Why Aldi's Shopping Carts Require A Quarter For Use

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One of the most well-known features of shopping at Aldi is its quarter-deposit system on carts. Though it may inconvenience quarter-less shoppers, there are several good reasons for this requirement, all motivated by cost savings on the part of the grocer, which it can then pass on to customers.  

The international grocery store chain seems to have cracked the code when it comes to quality products at low prices. One of its main strategies is cutting operating costs as much as possible to minimize product mark-ups. From a lack of licensing fee-laden grocery store music to a mere five-aisle store layout, Aldi takes a no-frills approach to keep costs as low as possible. Like any grocery store, there are products you may want to buy and avoid when shopping at Aldi, but no matter what you toss in the basket, you are guaranteed a solid deal thanks to the store's seemingly quirky aspects — quarter deposit included.

The quarter deposit system on Aldi shopping carts is simple. A customer must insert a quarter into a cart's coin slot to unlock it. Upon returning it to the proper spot, they will get their quarter back. Ultimately, this system does not cost customers anything besides a few extra moments to return their carts. This shopping cart feature eliminates the need for a certain amount of store labor, thus reducing the need for extra employees, which are costly resources for a business trying to keep costs low. A customer bringing the cart to the right spot saves the cost of an employee doing the same job.

Deposit a quarter, save big bucks

This also helps prevent damage to carts, which more often than not, happens in the space of the parking lot rather than the cart-return area. And since Aldi already knows its customer base is budget-conscious shoppers, the chain is confident they will take the trouble to retrieve their coin. While a quarter is feeling less and less like an investment in the U.S. these days, European shoppers are extra motivated to wheel back their carts as they generally have to put up a full Euro. This minor security measure also prevents theft, and for the kind Aldi uses — the full size, metal, commercial style carts, buggies, or trollies (no matter what you call them) — tend to run between 200 and 250 dollars, and that's excluding the proprietary chain-lock device. 

Though this practice is not exclusive to Aldi, it has become a phenomenon most associated with it (as well as its sister chain, Lidl) in the U.S. There's even a thriving market related to the carts on Etsy and Amazon, with sellers hawking dedicated keychain quarter-sized pouches so shoppers will always have their 25 cents handy and insertable "coin slugs" for those who never do. Though the quarter deposit may seem somewhat peculiar, it plays a significant role in the savings shoppers can always expect at Aldi.