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All about Aldi

What universe does CL live in? It must be a universe of gas for $1 per gallon and an economic future free of fear of job losses and health care expenses, for your article ("Store Wars" by Tricia Childress, June 4) only briefly mentioned rising food and transportation costs -- both of which figure into many shoppers' food-buying decisions.

More specifically, you fail to mention the two stores where shoppers worried about food and transporation costs are likely to shop: Wal-Mart and Aldi (and as a corollary, rigged the election process by failing to include them in your ballot of choices for "Charlotte's best store." Maybe the FEC should investigate.)

Trader Joe's has eggs for $1.79 a dozen? Honey, Aldi's eggs are a buck and a quarter a dozen (that's 54 cents a dozen cheaper). While I've never been to a Trader Joe's, I've never found a problem with Aldi's eggs -- or anything else I've bought there.

Ditto for Wal-Mart. Forget weekly specials on meats -- their pre-packaged tubes of ground beef are a better buy than what you'll find in any meat department. And I've never had a problem with their produce (although anything they carry is usually cheaper at Aldi).

As for bringing your own bags -- Bi-Lo doesn't advertise it, but they'll give you a nickel for each paper bag you bring in to use for bagging your own groceries -- thereby reviving the phrase "nickel bag." Just tell the cashier to ring up code 900. Aldi goes one further and charges customers for bags from the store. As a result, most shoppers bring their own bags to the store. Finally, I don't see what the fuss is over paper or plastic bags, for I've been able to reuse bags of both materials countless times. And when I'm finished with either, I leave them at one of Bi-Lo's recycling barrels.

My last plug for Aldi -- it's clearly a self-service operation, as you have to take your own groceries out of your cart and place them on the belt for the cashier to scan. However, don't let that stop you from shopping there -- the store's culture results in customers going out of their way to help each other. In this case, if you have a large order, the person behind you in line will often help you put your items on the belt to speed the process.

Finally, you don't have to buy your groceries at a grocery store. You'll find the best bargains on bread and doughnuts at Merita outlet stores (although they're prone to running out of items at time).

-- Stephen V. Gilmore, Charlotte

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