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Is Trader Joe's Slipping? [moved from L.A. board]

I've been a Trader Joe's fan for decades. I ordinarily enjoy shopping there. However, for the past six weeks, it has been an exercise in frustration because they've been out of stock on many non-perishable staple items (who runs out of mayonnaise and chicken stock?). When I inquire at the manager's desk about re-stocking, the refrain I have been hearing far too many times is: "It's out of stock at the warehouse. ."

I can understand miscalculating or running out of perishable items such as fruit or baked goods occasionally, but it's getting ridiculous and I don't have the time or inclination to shop multiple stores.

Something smells somewhere.

Perhaps it is just the Sepulveda and Palms store . . . . Anyone else noticing problems?

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  1. Here in the south bay I have noticed they run out of many perishable items-lately have been forced to leave the store and come back early next morning for staples. The flowers are always minimally stocked too The one non-perishable item they have been out of stock on for weeks are my fav jarred kalamata olives in brine. My feta is lonely.

    Let's hope it is a temporary condition.

    1. You can't count on it for staples. Never could IMHO. It's good for tastes of the moment and bargains on odd foods. Having a passing interest in city planning, I tend to frequent the various locations on weekends to prepare slides on how not to design parking for a busy business (entrances, exits, and spaces are suitable for low volume convenience businesses, not supermarket wannabes).
      Since you mention the word, "decades", I can never forget buying wines there through the 1980s. Had the last bottle of the 1974 BV Private Reserve Cabernet last year with the $5.95 price tag still on it. Wines now are of the bargain basement variety only. Two Buck Chuck versions of various varietals ranges from value of the year to not worth even one buck. Problem is you can't tell whether you're going to get the bargain or the shaft in advance.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Griller141

        It is so funny that you would mention parking. I almost never shop at Trader Joe's and the number reson is the parking is such an exercise in aggravation. I find it worth the extra money I spend elsewhere to avoid the stress. My friends all think I'm a freak but I just can't stand that irked feeling while shopping for my favorite thing...food.

        1. re: Griller141

          I don't think Trader Joe's is cheap/inexpensive. It's mostly carbs that you're buying...and I don't mean fresh fruits and veggies. I think you put it best, "it's good for tastes of the moment,". Although I've been successful with parking at the Trader's Joes at Weho, I don't like the parking lot and you have to go after hours, not peak. I used to like Trader Joes back in the 80s also, it was cool. Now it's like this trendy food place that you can't criticise....weird. I get better olives and cheese at the cheese store and I don't find it more expensive and if it is then the quality is better...

          1. re: Griller141

            Maybe you can answer this question: What's up with the checkout counter design at Trader Joe's??? Every single last one of them has the oddest design. The angle is all wrong (they're often at angles for crying out loud) and you get locked in - I've not had that experience in other stores. I love TJ's - just because it's TJ's. But parking and checkout counter design keep me from shopping there unless it's the middle of the day, I ditched work and I have nothing but time on my hands.

            1. re: martasiete

              OK, now you've raised a very interesting point. The checkouts are from...no, not the 1970s when it actually started...not the 60s or 50s or even the 40s, but from the 1930s! That's when the clerk waited on you and got things from behind the counter as you asked for them. The earliest self service stores and their supermarket kin had flow through checkouts where you entered and exited in a straight line without backtracking. TJs has the old stub end entry where you have to back up to exit. The flow through plan does takea little more more space, but I can't imagine why at least the newer stores haven't adopted it. It fits with the archaic parking design. An operation that apparently hasn't paid an architect since it started as a small time specialty store.

              1. re: Griller141

                That checkout design - where you need to back up - is particular to the west coast stores. In the newer midwestern stores, the checkouts are more conventional.

                1. re: jlawrence01

                  Good to know. How about in the East?

                  1. re: Griller141

                    Since the eastern stores are sourced out of Boston (as are the midwestern stores), I would say so.

                    Since I never head east of Pittsburgh, I cannot really say.

          2. I shop regularly in one of the San Francisco TJ's. Last week, they were out of toilet paper. They have not carrried their regular instant mashed potato flakes for many months now.

            1. Trader Joe's is ALWAYS out of stock of a few items ... especially in the newer stores. NEVER head to a NEW store late in the day. And that is NOTHING new.

              In the old days, they were always waiting for the next truck ... and an old wreck of a truck would show up, unload its load in front of the store while emplyees would scramble to restock.

              If you want a perfectly stocked store, head to the local Safeway/Krogers/SuperValu and you will find full shelves and mush higher prices.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jlawrence01

                Yep, one of the things I like about TJs is that they won't stock everything no matter what. They stock things when they feel they can get a good product at a good price. The manufacturers and purveyors they work with vary and can't always keep up wtih demand. You run out of things like mayonaise when you're not buying your mayonaise from Hellman's (I love Hellman's, don't get me wrong). So, products are going to come and go and come back again later when they find a new source.

