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What's So Shameful About Aldi's "Aisle Of Shame"?

If you came for groceries, you could leave with a lot of other things, too.

You've probably heard of the "walk of shame." The popular term is used to describe a blushful, bleary-eyed, early-morning commute back home, following an evening of unbridled revelry or romance or both.

Nowadays, there's a grocery shopping equivalent to this. It's called the "aisle of shame," and it's found exclusively at Aldi.

The label applies specifically to the middle aisle at the German-based discount grocery chain. That's where you'll find a lot of seemingly random, non-traditional grocery items: toys, candles, clothing, tech gadgets, home furnishings, seasonal decorations. Right now, this area at your local Aldi is probably overflowing with green and shamrock-shaped things for your upcoming St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

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None of this stuff would ever appear on a normal grocery list. It's all impulse buys, which is presumably where the shame comes in.

"On today's episode of 'what you didn't come to Aldi for'…" wrote one shopper this week in a Facebook post that perfectly exemplifies the idea. The accompanying photo shows a shopping cart loaded up with an air fryer, toaster, and coffee maker.

"AOS got me," wrote another, using a common abbreviation for "aisle of shame." Her own cart included two packs of women's leggings and an "Aldi Super Fan" coloring book, in addition to packages of tofu and mixed fruit cups. "I work in an activities dept, think I can claim the leggings as a work expense?"

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Much has been written about this unusual realm of the supermarket. Parade called it the "magical, fun center aisle, full of red-hot deals, special buys, and limited-edition items that you just won't be able to pass up!" A recent headline in The Daily Meal postulated, "If You've Never Been To Aldi's 'Aisle of Shame,' Have You Really Been to Aldi?"

One enthusiast gushed to Atlas Obscura, "I hate grocery shopping, but I love to go to Aldi and shop, because I know I'm at least going to get something that I can use outside of food and that's always exciting to me."

In a way, it seems that Aldi has taken Costco's sprawling warehouse model—come for the cheap rotisserie chicken, leave with hundreds of dollars worth of other things you find along the way—and condensed it into a streamlined, beckoning retail trap, smack in the middle of the store.

Ironically, no one seems particularly ashamed about what they find in this so-called shameful place. Far from it. If they did, they wouldn't be shamelessly posting about it on social media.

Yet, in fact, there is an entire Facebook community of over 1.5 million members devoted to this cultural phenomenon, as well as a separate Aldi Aisle of Shame blog, which keeps tabs on all the stuff you can find in the middle aisle. Instagrammers, meanwhile, regularly caption their quirky finds with whimsical hashtags like #aisleofshamegotme.

Publicly admitting that you've succumbed to the lure of this retailer Temptation Island is apparently just part of being an Aldi fan.

One thing is clear: if you are looking to stick to your grocery list, avoid Aldi's seductive center aisle at all costs.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris
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