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Got an attitude for a return at Trader Joe's

  • r

So I asked for a refund on the $1.79 milk that went sour before the sell by date, and the $7 salmon in chimichuri sauce that I just didn't like at all. The cashier first asked me where the items were (I had the receipt) and I just gave him a blank stare. Did you really want me to bring in sour milk and half eaten left over salmon? I told him the reason for wanting a refund and he seemed miffed that I wanted my money back for not liking the salmon. I asked if money back for not liking something was still their policy and he begrudgingly said yes and got the manager. I was just surprised by his attitude. Anyone else experience something similar?

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  1. Their policy is on their website:

    "Our Product Guarantee: We tried it! We liked it! If you don’t, bring it back for a full refund, no questions asked."

    Maybe they were puzzled that you were just pointing to a receipt rather than bringing in at least the packaging. Maybe they need to back up their returns at corporate with something more than "the customer showed me the receipt."

    1. I don't ask at the register because the manager has to always approve it. I to the front desk - when I walk in- and tell the manager. Then he asks if I want money right then or if I am also shopping. Then somehow whatever checkout line I go to already knows I am getting a refund. One time the person didn't know but called over to the manager and some sort of hand signal happened and all was fine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cathy

        That's what I always do. You get the best and fastest results that way.

      2. Could be the cashier was simply "off" and not thinking... I've always had the simple, non-action of "Okay" when I've asked. It hasn't happened too often so my sampling might not be accurate. :)

        1. Someone was less than amazingly upbeat. He asked a question and then got the manager and you got your money back and it sounds like it took, maybe, 8 seconds longer than it might have. But you feel like the cashier had a grudge? I appreciate the cautionary tale.

          9 Replies
          1. re: ccbweb

            OP evidently didn't read the website, or thought it didn't apply to him/her:

            "Our Product Guarantee: We tried it! We liked it! If you don’t, BRING IT BACK for a full refund, no questions asked."

            1. re: Muskrat

              Do you really think I should lug around three week old salmon to return? I make it to the store maybe once a month and certainly wasn't going to make a special trip to return two items.

              1. re: Rick

                "Do you really think I should lug around three week old salmon to return? I make it to the store maybe once a month and certainly wasn't going to make a special trip to return two items."

                Yes, no question about it, you should lug around the three-week-old salmon. Why? Because that is what is required under the clearly stated and unambiguous terms of the Trader Joe's return policy. As for your not being willing to make the trip to the store more than once a month, how is that their problem?

                I shop at Trader Joe's all the time, have returned a number of items, and am very aware and appreciative of how phenomenally generous the chain's refund policy is. I also know that it is fairly common for many (if not most) of its managers and cashiers to be even more liberal with refunds than they are required to be under that policy. But I personally would never dream of walking into any Trader Joe's and requesting a refund with nothing in hand but a receipt. And even if I did, I hope I would not feel the need to then dash off some damaging potshots here if a single cashier processed my special request with an entirely reasonable degree of caution and, yes, skepticism.

                Your headline above is "Got an attitude for a return at Trader Joe's". All due respect, but from everything you've posted here you might want to consider whether you were the one with the most questionable attitude, i.e., one of entitlement.

                1. re: Arthur

                  Yep, and I'd love to see the post from the Trader Joe's employee about the guy that brought in rotten 3 week old salmon and a carton of sour milk and plopped them on the counter. Give me a break.

                  And let's see, 25 miles each way, equals about $8 in gas for a $8.79 fefund, yeah, makes sense.

                  1. re: Rick

                    In my car, it would have been about $2.50 in gas to return it, but if I were picking something else up and not just making a special trip, the cost of the drive would be negligible.

                  2. re: Arthur

                    Got an attitude for a return at Trader Joe's

                    Sorry, but I have to agree with (Arthur) on this. Even your responses to comments here are a bit condescending. I believe it was Rick who gave the attitude and it is evident he does not believe the the rules apply to him due to his own circumstances and why should he be inconvenienced.

