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Dec 29, 2006 10:29 PM

Ok..I have to get this out in 2006..I HATE TRADER JOES

I'm sorry, I just do. Almost everything I have ever gotten there is mediocre AT BEST, the parking is AWFUL, the lines are long. I just don't get it. I'm so sorry. I live in Los Angeles, and there are so many Trader Joe fanatics out here. I am disappointed every time. Some of my bad experiences have involved, but have not been limited to:
Canned crabmeat (don't ask)
smoked salmon
ground beef
frozen salmon
prepared salads
beef stew
any and all frozen dumplings.
Happy New year!!

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  1. THANK YOU!!! I just don't get it either. I never, EVER eat prepared or processed food, but apparently a lot of people do. Making homemade balsamic vinaigrette takes approximately 2 minutes (I timed myself tonight.) Tomato sauce should contain olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and a little salt; it takes less time to make than boiling water for the pasta you serve it with. Homemade guacamole is hardly more involved. I guess I'm just not interested in whatever chocolate-covered, cheese-powdered, spice-crusted, sodium-enhanced faux ethnic snack food most of the population swoons over. The sad little produce section (why all the plastic wrap?) and the even worse fresh meat section (a butcher is a beautiful and rare thing!) do nothing for me. I guess the prices are fine, but for the life of me I cannot understand the fuss.

    7 Replies
    1. re: pizzapazza

      I totally agree! We don't have one near us, but on a road trip we saw one and actually braved insane traffic to turn around (it was on the other side of a divided highway) so we could check out this place everyone always raves about. After struggling to find parking we got inside only to find a store with nothing in it that we were interested in buying. I was very disappointed.

      1. re: pizzapazza

        Amen!! I thought it was only me. :) All of my friends seem to live at that place, but to me, Trader Joe's is the worst. It tries to come off as healthy, with its boutique atmosphere, but everything there is processed and packaged to within an inch of its claim to be food. The last time I voluntarily went into a Trader Joe's, I noticed that they were demo-ing Spaghetti Bolognese, and figured they were trying to hawk their jarred Bolognese sauce. Which they were. But they were also spotlighting their PRE-COOKED, FROZEN, BAGGED SPAGHETTI. I mean, really. Can people honestly no longer boil water and wait for dried pasta to cook? For Pete's sake, fresh pasta isn't difficult to make, let alone using dried. That was it for me; I was done. I think most people don't remember this, but years ago, before they took off, they didn't have anything fresh in the stores -- it was all boxed, canned and frozen goods. Then people started requesting fresh fruits and vegetables. So, Trader Joe's started selling them: packaged on styrofoam trays and covered with plastic wrap, like cuts of meat. I'm not against meat at all, but I think it's just a glimpse into the corporate mind-frame. They just wouldn't know fresh if it bit them on the ass. Now that they actually sell fresh fruits and vegetables normally, they've also upped their game with every kind of over-processed non-food imaginable. Yuck. I'm happy I hate them -- I don't have to deal with those ridiculous parking lots. :)

        1. re: sdvora

          If people did not buy the products, it would not be in business.

          Until about 1992, the (original) Pasadena Store (it opened in 1967) made sandwiches to order. It basically was a deli.

          When the first store came to San Diego in about 1988 or 89, it also had a sandwich making area.

          Trader Joe's most certainly has always sold fresh items.

          1. re: Cathy

            I honestly didn't know about the sandwiches, but as amply demonstrated here, TJ's is very different from location to location. I've only been to a few in New Jersey and Southern California, and I vividly remember those meat-like packages of fruits and vegetables.

            As for the first part, yes. People buy lots of things. It's why McDonald's does so well. Doesn't mean it's good. In my book, there is no excuse for that pre-cooked spaghetti. To each his own, though. You can have my share. :)

          2. re: sdvora

            Don't let the demos determine your image of the store. The limited demo facilities mean that they usually can't create items from scratch. Imagine the logistics of boiling up a big pot of dried pasta, much less making fresh pasta in the store. Plus the demo person might not be an accomplished cook.

            Handling fresh meats requires a butcher counter and facilities that TJ stores do not have.

            The produce selection has grown noticeably since I started shopping there. Still I only buy the few fresh items that are relatively unique, such as their very small potatoes and some lines of tomatoes. I get most of my produce from a Vietnamese multi-ethnic produce stand near by.

