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Mar 20, 2008 07:35 AM

Trader Joe's brand - dissapointing

Raw almond butter at TJ's goes for $6, while at Whole Foods the brand they carry is $16(!). What a deal I thought, but the taste of the one from WF's is far superior. I'm not sure how old the almonds are that TJ's uses, but they are definitely the refuse of the almond market.

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  1. Return them to TJ's, they'll give you a refund. If you have no receipt and threw away the package, there's a good chance they'll still refund.


    28 Replies
    1. re: KOK

      right, and ring the loud bell announcing a return - then they criticize why i'm returning it.

      1. re: fara

        But really, who cares? You don't like their product, so they are the ones who should feel bad, not you.

        1. re: fara

          Funny- I have never gotten attitude when returning anything. As a matter of fact, I bought some baked brie and really did not care for it. The next time I was there, I mentioned it to the cashier, and they deducted the cost from my bill- I did not have the receipt or the product.

          1. re: macca

            similar thing happened to me--the cashier was enthusiastic about something I was buying, and said "is there ANYTHING here that isn't good?" I said I wasn't crazy about the pineapple salsa, and he immediately found out the price of it and deducted it from my order.

          2. re: fara

            Sorry you've bad experience with TJ returns. If anything, the staff at the ones I go to are TOO friendly and want to talk your ear off.

            I've never been criticized for a return and like that I can try anything at TJ and know if I don't like it I'm not scroogied, like it seems you were.

            1. re: fara

              I've never had them do that. They're always happy to take something back. It's written large on the wall: They tried it, they liked it, if you don't like it, bring it back for a refund.

              Ringing the bell is not their way of signaling that someone brought back a return. If they ring the bell once, you just happened to be there when they need to open another register. If they ring the bell twice, that means someone has a tricky question at checkout, and three bells calls over the manager. If someone's giving you a hard time when you return a product, speak to the Captain of the store (their term for a General Manager) about it. As much as TJ's likes taking care of their customers, I'm sure the Captain would like to know about it.

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                mm, actually, at my location it is required that one returns the item in the checkout, and the checkout person calls customer service over with the bell.

                1. re: fara


                  Where on earth else were you going to return the item?

                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                    at the customer service desk, which is where every other supermarket i know does it. it would also save the person from having to be rung by bell to run over to the cashier.

                    1. re: fara

                      That would work if they *had* a traditional customer service desk. What looks like a customer service desk there is more of the manager's office.

                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        they could *make* it the place of return if they *wanted* to, instead they make a *big deal* out of returns.

                        1. re: fara

                          Even if they do ring the bell what difference does it make. Most people don't even notice and who cares if someone is returning an item?

                          1. re: monkuboy

                            if you can't understand how that's obnoxious, than I can't explain it to you. if it doesn't bother you great. it bothers me.

                            1. re: fara

                              funny- I only got a refund once- but nobody rang a bell- Will have to notice next time I am there. I go the TJ's in theBoston area, but I would think the rules are the same everywhere. But- if they did ring a bell, it would bug me, too!

                              1. re: macca

                                I've been going to TJs for years and always thought they rang the bell if someone needed help going to their car with their groceries...I could be more dense than most, but my guess is most people don't even notice the bell or what it is for in the cacophony of the place.

                              2. re: fara

                                Jeez I may return the chocolate I didn't like just to see if they do that. I wonder if they will let me ring the bell? :)

                            2. re: fara

                              Let me put it a different way... the people at Trader Joe's are nice enough to put several customer service desks in each store. They're called the cash registers. The manager's desk is NOT a customer service desk. If you were to get the manager at the desk to handle the return, they would have to go to the cash register and wait for whoever was being rang up to get done. Instead, the very busy manager would prefer that he only gets involved when necessary, and doing that involves ringing a bell three times to get a manager's attention.

                              You're completely making a mountain out of a molehill here. It's not like they dim the lights in the store and train a spotlight on you when you make a return.

                              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                i go to manager's desk, he takes crummy product from me and puts it in the reject bin by his desk. he says, when you check out, let them know you had a return of ____. when i check out, i tell them what it was, and i get the credit. that's how it its done in n. va.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  I've been going to a couple of different TJ's for years and only a couple of times I was dissatisfied and got a refund or replacement without a problem or hassle. They never rang a bell or ever gave me a hard time. In my experience you can go to the manager's booth or mention it to the cashier. I recall they used to have a sign saying if you were unhappy with any purchase you would get a refund or replacement. The signs might still be there, but I haven't checked lately. The cashiers seem to have authority to give you credit or an exchange. Once, I bought a jar of mango chutney and later found someone had opened the jar so I tossed it. I happened to mention it to a cashier and they told they were sorry it happened and to just grab another jar. No receipt and no questions. I am actually wondering about the original post. Seems so unlike any experience I have ever heard happening to me or others. My friends/relatives who go to TJ also have never had a problem.