                    Like (ferret) mentions, you could at least bring in the packaging for the products....but here's my suggestion should you ever have to deal with a return issue again. Why don't you take five minutes out of your day to call the store and record your concerns with the manager. Then when you do get to the store, all you need to do is announce yourself and you will receive your refund without question.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Wow, hard to believe all of the trouble everyone would go through to return rotten milk and bad tasting salmon. Phone calls, storing and transporting said now putrid product, I must admit I'm surprised.

                      1. re: Rick

                        Rick, why don't you try it sometime. I bet you will find it requires a lot less effort than you think and much less time than you have already spent on this thread.

                        1. re: Rick

                          "Wow, hard to believe all of the trouble everyone would go through to return rotten milk and bad tasting salmon...I must admit I'm surprised."

                          I have no doubt at this point that that surprises you, Rick. What is astonishing to others here, though, is how someone can consume perishable items, ask for a full refund several weeks after they were purchased, fail to return so much as the packaging of said items, offer as his only proof of purchase a receipt he could have picked up off the ground in the parking lot, still get 100 percent of his money back promptly and with virtually no resistance, then have the audacity to protest before this large audience about how he believes he was mistreated.

              2. I would have gotten a refund for the bad milk and called it a day. Even if the store's policy is generous, why take advantage? I would feel like a total jerk if I tried to get money back simply because I didn't like the taste of something that I thought I might like. It's not spoiled. Not badly cooked. Just doesn't please you. Don't buy it again. Why should the store pay for your experimentation? How is this different than ordering a dish at a restaurant that you don't like. Would you send it back? Just because of the two parties involved, you think someone else ought to pick up the slack?

                11 Replies
                1. re: sasha1

                  I agree with you - something spoiled definitely deserves a refund but just because you don't like something that YOU chose - well, I don't think any store would really be obligated to give you a refund but TJ's is being generous. Just think if you worked in the store and had customers coming up to you asking for refunds because they didn't like something - pretty soon you'd get sick and tired of it. Yes they are employees who are supposed to smile and issue a cheerful refund but they're human as well. I've had stuff from TJ's I didn't like but I never have asked for a refund just because I didn't like it. That's my own problem not theirs.

                  1. re: monkuboy

                    The reason that it is reasonable to request a refund for an item one simply doesn't like from Trader Joe's is that they employ the policy to get people to try unfamiliar or new products. They are hoping to increase initial sales and promote future sales by publicizing their liberal return policy.

                    As to bringing back the item (or at least its packaging) vs. just the receipt, let's use common sense as our guide. Some of the variables would be the size, weight, price, and nastiness of the items. I would not want to save or lug back a half-gallon of soured milk, it would be inconvenient, heavy, difficult to store, and heavy to transport, not to mention the possibility of leaks or spills from the opened carton. And spoiled milk is common -- it would be more reasonable to bring back the emptied and rinsed container or at least write down the codes and date. The salmon is lighter, smaller, and more expensive, making it more reasonable to actually return and more attractive to fraudulently claim a refund. But old salmon would definitely get stinky, so returning the packaging would be reasonable. As Bulavinaka points out below, if one is going to claim that a bottle or case of expensive wine is corked, one better bring in the wine.

                    I have had only positive experiences with the personnel at Trader Joe's. My biggest complaints are when favorite items get discontinued (oh, I miss the full-size quiches that used to be sold in the cooler section) and the selfish shoppers who park their SUVs in the compact parking slots.

                    1. re: nosh

                      I've been told to bring back moldy grapes (noticed right after I brought them home) after I called. I told them I didn't live nearby and hadn't planned to return for a few weeks and they told me to save them and bring them back when I returned. They obviously went in the trash because I'm not keeping them in my refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, even if they were overpriced organic grapes.

