Monday, October 29, 2007

Feeling generic

Okay, you're in the grocery store, faced with the routine decision between a product from trusted national brand (say, Kraft) and the cheap knock-off version (such as President's Choice, Spartan, Lucerne, Walgreens, etc.). Which one do you pick? If you're a reflective shopper, it can get complicated. Generic cheese? Can be nasty. Generic paper towels? Only when feeling cheap. Generic food storage bags (i.e., Ziploc® bags)? Yes. (One sure thing: If you're ever in a pinch, and the Ben & Jerry's isn't on sale for two for $5, Walgreen's ice cream isn't half bad.)

[short aside] One time, I met this woman on the El named Joyce. Between messy handfuls of chips and sips of Coke, she leaned over and said conspiratorially (and I believe without irony) "They call that sugary stuff breakfast?" I followed her gaze to a couple eating doughnuts out of a white paper bag. I shook my head neutrally.

Our train camaraderie thus cemented, she decided to quiz me on the cost of her Aldi purchases. The last item was a big roll of paper towels. "How much?" she shouted, as we entered the noisy underground part of the red line. "Ninety nine cents," I suggested reasonably--too reasonably. She looked disappointed. "These are nice paper towels! Really thick." I think I revised my estimate, but still came in too low. If my memory serves me right, they were about $2.99, so I had a hard time looking impressed.

Who really knows if Aldi is really saving anyone money or just tricking people into thinking so because they're buying things off a dirty pallet? [end short aside]

We haven't escaped the name-brand/generic conundrum by fleeing to Switzerland either. However, we don't have to be confused by the clever appellations (like "Walprofen") or flashy marketing. Every generic item at our local Migros has the same clearly identifiable green pattern and is conveniently priced in large bold numbers:

If you're going generic, there's no hiding it. Like the Jolly Green Giant, they'll see you coming to the checkout with your budget foods from aisles away. But I have no shame, the quality of almost all of the Migros foods we've eaten so far as been great! Not to mention we can pretend we're part of the Dharma Initiative.


Lee said...

Oh wow, that's almost kinda cruel! Like equipping public transportation with vastly oversized windows so everyone can see in and ogle the riders.

Enjoy your Migros!

joyce said...

be careful with the name joyce - there aren't that many of us ...

jenicrob said...

I'll have you know that I love Aldi! In fact, there was the infamous incident where I extolled the virtues of Aldi to somebody for a little too long, and she abruptly walked off. I felt dumb. (And Patrick has never let me live it down.) But I still love Aldi!

Swiss Ms. said...

Okay, for the record, I did not know the Joyce on the El prior to our showcase showdown. And I have not seen her since.

And, in regard to Aldi love, you are not alone, Jenicrob, you are not alone. Many in Germany love this chain of stores as well. And indeed I'm sure that the new Aldi on Broadway will be nice once it's done. Is it? Are you planning a visit?