                                  1. re: Feed_me

                                    I love how people assume that I'm lying rather than that TJ's could vary from location to location. I live in Chapel Hill, NC. You can call the store and ask about their policy if you don't believe me. Here's how it went down the last time I returned something:
                                    1. I went to the manager's desk, which has sort of a high wall blocking whatever is at the desk, and they said we can't take care of that here, go to the cashier. I assume b/c they don't have a cash register at that desk.
                                    2. I wait in line at the cashier's and they ring the bell, I don't remember if it's once or more, calling out "return", to call the manager over. They open the bag and inspect the non-spoiled (i kept it frozen after realizing i would return it soon), but not tasty smoked salmon I am returning. They make a big to-do over it, what was wrong with it they ask me. I didn't like it I said. I can see how you wouldn't want to eat something that smells this bad, they tell me. Kind of insulting to the food, it wasn't spoiled. I didn't have a good experience.
                                    I don't think I've ever seen people with such brand loyalty before. wow. the chain store could NOT be at fault, I must be LYING!!

                                    1. re: fara

                                      First let me say I do not think you are lying.

                                      I did call the Chapel Hill TJ's (the one on East Franklin) and asked what the stores return policy is. I was told anything I didn't like would be replaced or refunded. I asked if it was a problem if I didn't have a receipt and was told it would not be a problem. I was also told I wouldn't need to bring in the product (I asked), though if I did, they would like to see if something was wrong with it. But again, bringing in the product was not required.

                                      I think the employee(s) you dealt with that day were wrong in their behavior and you should report them to regional or national or the store mgr.

                                      I've never had any problems with TJ's, but obviously you did. I hope it would be isolated, and I'm sure the store manager would like to know about it.

                                      I repeat. I don't think you are lying.


                                      1. re: fara

                                        No one said you were lying, everyone has confirmed that different stores have different systems. The TJs I go to does ring a bell when a return needs to be made, but the purpose of the bell isn't to humiliate the customer, it's to call a supervisor over so that the refund/credit can be given at the register. If they ask you what was wrong with the product, it's usually so that they can make changes is it's something they can fix.

                                        From my experience working at a grocery/specialty foods store, the checkers and managers don't really care if you return an item or not, so they have no reason to get offended or to discourage the practice. At TJs, I imagine this is even more true since they have a written policy that encouraging trying items and returning the ones you don't like.

                                        1. re: fara

                                          Gosh, I am so sorry you thought people assumed you were lying. I think it was more that we just didn't think it was that big a deal to have the bell rung. For what its worth, I also shop at the Chapel Hill TJs. I have never returned anything, so I have no experiece with that, but I'd have no problem at all with doing so and having them shine a spot light on me, do a line dance around me and sing that I was a bad customer. I guess we all have different levels of comfort on these things.

                                          1. re: fara

                                            *stares blankly*

                                            So let me get this right... a cashier rings a bell to summon the manager, and then the manager asks what's wrong with it and AGREES with you that the product is less than appealing? That constitutes "making a big to-do over it" for you? I've had a harder time than that mailing a package at the post office.

                                        2. re: alkapal

                                          that's exactly how it's worked for me alka. a quick "was there a problem with x product?" my simple response of "just didn't care for it" was politely accepted. we all moved on. no bells, no fuss, no muss, no bother.

                          2. re: fara

                            huh? ring the bell? i just take the return directly to the manager's booth adjacent to the checkout. no bells are rung.....but bells are rung for all sorts of reasons at tj's.

                            1. re: fara

                              Sorry you had a bad experience fara. I used to live in Raleigh NC and I am shocked that they made you feel uncomfortable. I've lived most of my life in the frantic hustle bustle of the Philadelphia area, but when I moved back to the North East after a time in Raleigh I experienced cultural shock. I don't know if things have changed, but in my experience, the level of good manners and general civility was much higher in the south This thread really resonated with me because of my hobby. I am a female gamer and often get treated rudely by my fellow gamers, all male. When I confine in my male gamer friends I often get "well I never have any problems!" No one can really argue with the experience you had. I mean, you were there and they weren't. As I was reading all the comments I was thinking well the Trader Joe's near me is not a relaxing place to shop at any time. I even started a thread called Trader Joe's Culture. So I feel your pain. One of the things I have been discussing with my friend recently is body language and tone of voice. The staff did something to make you feel badly, and that is a shame.

                          3. I bought a TJ 72% dark chocoloate bar the other day. Probably the worst dark chocolate I've ever bought. At $4 for 18 ounces I'm not going to worry about it. Thats less than half the cost of Callebaut so I didn't have high expectations. I think they offer solid products. The Kuai Coffee is an absolute steal. The chocolate covered esspresso beans I have a major complaint about......I can't stop eating them!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Docsknotinn

                              I'm kind of surprised about the chocolate. I have been using their Milk and bittersweet for sometime in home desserts. No it's not Callebaut but it's certainly better than most domestic choices. And I the same complaint about the espresso beans. Once I start I can't stop either!

