Thursday, June 05, 2008


Have I mentioned Lidl before? I don't think so.

For those of you who don't know, Lidl is a supermarket. Sort of. Really it's a lot more than that. It's an experience. It's a surreal experience.

Lidl is a German supermarket chain. I don't know how long they've been in Ireland, but my first time in Lidl was probably less than 2 years ago. And I don't go that often. It isn't the kind of store where you go when you need stuff.

What makes Lidl different? I have trouble pinning it down. Maybe it's the 'foreign-ness'? It's a great place to practice your German, so many of the products have German labels. The foods available are probably available in Tesco and other supermarkets, but Lidl is so much smaller that the odd, non-local foods stand out more. Toilet-seat shaped sausages, for example. Always reminds me of being in a German deli in New York, only down market. Oh, and, there's actually no deli, only packaged foods.

Maybe it's the way the food is displayed? The freezers, in particular, always look 3/4 empty. Every time I've been in Lidl I've had the feeling that shoppers from the Soviet Union would have felt at home in Lidl's frozen foods section. One, maybe two products available and acres of empty space. Half of the rest of the foods are just dumped on pallets on the floor. It's as if they want it to look like the store is run by a former Commissar from Nizhny Novgorod?

The size is also odd. The stores are actually pretty small. Which brings me to my next possible explanation. Maybe it's the range of things you find there (given the size)? The fact that Wal-mart sells snow tires, lingerie, milk by the gallon, birthday cards and beer-keg size containers of Vaseline doesn't surprise me because the stores are so big. You could park a few 747's in most Wal-mart stores.

Lidl - at least around here - is small. Yet, despite that, the last time I was in Lidl I could have picked up a chainsaw and/or a motorcycle helmet. My previous trip to Lidl they had trumpets and trolley jacks. You never see the same products twice. And, you can't count on finding something there. I bought shaving cream there a while back and thought it was good. Last time I was there they had no shaving cream. I can't imagine any other supermarket simply having no shaving cream. Maybe out of one brand, but never none at all. Like I said, you can't go there when you need stuff.

It's all just part of the appeal. Every trip you find something new and you find something missing. Every trip is an adventure. Lidl has to be experienced.