                      OTOH, I had a similar experience at WF, called and the person told me to save the receipt, put her name on it and they'd refund the money next time I returned.

                    2. re: monkuboy

                      i so agree with you monk and others who think it is unbelievable for someone to return food to a store just because they didn't like it. Just don't buy it again. And to fuss about milk that went off before the use by date. Jeez just put it down to bad luck. maybe the OP left the milk out the fridge or someone in his house did.

                      Some things are not worth getting your knickers in a twist for.

                      1. re: smartie

                        It is Trader Joe's explicit policy to refund your money if you buy a product you don't like. I wouldn't do it anywhere else, but it's not "unbelievable" to do it at Trader Joe's. Their return policy is part of their marketing strategy to encourage you to buy new and unfamiliar products.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          whether it is store policy or not I wouldn't do it.

                          1. re: smartie

                            I probably wouldn't, either. But if it's store policy, I'd expect the staff to act as though it were store policy.

                            1. re: smartie

                              That's your choice, but since that is the policy, other people aren't in the wrong or unreasonable if they make a different choice.

                              I've returned a couple of things there that were spoiled; like one of the posters above, I once got a refund when I just mentioned that the last time I'd bought the product it was bad; I've returned one product because I thought it was awful. No attitude any time.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                I agree with you, Ruth.

                                I wouldn't do it anywhere but TJ's (the returning of something I didn't like), but happily enough the only thing I absolutely hated at TJ's and returned was their awful, awful Thai simmer sauce. (The tagine one that they discontinued was fantastic, but the Thai one of the same range was terrible!)

                                That said, if milk goes off before the return date, I return it for an exchange. Return dates are normally so conservative that you can keep things at least 50% longer than you expect -- but TJ's has a real problem with dairy expiration dates.

                                Now, if you went today (6 January) and bought milk without looking at it and found out the expiry was 8 January and you complain about it, it's my view that you owe the $2.99 stupidity tax (i.e., no refund for you) for not looking.

                          2. re: smartie

                            Yeah, I felt pretty strongly that regardless of store policy, a person's experimentation is their experimentation, regardless of whether it is a happy or unhappy result.

                            On the other hand, TJs is fairly well known for not storing/transporting their dairy products as they should, and so many many of them go bad well before the sell by date. So I would have not the slightest problem in bringing back the milk.

                            1. re: sasha1

                              I;ve read many mentions of spoiled milk at Trader Joe's but my experience north of Boston is the opposite. Market Basket's creams and milks, in various brands, seldom keep for long in my fridge. I've switched to getting them at TJ because they last well past the use-by date.

                              I've returned rancid mayo and sesame crackers to TJ's, but would not be likely to return something that just wasn't my cup of tea. Since their policy says "bring it back" I would call the store first if there were some reason why I couldn't or didn't want to.

                      2. I would have brought back the packaging or labels because if the item was bad or spoiled, there may be information on the labels that would help them identify a problem in their system. I did that with some cream cheese and they were able to track down a problem with rotating stock.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LikestoEatout

                          Excellent point, Likestoeatout (who doesn't?)

                          If the food is systemically bad, they'd appreciate the evidence especially if it could be bacterial or toxic. That is how the authorities figure out what causes massive food poisoning.

                        2. It wouldn't occur to me to request a refund for an item w/o bringing, if not the entire item, then at least the packaging. If we try something from TJ's that we don't like, I just stick it in the freezer or fridge and bring it w/ me the next time I go.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mdepsmom

                            Mister Cashier Sir, I'd like a refund on the two cases of Robert Mondavi Reserse Pinot Noir ($22/per) because every last bottle was corked." "Where are the bottles? Oh - well this happened three weeks ago at my weekend party - everyone was disgusted and sickened by every last drop of it. Hmmm, Seems like you don't believe me..."