                              1. re: tastelikechicken

                                The 72% has a pretty funky taste and some rather odd ingredients for bittersweet chocolate. I can't agree it's better than most domestic chocolate. I very much like TJ. Everything else I've bought there has been very good and it's probably pretty un-reasonable to expect that you will like every new product you try. In the mean time my try list keeps getting bigger with all the stuff I see people here posting! :)

                                1. re: tastelikechicken

                                  Actually, there has been major speculation over the years that those TJ's pound plus bars *are* actually made by Callebaut.

                              2. Once I picked up their green tea yogurt and at the register the clerk ask me if I wanted to taste it before I bought it because some people didn't like that particular green tea flavor. He proceeded to get me a spoon and let me try the yogurt. Another time I casually told another clerk that I didn't like the pistachio toffee i bought recently because it was not crispy batch and he gave me another one for free . I have also gotten free flowers to celebrate when I got my braces off.

                                I would chuck it up to a learning experience. but in general I think TJ has great customer service and satisfaction guarantee.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: septocaine_queen

                                  My experience has also been very good. I have not returned anything, but would be very comfortable doing so. On one of my recent visits, I commented that my wife didn't care for the soy based chocolate ice cream I had purchased - with her in mind. The immediate response was "Bring it back for a refund". I explained that my wife didn't care for it, but I did - so a return wasn't necessary. It was gratifying to have the return offered by TJ's rather than me having to push them for it.

                                  1. re: Milt

                                    I'm actually surprised they didn't give you a refund on the spot. The rare times over the years I've commented at the register that I hadn't liked something the cashier has always given an on the spot refund. It's been a long time since that last happened so maybe the policy has changed.

                                    I stay away from almost all the prepared foods but have had good luck with basic items and ingredients.

                                2. Ok I REALLY hate cocolate covered Joe joes, Honest....

                                  I dont like them...

                                  I dont like them

                                  I dont like them


                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                                    I just saw those near the register yesterday and was tempted but didn't buy (got the cookies with perks instead)

                                    Is the chocolate nasty?

                                    1. re: coney with everything

                                      methinks docsknotinn was being facetious

                                      1. re: madgreek

                                        Extremelly facetious. Joes Joes are wicked good. I actually like the fact that they are in small containers. The only product I ever received from TJ I didn't like was the 72% dark chocolate and I believe it was because of the soy content. No biggie.
                                        Were the cookies with perks good??

                                        1. re: Docsknotinn

                                          i am on my third box of peppermint jo-jo's.

                                          YES i stocked up.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            *laughing* I just opened my fourth box of the year, alkapal - bought 12 boxes after Christmas, once I'd discovered my addiction. Peppermint Joe-Joe's are a great treat.

                                            They're absurdly good with very cold milk.

                                            1. re: ElsieDee

                                              ah, complements the cool mint!

                                              i did get looks after christmas, as i was hauling down the boxes from the big pyramid display into my cart. i credit chowhound for ensuring i got a reserve stock before it made its annual disappearance. same with tj's pumpkin butter!

                                              btw, next christmas season, i am doing a pre-emptive strike on those peppermint bark CANDY BARS. (not in the tin, but candy bar size near the check-out). since you are in l.a., i know we won't have to compete for them at the same store. '-) whew!

                                          2. re: Docsknotinn

                                            I don't know, I really wasnt that impressed with the chocolate covered Joe Joes. I love Joe Joes and am in general a big fan of chocolate covered Oreos and the like but these I felt werent worth the calories. Ended up tossing practically the whole container.

                                            1. re: jes

                                              Why toss when you can return?! I just did this for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was effortless. I honestly think the company appreciates the feedback . They are privately owned, after all.

                                          3. re: madgreek

                                            I see that now :)

                                            Guess I'll have to try those next time. No one else in my house liked the cookies with perks, so I brought them to work.

                                            1. re: coney with everything

                                              I also did not like the cookies with perks. Kind of chemical-ly tasting. I had planned on returning them when I returned from a work trip on Saturday, but when I got back, the container was near empty. So I guess my cat-sitter liked them!

                                        2. re: Docsknotinn

                                          I don't like choco covered coffee beans either. Would rather go eat a cheeseburger!

                                        3. The Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Pizza I thought was hor-ri-ble. Overpowering chemical taste. So bad after two bites I felt like I needed to scrape my tongue. My son consumed the rest and said it was "eatable" so maybe it's just me. I mentioned this to another shopper - you ever notice how chatty folks can be in TJs? - was overheard by one of the employees and they took it off my bill at the checkout. IMO they have super customer service.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: boppiecat

                                            I agree. Terrible. I didn't taste anything Mediterranean about this pizza. I mean, I'll agree that some of the ingredients (balsamic vinegar, onions, artichoke, olive oil) are consided "Mediterranean", but the finished product missed the mark. I'm not quite sure why shiitake mushrooms were included, though. I had to return this one.

                                            1. re: madgreek

                                              well. i guess it wasn't just me then. ;)