The appeal of the retail treasure hunt is the bread and butter of retailers like T.J.Maxx, but it usually is not a factor for customers when they are literally buying bread and butter. An impressive number of grocery shoppers at Aldi, however, are such fans of the discounter’s odds and ends aisle that they have given it a special name — and started Facebook groups to celebrate it.

The so-called “Aisle of Shame” (AOS) at Aldi’s has achieved such a level of Facebook fandom that Atlas Obscura reports members of one popular Facebook fan group have even invented a special “call” to signal to each other when they are in the store and shopping the aisle. It is not clear if the characteristic “caw-caw” of the AOS Facebook group member has ever been observed in the wild. But a Facebook search reveals numerous AOS fan groups, some with members numbering in the thousands and some with counts in the tens of thousands.

The AOS is presumably named for the guilty pleasure that comes with shopping the hodgepodge discount aisle. Fans use Facebook groups to post pictures of the strange or price-savvy finds they snag from the aisles, the assortment of which is rotated weekly.

The aisle, which Aldi stocks with an assortment split 50-50 between food products and non-food and, Atlas Obscura reports, is a known source of sales for the retailer. Retail consultant Nils Brandes, who has written a book about Aldi, says the aisle is responsible for about 20 percent of the retailer’s sales per year.

The Germany-based discounter has continued to build a fan base in the U.S. as it has pursued a huge expansion of its stateside footprint in recent years.

Once famous for its spartan store layout and no-frills/no bags shopping experience, Aldi has not ignored the U.S. trend toward customers — even discount shoppers — favoring higher-end grocery shopping experiences. In recent years the chain has given its locations a more wide-open feel and has expanded its range of organic and fresh foods. It has also built stores significantly larger than its standard concept in some markets.


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