Monday, January 03, 2005

Groceries from an Alternate Universe

Today my wife announced that she and her sister were off to check out the local Aldi's store. There's been one sitting out there in the middle of Mall-Land (aka, the Chippewa Valley Regional Parking Lot) for a few years now, but neither of us have ever darkened the door.

Last month, James Lileks checked out his local Aldi's and had this to say:

It was like a parallel universe where all your familiar brands had been replaced by cheap and unconvincing names; as you scanned the shelf you had the horrible suspicion that none of these brand names had been focus-group tested. We’re through the looking glass here, people. I mean: Mr. Pudding? All the names had the same lame third-rate sound. Baker’s Pride. Orchard’s Glory. Miller’s Hubris. Grinder’s Choice. Smegmalia (for the upscale products.) Chef’s Exaggerated Sense of Self Esteem. I saw some coffee priced at $1.99 per 12 oz, and I thought: whoa, 12 oz of coffee for two bucks! And then I thought: here be grounds that fully exploit the maximum number of rat hairs per ounce allowed by law. I’m sure I was wrong, and was simply exhibiting price snobbery, but at some point low low prices make you suspicious.

Well, I can confirm that the groceries she returned with were, indeed, of some completely unrecognizable brand. "Casa Mamita" chips, "Cracker Shoppe" saltines, and "Corntown" microwave popcorn. The canned veggies were "Happy Harvest"; the canned fruit was "Sweet Harvest."

My wife was quite pleased with the prices. "Aldi's proves you don't need brand names to get good prices!" she said. I reminded her that this was never the case anyway, and in fact typically the opposite is true.

She said she couldn't remember seeing a single brand name she recognized. This was fine for her. "However," she added disappointedly, "they don't have Heinz ketchup." (In spite of my pointing out earlier this year that by buying Heinz ketchup she was supporting John Kerry, it was one area where preference overrode principle. I could not talk her into buying a different brand.)

She also mentioned that you can get half a dozen roses for $2.00 at Aldi's.

I think that was a hint of some sort. But honestly, ladies, level with me. If your husband or boyfriend bought you roses at Aldi's, wouldn't it mean less to you than if he bought them at the florist shop? (Assume for the sake of argument that the roses are equal in quality.)

I know I'm going to have to go to Aldi's at some point. Just like I had to make the switch to Wal-Mart, I know I'm going to have start buying groceries in an alternate universe called Aldi's.

The things I do for love.


At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sound like my mother. I have to remind her time and again that it's ALDI, not Aldi's.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I buy the roses in the family, $2/doz (equal quality) sound great to me, they would be festooned all over the place.

Your report is fairly eloquent about the power of brands, and how their greater expense may be balanced off by the reconnaissance-learning curve of trying a bunch of new stuff that either you may not like or at least need to get used to.

Also, Roy H. Williams, a marketing consultant here in Austin, reminds us that a lot of it is explained by the Myers Briggs Thinking vs. Feeling function. F's stick with relationship, T's price prowl.

Always glad to be reminded by The Anchoress, love your blog, especially enjoy the provenance of your name, Koko being about as winning a creature as one could find. My blog has an animal source too, I'm the not-yet-extinct-gal Dilys Dinosaur at G as in Good H as in Happy. We've circled around "Darn darn ocean bad bite. Trouble trouble" a certain amount, as well.



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