No, it’s *not* so that you return them

Aldi is a popular European store that made its way to the U.S. in 2017. Although they brought a range of products new to the US, they also have a rule that baffled first-time customers. Customers are required to pay to use Aldi’s shopping carts.
Paying for Aldi’s Shopping Carts
Aldi, the German chain of grocery stores, has implemented a requirement that customers pay to use Aldi’s shopping carts. Although one reason may reflect how adults conduct themselves in public, there are actually a few reasons for the rule.
Staying on Budget
Firstly, Aldi has a reputation for offering high-quality products at low prices. The way they keep up this reputation is to cut costs in other areas. For example, if people return their own Aldi shopping carts, the company doesn’t have to pay a separate person to do the job.
Europeans Aren’t Using Aldi’s Shopping Carts
Secondly, Europeans are less concerned with shopping carts than Americans. Consequently, Aldi being a European chain, is most likely culturally inclined not to prioritize carts. In fact, many countries around Europe use “coin-release” carts. For example, most Italians just don’t use carts at all, proving that Americans are much more likely to use them. One reason for this may be explained by the size of European homes verse the size of American homes.

Europe and its habitants have been around for several centuries, meaning that homes are older and generally much smaller. As a result, standard-sized appliances like refrigerators or pantries are also much smaller. Meaning people don’t buy as much at one time. On the other hand, Americans tend to have very large kitchens with lots of space and often buy in bulk from places like Costco or Sam’s Club.

Preventing Theft
Lastly, the method of requiring payment from customers to use Aldi’s shopping carts can help prevent theft, saving the company and its patrons even more money. Unsurprisingly, shopping cart theft is on the rise in the US as more and more people face homelessness. However, each cart can cost a company anywhere from $75 to $250. Many stores have faced massive losses due to the number of stolen carts they’ve had to replace.

Merely a Deposit to Use Aldi Shopping Carts
Fortunately, using an Aldi shopping cart only costs a quarter. Even better, the quarter is returned to the user when the shopping cart is returned. Customers ‘rent’ Aldi’s shopping carts for a refundable and affordable deposit. Inadvertently, ensuring Aldi’s shopping carts are returned also works well to ensure better care in the parking lots. When carts are all contained and put where they belong, they’re not blocking parking spots or rolling about in the wind, possibly slamming into parked cars. Therefore, although the rule may seem a bit of a hassle, all in all, the benefits seem to outweigh the cons.

Michael Roberto credits the fact that so many people are willing to pay a quarter for, then return their carts on their own to, “simple human psychology“. Apparently, Aldi’s “budget conscientious” customers don’t want to pay for something they should be able to use for free.
Preventing a Rising Trend
In contrast, some studies have suggested that a cart rental system like Aldi’s may be ineffective. It seems some people don’t mind paying the quarter to “buy” a cart they can keep. As such, and as theft rises all across the US, many stores have implemented several methods of minimizing or discouraging theft. One example is regarding shopping carts; rather than charge patrons like Aldi’s shopping carts, some stores like Target have a lock mechanism on the wheels that will lock up when the carts are too far from the parking lot, store entrances, or shopping cart corrals.

Merchandise is Also a Problem
Meanwhile, stores aren’t just facing shopping cart theft. They’re also seeing a rise in merchandise theft. As a result, many have taken to locking up certain products, requiring assistance from a staff member on duty. Home Depot and similar stores have locked up expensive merchandise like power tools. While stores like Walmart and Target have locked up things like laundry soap, cosmetics, and other products that often go missing. According to Insider, retail stores are tackling how to solve the $95 billion “shoplifting problem.” Some stores have doubled down on security, installing cameras in various aisles or hiring security guards. In some places, they are going so far as to hire military personnel. Simultaneously, there is a flux of “lot cops,” speakers that inform everyone around that the area is under surveillance. Paying to use Aldi’s shopping carts seems like a small price, particularly because users can get their “deposit” back when they return their carts. However, it seems silly to debate the cart issue because returning them is a basic life skill, as most of us were taught to clean up after ourselves and put things back when we’re done with them. Aldi is not super well known in the US, however, there are more than 2,000 throughout the country. And they have a store locator in case you’re wondering if there’s one near you.