              2. Hmm ... this has a familiar ring -- I guess TJ's has been "slipping" since the mid-to-late 1970s but somehow they are paddling furiously enough to stay alive -- I hope they make it through the weekend.

                1. Nothing new at all on running out of stock. Your area is just under-stored for the high level of demand. I'm happy that I don't have those parking issues and my local store is just a mile away.

                  I just buy carbs? My usual purchases are yogurt, milk, frozen wild salmon, the frozen blueberries and french green beans, nuts, and the reduced fat cheeses. They're all cheaper than the competition. But then I don't live where there is a cheesemonger around the corner, only a Bristol Farms.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mlgb

                    I was there today and found the store wonderfully stocked again! Parking is usually never a problem in the three stores in my immediate area. We also have 2 Whole Foods, 2 Bristol Farms, Vons. 2 Ralphs, 2 Albertsons-you get the picture. I shop at TJ's for staples-wonderful staples. My staples are not carbs (sometimes I wish they were). I buy rice, pasta and bread elsewhere when I need it and I try hard not to need it-wanting it is a different kettle of fish. Today I bought:

                    Rinnoculus flowers=4 bucks a bunch!
                    Greek Yogurt
                    Cooked Chicken Breast for my dog (not spoiled-part of her cancer treatment regimen)
                    Dried blueberries
                    Dried cranberries
                    Black Beans
                    Letttuce
                    Mixed Cherry Tomatoes
                    Pomegrantite seeds
                    Tapioca Pudding (for husband with flu)
                    My fav kalamata olives for 2.99! so much better than the innedible ones I bought at Whole foods for 5 bucks out of desperation!

                    well you get the picture!

                    I remember well when wine was also part of my list -now I buy it from the wine store down the street. As I get older I cannot drink 2 buck Chuck and it's ilk. TJ's does have a great deal on Patron Tequila though!

                    I love me the TJ's! Trendy? I must not get out much.

                    1. re: Densible

                      Actually, although I won't go there (the parking gets me too wound up), my wife goes there first and gets what she can; then heads to Ralph's for the rest. Speaking of which, Ralph's seems to be in some sort of decline. Lots of out of date items, illogical layout of their remodels, fewer choices, higher prices.

                      1. re: Griller141

                        If you started a thread, "Is Ralph's slipping?", I'll bet you'd get the reaction: It's sucked for a while!

                        Ever since the supermarket strike, my grocery shopping has been a combination of TJ's, Wild Oats, Superior Warehouse, and 99 cent store. Very rarely I'll go to Vons and pick up something on special, like strawberries.

                      2. re: Densible

                        Try the Silver Lake cheese store for olives-really good...they actually have taste and flavor.

                    2. I would guess that they have expanded / opened, too many stores too fast and just aren't able to quite keep up.
                      I've noticed some 'slippage' on the clean-up and maintainance of their southern CA stores and on keeping things on the refrigerated shelves and meat area 'uptodate'.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: OCEllen

                        I have shopped regularly at TJ's since they opened up in Northern California and it still has some good stuff that I save a little money on...or not. I usually go for specialty items (microgreens, blackberries, bananas, ginger beer, cashews, peanuts) only there, as most of the plastic-wrapped meats and produce leaves much to be desired.

                        Also, many of my favorite products have been discontinued --- like the fresh shrimp, cilantro-coconut dressed noodle salad, the old recipe dolmas, etc. and the quality of the products seems to be going downhill, especially as they follow the current grocery trend in offering more and more rows of ready-made food.

                        It was especially a sad moment to see plastic-encased peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I know people are busy, but is that really necessary?

                        All the plastic pisses me off.

                        1. re: melisky

                          I agree - some of the salads and such are okay - a word to the wise - check the dates and pull things from the back of the case in warm weather - but too much 'plastic' from a place that started as a sort of a rebellion against it, is, well, too much. I do think they've done a remarkable job distributing interesting products at excellent prices overall. I, like you, I think, hope they don't get too big in the wrong (ie. 'too conveniance oriented) way.

                          1. re: OCEllen

                            Ultimately, they're a business. They sell what sells, by definition. Trader Joe's more than most is an excellent barometer of what people want and are willing to spend money on. The there are products that some people miss and wish they had back, they clearly weren't able to sell enough of them or the suppliers went out of business or stopped making them. It'd be pretty to think that TJs would, on principle, refuse to sell platic cartoned sandwiches...but, again, they're a business.

                            If they're slipping, we really have ourselves to blame.

                          2. re: melisky

                            On the other hand, the Atkins Ranch fresh lamb, which is fairly new, is a really nice addition.