Trader Joe's ...
- Chocolatechipkt Oct 5, 2006 06:26 PM
For the most part, I agree.
TJ's quality must really just go to hell when they move East, if this and several other posts are any indication. While I've gotten some slightly rubbery broccoli and the occasional moldy green bean (in a bagful), I have never found slimy greens there. As for the dips and salsas, TJ's tasting panel and I seem to share a lot of preferences, as I find most (though definitely not all) of their stuff in these categories to be exactly to my taste. I'm in the LA area, just a few miles down the road from their HQ in Monrovia; I wonder how far away I'd have to move to start getting crummy produce?
re: Will Owen
It sounds a lot like TJ's in San Francisco. I can't comment on TJ's produce because I would never buy plastic-wrapped produce. As far as TJ-labeled prepared foods, they frequently are included in the blind taste-testings reported by the San Francisco Chronicle and finish near the bottom about 80 percent of the time, and nothing in my own experience contradicts this.
I'm not a big fan of TJ's produce either, and I'm in L.A. I have definitely bought items that turned out to be moldy (orange bell peppers come to mind.) I think part of the issue is the produce all comes pre-packaged in multi-packs or bags, so the produce folks aren't able to tell if something's not good and toss it away. Overall I love TJs, but I prefer farmers markets or Whole Foods for produce.
So do I, but TJ's is there all the time, and I tend to buy our food on a daily basis - even one meal at a time. Those little two-serving bags of green beans or cauliflower and the bags of little potatoes are the perfect backup for a small chicken or butterflied leg of lamb. A lot cheaper than WF or farmer's markets, too.
re: Will Owen
Honestly, I prefer Ralph's produce to TJs. I'm with you when it comes to shopping every day, and at Ralphs I can by one or two bell peppers or apples that I pick out, instead of a shrink-wrapped pack of four. I really like TJs, just too many times buying produce and having to throw at least part of it away because it's moldy when I get it home.
I don't like their produce at all...or their policy. I bought something that I found out was bad after coming home. I called to complain and they told me to bring it in. I told them the store was pretty far (half an hour) and I didn't plan on going there soon. They told me to save it and bring it the next time I came in! When it happened at Whole Foods (yes, I know I need to check better when I'm in the store), they told me to hold onto the receipt and bring it in next time I came. Much better than holding onto moldy produce for a couple of weeks! I like TJ's for the most part, but always pass on the produce and the prepacked foods up front (like sushi and sandwiches). I've had too many problems w/ it. Prepacked in too much wrap isn't good for produce. That and their baked goods which go moldy overnight.
For something perishable, I've had them give me a refund without bringing it back. In fact, they gave me a refund when I mentioned to the clerk that the previous time I'd purchased the item (cottage cheese) it had been bad.
Of course the produce isn't as good as a farmer's market. I consider it mostly a convenience (it's there, I'm there) rather than a reason to shop there.
The eggs and dairy products are another matter though: good quality, good value.
I've had amazingly good experiences with returning things at Trader Joe's. I recently had one of their whole chickens go bad in the fridge before the pull date. I called and they said I didn't need to bring in the whole chicken (it smelled bad when I opened the package, so I tossed it) -- I didn't even need to bring in the receipt, just the tag with the price on it. When I got to the store I couldn't find the tag at first (it was buried in my purse) and the clerk said, "Oh, don't worry about it, I'll just scan the tag from one of the chickens in the case." A full refund with no chicken, no price tag, no receipt -- now THAT'S customer service! As it happened I did find the tag just before she was about to go get a chicken, but wow, was I impressed. The one other time I've needed to return something they were equally helpful and friendly about it. [This reply is the same as a post I made on a different thread, also about returning at TJ's -- couldn't figure out how to link directly to my comment there.]
I've had problems with their liquid dairy spoiling before the expiration date. The produce not so much.
BTW, I'm in the LA area, about 15 miles from the original store.
Trader Joes. We used to shop at the one in Eagle Rock near the original in South Pasadena. Saw it grow from a few convenience stores to an nationwide chain and an institution. Have watched it open a store in Pennsylvania where they couldn't sell wine; and my son was very happy he could buy from a new store in D.C. when they opened there.
Most produce is OK but pricy.
Sometimes bread is old and I've gotten a few moldy ones.
They always take everything back, no bother.
Their specialty items, under their own label, are usually superior.
Their coffee is generally good and fairly priced.
Some of their wines are good and low priced.
Get breads from the rack by produce not from the shelves, it's fresher, I believe.
Some of their frozen foods like potstickers are superior and don't have stuff like msg in them.
Their flowers are very reasonable, very fresh.
Soups like roasted peppers and butternut squash in boxes are great.
Condiments have always been good.
Some vitamins and other stuff like prostate pills are first quality, good prices.
Their own sausages are excellent.
Some meats and fish are quite pricy.
Service has always been cheerful and helpful.
Hope this helps. If anything is wrong, go back to them and they will make it right. They seem to run a very customer oriented store and, as you can see, as a very long term user, I think the world of them.