                          2. You earned the attitude as you did not 'return' anything. Stick it in the freezer till your next trip. At least call within a day of using the item and get the managers name who says it's ok to just bring in the receipt. Mostly, grow up.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Josh90004

                              this sounds like a great way to save on my grocery bills. Buy stuff, bring in the receipt and ask for a refund just because I claim its gone bad, or I didn't like it. I don't actually bring it back because you just need to trust me that its bad...
                              You completely deserved getting attitude for showing up without any product and demanding a refund.

                              1. re: shan

                                One of the main reasons for having to bring back an item is, yes, to prove you were actually the purchaser of the item. Otherwise, as Shan pointed out, an unscrupulous person could simply pretend to return items they'd actually consumed or just pick up someone else's random receipt and get money back for something they actually hadn't bought in the first place.

                                1. re: PegS

                                  And having worked in the grocery business back in my college days, you wouldn't believe to what extent some people will go to exploit retail establishments. One of my most vivid memories was a lady who was destemming and depitting cherries so she wouldn't have to pay for parts of the produce that she felt that she shouldn't have to pay for. Another great one was the shopper who brought in the skeletal remains of her roasted Thanksgiving turkey almost two weeks after the holiday. She claimed that the turkey was spoiled. The manager asked her where the meat was. She claimed it was gone because it smelled and had to throw it out. She actually got her money back - not because the manager believed her but because he just wanted her out of his hair.

                            2. I agree with others that the clerk expected you to bring in some physical proof, rather than just the recipt. I always take the half-used package, or if it's milk, I bring back the carton. I've never had a problem.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: brendastarlet


                                You returned something that you didn't have? You don't see where this would be a problem?

                              2. I think I can understand where Rick's coming from: I've gotten refunds at Trader Joe's without bringing back the item, so I can see how someone would come to expect that response. That said, although they may (and often do), give refunds under those conditions as a courtesy, I don't think it's reasonable to demand that they do that, and then even when they do give you the courtesy of a refund without returning the item, to complain about their attitude.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  ITA, Ruth. Although I've had a cashier at TJ's refund my money for a product when I wasn't asking for a refund (I'd just casually mentioned that I was ambivalent about a previous purchase while he was ringing up my order, and he deducted the price), I wouldn't expect it as a standard policy.

                                2. I have never made a return to Trader Joe's, although I did buy a product for my wife that she did not like - or want to eat any more of - so I finished it. It wasn't great, but it was tolerable.

                                  It came up in conversation at Trader Joe's before I had finished consuming the product and I was encouraged to bring it in for a full refund. I didn't return it, but I certainly felt free to do so.

                                  A couple of weeks ago, I bought three bananas along with another item or two. I didn't realize until I was at home that I had been charged for for seven bananas. I called the store to report the overcharge within an hour of having left the store. The person who answered the phone apologized for the overcharge and asked me to bring the receipt to the Customer Service desk the next time I was by the store - which I did two or three days later. The store manager immediately apologized for my inconvenience and gave me the refund - no questions asked.

                                  1. I don't know how many of you folks have worked in the retail food business but there are tons of scammers out there and they cover every socio/economic backround. For all that cashier could have known, you could have found the receipt in the parking lot. furthermore you might have left the stuff in your car overnight and want TJ to pickup the tab on your mistake. Not liking the taste of something is pretty lame. Put yourself in their shoes.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                      "For all that cashier could have known, you could have found the receipt in the parking lot."


                                      Bingo. We have a winner.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        *Ahem* - I used that parking lot line higher up on this page, about a week earlier.

                                      2. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                        "For all that cashier could have known, you could have found the receipt in the parking lot."

                                        I supervised a front end in my twenties, and can say this happened more frequently than one might imagine. Wash out the milk carton, and bring in the empty salmon box as proof. Nothing rotting in your fridge until next time you shop, and the store has proof you actually purchased, as well as affected lot numbers. This isn't rocket science, my friends.

