The Aldi generation

Monday, January 15, 2007 at 06:10 PM

Madison Avenue gave us the Pepsi Generation, pop culture gave us Generations X and Y, and WWII gave us the long and exhaustingly chronicled Baby Boom generation. A quarter of a century of Reaganism, globalization, and free marketeerism have given us "The Aldi Generation."

For those who don't know, Aldi's is a cut rate supermarket from Germany.  The company now has tons of stores in America, including little Bennington Vermont where I watch the daily horrors of America unfold.

Aldi's is a hell of a lot cheaper than American chains like the misleadingly named Price Chopper, Shaw's, Stop'n'Shop, and Hannaford's. They keep the prices down by operating "warehouse" style: goods are stacked in cut-open boxes, most (all?) products are Aldi's own brand, and you supply your own bags and muscle power to pack up your groceries.

When my wife and I moved to Vermont a little over 4 years ago, Aldi's did very little business.  They were closed on Sunday and when you drove by on the days they were open, their parking lot usually had fewer than 20 cars.

Boy have things changed.  Aldi's is open on Sunday.  The parking lot is usually close to full.  During peak hours, there are so many shoppers you can barely get around the store.  In fact, many days there are more customers in Bennington's Aldi's than in Bennington's Hannafords.

And the large majority of Aldi shoppers?  Older.  Many senior citizens, with a sprinkling of younger shoppers trying to stretch their meager wages from one of the fantastic "new" jobs in fast food, or retail clerking at or near minimum wage.

The government can pooh-pooh inflation all it wants, but I guaranty you that the cost of food staples at chain supermarkets has risen dramatically in the last several years.  And there's no denying that the cost of energy has skyrocketed.

The Aldi Generation: a subset of the Boomers, the ones that thought they could get through life in America by working decent blue collar, and white collar support, jobs only to find those jobs gone.  Only to find themselves the less than proud holders of one, two, or three of those great "new" jobs which treat the minimum wage as both a minimum and a near-maximum, which have as little chance of carrying full medical benefits as I have of being elected to the Senate as a Republican, which treat you as the fungible creature that you now are.  Or the holder of a pension or Social Security check that comes no where near keeping up with the inflation that supposedly doesn't exist.