper behind them) cart-less. The same goes for a shopper asking to use one of these carts as soon as you arrive at the store. At the end of the day, if you're an Aldi regular, it's a good rule of thumb to always carry change. Doing so can save both you and your fellow shoppers some unnecessary hassle, both in-store and at checkout.