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May 7, 2007 05:45 PM

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.