MALE friends won’t believe me, but I don’t much like shopping. Not for me “a day out” at Bluewater, or an afternoon “just looking” at Westwood Cross. The mere thought of Canterbury brings me out in a rash.
I go to retail parks when I absolutely have to (you can’t get it in the High Street and it’s too late for online).
And I stick with devotion to the same (small) supermarkets. I’ve been a Waitrose woman for over 25 years (both food and staff are lovely) with occasional forays to Asda (cheaper wine and flowers) or the Broadstairs Co-op (handy to shoot into at half past five, when one’s run out of crisps).
I loathe great big stores – I have been known to abandon a trolley and run screaming from the Tesco at Westwood – and have only managed to tour the whole of Ikea because the cafe is licensed.
So you would not expect me to get particularly excited because the Ramsgate Aldi has been extended. I was there, dear reader, at 8 am. I have had a fascination with the new breed of cheap supermarket since Lidl won an award for their cut-price champagne and the middle classes were caught flocking there in their 4x4s to buy smoked salmon.
“Have you been?” I asked my sister. “Oh yes!” she declared, as I knew she would. My older sibling is a one-woman, walking equivalent of a price-comparison site. Name a product, and she will tell you where you can get it cheapest. I am thinking of hiring her out by the hour. I could make a fortune, while you save one. I took a deep breath. “Take me,” I said.
Thus began the tradition of what has become known as the “Lidl Breakfast” whereby we meet early, I gasp my way round a bargain store of some description, and then we go to a cafe for eggs on toast.
We frequently have the shops to ourselves at that hour, but on re-opening day, we arrived at the newly enlarged Boundary Road store to find the car park full and a party atmosphere. There were balloons and a stall with free samples and bacon rolls. Inside, there were dozens of Aldi Big Brass, suited and booted, standing near the brilliant flowers (gorgeous roses, only £2 a bunch) and talking to each other. My sister tutted. “They should be giving out vouchers,” she said, “not ignoring us.”
I suppose when you are buying biscuits for pennies you can’t expect “Did you find everything you needed, Madam?” too, but even “Good morning” would have been a start.
Instead, my sister walked me round Aldi pointing out bargains. “See those cleansing wipes?” she said. “64p. Do you know how much Simple ones are? Over three quid.” I obediently put some in my trolley. I also bought bottles of montepulciano – excellent value at £3.49 – beer for the boy, tissues at half of what I usually pay and some cut-price cat food.
I suspect, however, that where these stores score, is on the impulse purchase. Carried away by the excitement of vastly reduced cheese straws, I somehow found myself buying frozen quails and a box of Coquille St Jacques (last time I went to Lidl I came out with a set of heated, fake-sheepskin, neck and shoulder pads and a plastic broom) and I realise the genius is in mixing in non-bargains with the undeniably cheap, in the hope that nobody really notices that some of it is not the economy one might think.
But they’re now taking credit cards (an improvement) and although I resent tokens for trolleys, at least the smiley girl on the checkout (bosses – you could learn a thing or two from her) gave us some.
The whole trip was, as usual, strangely thrilling, while leaving me with that slight guilty sense I’d been disloyal. Until the next time, Aldi! I’m off to Waitrose…
Read the original article at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane-Lidl-helps/story-24559978-detail/story.html