                                      3. It would never occur to me to bring something back to a store simply b/c I didn't like how it taste. Wow--unbelievable.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: gloriousfood

                                          As was pointed out in numerous ways in previous posts, that's part of their guarantee. To (again) quote from their website: "Our Product Guarantee: We tried it! We liked it! If you don’t, bring it back for a full refund, no questions asked".

                                          I recognize that the key words here as related to the OP are "bring it back" -- I'm just responding to gloriousfood's "Wow--unbelievable" post above.

                                        2. Ever wonder why Costco puts that marker through the receipt on the way out? Because some enterprising youths would buy stuff, then return with the receipt, shop for the exact same items and then leave with the doubles.

                                          But if you want a refund you should have more than a mere receipt. If you have such a hard time storing the milk or the salmon, then at least keep the packaging.

                                          And if it is too inconvenient, well that seems like the customer's problem, not TJ's. Jfood has four large flower urns behind the pool equipmet that broke and Costco wants them returned with the receipt, not just the receipt. So the idea that an empty gallon of milk is a burden is nonsense. And the clerk actually asking for proof is just a good employee.

                                          Jfood is not a fan of TJ, but the clerk did a nice job of asking and then asking for a manager to intervene when he needed.

                                          1. We had a problem with the cooking of one of those similar fish things (I think it was tilapia, in I can't remember the sauce). Instructions followed, cooking totally uneven. Basically inedible because of it. I brought back the part of the packaging that had the bar code, plus the receipt. There was no trouble with the return at all, they got the manager over to the register when we checked out, and it was deducted from our total that visit. I don't bother with returning items that are a couple bucks and tried and didn't like, but since this was 7 bucks and didn't turn out as expected, it was worth the small hassle. No one was looking for the half-cooked frozen fish entree, but having the outer packaging did make the return a breeze (they just scanned it for the return).

                                            Maybe they're having some pressure on the return policy with the down economy....

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: CrazyOne

                                              Instructions followed, cooking totally uneven.........

                                              No one was looking for the half-cooked frozen fish entree,

                                              It quite clear by TJ's policy you were entitled to seek a refund.....I just find it amusing you never considered to cook fish a little more. It may actually have tasted better.

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                Why in the name of anything is it "amusing?" Is it not clear how condescending that is? Why not simply ask "why didn't you cook it longer?"

                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                  Years ago my local Kroger had a policy of paying 2-for-1 if you were not pleased with a meat purchase. I bought a leg of lamb and when I went to cook it the next day, the foul aroma was overpowering. I wrapped the thing up in its original packaging and took it back to the store. It reeked to high heaven, sending would-be customers running. The staff assured me that in future I needn't bring in the offending hunk of meat. Kroger discontinued their policy shortly thereafter.

                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                    I guess we will have to disagree, but I believe if I had actually asked the question......

                                                    "why didn't you cook it longer?"

                                                    I would then have been condescending. My comments only noted my observation of information supplied by (CrazyOne) and my stating my opinion and reaction to his/her comments. When I realize something is only half cooked...I cook it until it is fully cooked to what my expectations are for the food item....I do not decide to stop the cooking process and decide to return the item back to the store and find the cooking instructions were wrong and the reason for the product to be inedible....Sorry, but I find that amusing .....and unreasonable as well.......but I also realize CrazyOne had a right to expect and realize a refund from TJ's as per parameters set by their store policy, regardless, if the buyer deems the product does not meet their satisfaction....which I also noted.

                                                    Also, asking the question to me implies the the poster should have known better or should have done so.....I can only surmise why CrazyOne did not cook the fish more.... but I'll go out on a limb now and guess a half cooked fish doesn't taste or smell good and and he/she simply lost his/her appetite.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Ha, give me a little more credit. It was quite simple: inside the package (the packaging it comes in is also used for cooking in the oven) the fish was already done in some parts and quite raw looking in others. It was clear that it would take a not insignificant time to cook the rest of the fish to done, during which the already done parts would be rendered quite overdone.