            Most of what I buy at TJ is partially processed. I've not been happy with most of the ready to heat-and-eat items (e.g. pizza). I buy things like oil, packaged cereal, coffee, nuts, pasta, canned peppers (e.g piquillo), frozen vegetables, juices, bread (best prices on local artisan breads), tortillas, eggs, and inexpensive wine.

            1. re: paulj

              It wasn't the demo facilities that I objected to. It was the fact that this product existed in the first place.

              I don't care why Trader Joe's doesn't have fresh butchering facilities. The fact is that they don't, which is part of the reason I don't shop there.

              The rest of it, I've already covered. Look, you guys just aren't going to change my mind. And notice how I'm not trying to change yours. For the people who shop there, you obviously like it, and there are a lot of you; clearly TJ's is doing something right for the vast majority of people. I am aware that my opinions and thoughts about food aren't the same as most others (although I think there are a few on Chowhound that I'd jive with). I don't enjoy eating things that have been pre-cooked in a factory. I am willing to take the time to cook from scratch and to spend more for the privilege of doing so, because I enjoy it. You don't have to justify your purchases and likes/dislikes to me.

              I think I'm done now. I'm starting to get defensive and it's not a good color on me.

              1. re: sdvora

                OK, you answered my reply further up while it was in process.

                It is not TJ's you object to, but supermarkets in general.

                TJ's just happens to be a better representation of the supermarket ... more organic/natural than most, less expensive than Whole Foods.

                I'm certainly not trying to change your mind either, but I guess I don't understand your complaint. You are happy shopping in boutique markets, farmstands, etc. TJ's doesn' t pretend to be that.

        2. I really like Trader Joe's, but I really don't buy produce or meat or even prepared food there. I have other places to get meat and produce.
          What I do like at Trader Joe's is their inexpensive organic dairy products (Plugra butter!), their nuts and snack mixes, their oils and vinegars, King Arthur flour, cheap power bars, oatmeal, cheap basic cheese varieties...
          I cook pretty much everything I eat from scratch (read: no frozen meals) and I make my own salad dressing. But I just can't beat their prices on some of the ingredients that go into my homemade food.
          In my mind there are certainly some things you should get there and some you shouldn't. You can't really approach it like you would an Albertson's or whatever other big grocery store because that's not what TJ's is going for. It's good for certain ingredients and certain specialty items.

          The lines do suck and I can't attest to the parking issue because my TJ's is in Manhattan, so there isn't any parking. I just wish there was a TJ's in my neighborhood so I wouldn't have to take the subway home with my groceries.

          1. It took me awhile to see the value. If you go at the right time (here in Northern CA anyway) the lines aren't too bad, plus they have express check out. I go for only certain items which have proved to be good.

            1. Have you found any of these items elsewhere that you like? At what kind of price?

              I assume, for example, that you tried the canned beef stew. Is there any good canned beef stew?

              Which smoked salmon? The small cans, or a flat pack in the cooler section?

              What was wrong with the ground beef?

              Which soups? I'm not a big fan of canned soups myself, but have been happy using the TJ lobster bisque on camping trips.


              1. I live closer to the TJs in Santa Monica, but shop at the more distant TJs in Palms. The first is consistently a nightmare - impossible parking lot, thoughlessly rude customers, long lines, and employees who seem to be a bit overwhelmed. The Palms TJs offers a much better shopping experience.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Nukedli

                  When I briefly lived in a rental within walking distance of TJ's in Palms in the early 90's, I didn't appreciate it. I sort of assumed everyone had a TJ's nearby.

                  It's so funny to hear about all the fuss now.

                  1. re: grocerytrekker

                    Thats funny... up until June of 2006... we use to walk to both TJs (Sepulveda & Palms) and WF (National & McLaughlin)... those were the days. Now we are gas guzzling, wine country suburbanites, that depend on the car to go anywhere.

                    Good lord, I even miss the Big Blue Bus... limited range, but everytime I could take the bus, I would consider it a victory!

                  2. re: Nukedli

                    The same goes for the difference between the horror that is the Glendale and Toluca Lake TJ's and the relative calm that are Studio City and Burbank.