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Jun 9, 2006 11:34 AM

Is Trader Joe's going downhill?

  • m

While I realize that some of you think it can go no farther, this is not addressed to you TJ's haters. Instead, this is addressed to those of you who have enjoyed the availability of many wonderful things at TJ's for years. I don't know if the changes I perceive have to do with TJ's expansions of the last few years, but I've had far more problems with freshness recently. I've had several bags of lettuce go before their pull dates, I bought a dozen eggs, four of which smelled fishy, and I've had a few other problems which, er, I can't bring to mind with the 14 month old demanding my attention. Oh, now I remember: no more organic cheese because of the "lack of availability of organic milk with which to make cheese". On what planet?? And the shaving cream is unavailable because of "quality control problems." What up with that?

So the problems I've noted are across the board. Does that mean they're coincidental or that TJ's is slipping?

Interested in others' observations and opinions.

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  1. d
    Das Ubergeek

    I don't know about "downhill" but TJ's has always had a problem with expiry dates... and for some reason their milk always seems to turn about three days before the date printed on the pitcher.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      If TJ milk goes bad before the pull date, bring it back to the store and they'll replace it. Same with eggs and other things that sometimes go bad.

      1. re: paoconnell

        I never thought TJ's milk tasted very fresh, and sometimes it would give me an upset stomach. Today I had a carton of their milk turn rancid 2 days before its "sell by" date. That's right: the "sell by" date, not the expiration date. Now I know why I had an upset stomach.

        Prior to that, I had to return a cut of lamb, still sealed, A DAY AFTER I BOUGHT IT because it had "turned;" when I cut open the plastic wrapper it released a horrible stench.

        I don't trust anything "fresh" from them anymore. I assume their logistics / distribution model is biased towards frozen food and non-perishables; I've had this problem with Trader Joe's on the east and west coasts, by the way, so this is a company-wide issue.

        This is in Marin County, CA by the way. Take your pick. I've had the same expiration date problems at the Daly City one as well.

    2. I buy their 1% milk all the time and have never had a problem with it. Love the eggs, find more double yokes than I've seen in a lifetime, bet the last carton was half double yokes. Don't know about the shaving cream. Our TJ's is in Alameda, CA and is outstanding, almost always packed. The way things zip off the shelves I doubt there is time for anything to reach pull date status.

      1. I haven't noticed any quality problems (like Monty, I've never had any problem with the milk -- maybe that depends on how far the source your store is along the distribution chain, and handling practices and turnover at individual stores). But I was wondering the same thing about it going downhill the other day when I was shopping there: it does seem that more and more products I like get discontinued and have been replace by less appealing ones.

        Although I've been shopping there long enough to see this as a cycle -- because their product line is always changing, and at any given time it may contain a different proportion of products you really like. Right now I think it's at a low point, but it may cycle back up again in a few months.

        1. s
          sally from LA

          Where are you located? I have heard that TJ's are not as good out of California, where they originate. All the California-grown produce, eggs etc would have days of extra shipping and handling time to get to east coast stores. In the California stores the freshness may be related to the store's turnover. My local TJ's in La Canada, California seems to be maintaining its standards. Re TJ's milk - this was discussed last year on one of these boards, where it was suggested that a short shelf life might indicate less antibiotics in the milk, which may not be a bad thing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sally from LA

            My understanding is the East Coast stores have different distribution points closer to them than the West Coast. And that would definitely be a factor; different distributors store things differently, which could result in products going bad more quickly in certain stores than other stores.

            1. re: sally from LA

              I am in Chicago. I became familiar with TJs the three years taht I commuted between St. Louis and Orange County. In terms of quality and freshness, there really is not much comparison between the average SoCal TJs store and the ones in the Midwest.

              The staples are pretty much the same as are the frozen goods.

              The rest of the food is extremely variable in quality. The problem that I have is that most of the fresh food is sourced along the East Coast when there are far better local sources for the same product. Why should I pay more for East Coast food when I can run down to the local independent ethnic market and get better food for a lower price?

              Don't get me wrong, it is a fun shop when I am in the neighborhood.

              One off the cuff comment. I was always amazed at the absolute poor condition that some of the trucking equipment that Trader Joe's used (back in the 1990s) to deliver their food in SoCal. Some of the trucks did not even look roadworthy. It kind of cemented the notion that it was a real cheap outfit.

            2. Not here in Vegas, I have never had a problem with their freshness. My only complaint is that they run out of banana crisps too quickly.