                                                      I am willing to accept this was a one-off problem (not an entirely defective product line), due to improper distribution of the fish inside the packaging, or who knows what. (When I finally opened the package, I found that there were two fillets of the fish on top of each other, which seemed to me improbable to ever cook properly using the directions, but I couldn't tell that until after it was supposed to be done.) But when there are instructions on the package that you don't even open before it's done, and it doesn't come out right when followed, something is wrong (and it's not the oven temp, I have checked that to no avail). Fish simply fails to cook properly in our house no matter how much we try, no matter how dead easy it is supposed to be. ;-) It's a really strange streak of bad luck....

                                                      1. re: CrazyOne

                                                        Ha, give me a little more credit.


                                                        Precisely why I did not ask the question of you. I knew there would be a reasonable explanation.

                                              2. i've posted before about my continued amazement at TJ's return policy. it is unquestionably the most generous and customer-friendly policy i've ever encountered. not only have i never gotten "attitude" from any of their employees about it, i've even had cashiers and managers offer to refund my money for a product that i merely mentioned i didn't like. i was once chatting with another customer while standing in a checkout line in the Santa Monica, CA store, and i mentioned how much i disliked an item i had purchased there recently. well, apparently the customer service manager overheard our discussion, and took it upon himself to walk over to me, tap me on the shoulder, and hand me a refund slip for the purchase price of the item i had been talking about!

                                                in return for that kind of service i've gladly kept spoiled meat/fish & dairy products stashed in my fridge or freezer for a day or two until i could get back to the store with them. a minor inconvenience? perhaps. but as others have already pointed out, it's actually very important for the store to have the packaging so they can keep a record of what could turn out to be a widespread problem.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  I think it's a good way for them to get feedback on products, what they're customers like/don't like, and why. It's a live focus group. If you don't have the policy, you never know why items don't sell. People are more likely to try new things because there is no risk. They could end up liking it and buy more.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    TJ's focus groups begins with their employees. They regularly get together to sample just about all of the new products. The most favorite samplings? Beer and wine, of course!

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      I need to get a job at TJs... ;-) I'm sure they do focus groups all the time but this is just another way of getting real feedback. I'm sure if it weren't good corporate policy, they'd change it. I'm the type, though, to tell them I didn't like a product but not return it. I also give them feedback on what I really like. I figure any way to get better products is good.

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        I think as one reads through this thread as well as others on TJ's, one picks up the sense that the rapport between the customer and TJ's is far better than the typical food locker. This relationship between the customer and business, at least in this type of retail setting, is probably what most others wish they had...

                                                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    I've gotten similar customer service at my local Publix- just mentioning that we weren't happy with something from our last grocery trip, and they comped us a fresh similar product on the spot with no receipt or product returned.

                                                    But then we're regulars at a small town store where a high percentage of the customer base is tourists, and the people who work there (who have, in some cases, been at that store since it opened in 2000) know our faces and know that we wouldn't have said anything if the issue wasn't legit.

                                                  3. Rick-

                                                    You're killing me with this post.

                                                    You never thought about washing out the milk container and returning the empty? The frozen salmon comes in a cryovac package with a label. Why not bring that back to the store (washed)?

                                                    I had a big issue with the salmon where no matter what you did it would smell "fishy". I went back to the store and asked the manager to forward my number to the buyer because I wanted to know where it came from and the process for "catch to freeze". Never got an answer. So, yea, I have a small problem with TJ's too.

                                                    But brother, you have to bring something back. Even the UPC would have prevented the blank stare.

                                                    Bulavinaka... did the wine return work? Cause if so, I'm running out right now to stock up!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: billyparsons

                                                      Ah Billy, you are the consummate lush... Gotta love you for that man...!

                                                      1. re: billyparsons

                                                        Well after reading all of the posts I've concluded that I could have brought in empty washed packaging, but at the time it never really occurred to me. Washed out milk containers still seem to leave some stink in them and the salmon in sauce was pretty oily so to be honest didn't feel like scrubbing fish packaging. Never really thought about the fact that I could have picked up the receipt in the trash, good point on that. Guess I should have mentioned that the previous time I returned something there the manager said "oh we don't need that" and they threw the product right in the trash, I think it may have been a jar of jelly.

                                                        To the people that think I should have brought in the spoiled milk and the actual salmon, not just the packaging, I still think you're nuts. And to all of those that are so shocked and awed by returning something you don't like, it's their advertised store policy, so I don't understand your reaction.

                                                      2. I purchase dairy, meat and veggie/fruit products from about four different stores in my area on a regular basis. By far the food that comes from TJ's tends to spoil/get slimy or goes bad first, often before its expiration date. I have taken stuff back to TJ's before without any problems. I've chatted with some managers/employees before about this constant problem. They have admitted that when transporting these types of products or storage in the back of the store may cause the spoilage to occur faster than they should. I thought this was interesting. However, I like TJ's loads more than WF. I have a big rant with them.

                                                        1. I was in TJ's recently and I asked someone at the customer service desk to help me find an item. While we were looking we chatted about the last time I shopped in the store. I mentioned that the avocados were black when I sliced into him. The man took a step back, walked with me to the customer service desk and asked me about all the other items I bought. I mentioned that the apple cider had a weird taste and went in the garbage, and a package of nuts were rancid. He asked if I had my reciept- I didn't- and he told me he would be happy to deduct the items off my purchase. I was shocked- he was so nice and friendly and willing to help while the store was total chaos on a Sunday.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                                            sounds about right...that's been my typical experience with TJ's on both coasts. i've seriously never encountered better customer service anywhere.

                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                              jfood has to smile. You bought a bad avocado, weird tasting apple cider and rancid nuts and you went back? These are comments usually followed by ...and I will never go back.

                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                With you on that one, j. Life is too short.

                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  There are such great deals and good products that can be found at Trader Joe's but there are products that I avoid there, like produce. It's gone bad as often as not. But, you can't beat $2.99 for mascarpone cheese vs. $4.99 for the same brand at Giants.

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    Jfood is fortunate to have a small employee owned grocer 1 mile from the house. He went to the Darien CT store a couple of times as well as Westport and could not understand the hype. He called TJ and the regional manager called him back since jfood was interested in whether these locations were smaller than the ones everyone raved about. He was a great guy and jfood had a very nice conversation with him and no it was the same size as others. Their target market are people who have to shop in Big Box and do not have small alternatives. He told jfood to give it a try and explained the return policy.

                                                                    Jfood did and was not pleased with most of what he bought.

                                                                    If it works for others great, but jfood is lucky to have greaty alternatives closer to home.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      I go to TJ's for some things, but that day I figured I might as well just buy everything I needed. Their nuts are usually really good, so I was surprised that they were rancid. I don't remember the price, but they were cheap, so not worth making a fuss about.

                                                                      Shopping in local stores is so much better- and that's usually what I do. Sometimes though I just feel the need to go to TJ's for the stuff I like- JoeJoes, bread, butter, praline pecans...

                                                              2. jfood, Trader Joe's works for me, and judging from the number and length of threads about it on the Chains board, I am far from alone. I have been shopping at TJ's since shortly after moving to SoCal over two decades ago; at that time there was just one small store on the westside and there were frequent arguments over the parking spaces in the small lower lot. (There are now five in the area.) I am more than a steady customer, I am a loyal fan, and here are some of the many reasons why:

                                                                First, they have by far the best prices on the few staples that I use the most and need almost every trip. Milk, bread, eggs, cheese -- all very good quality and significantly cheaper than the local supermarkets. Second, interesting and convenient frozen and prepared items -- I can always find something easy for a quick dinner or to stash in the freezer. Third, excellent value for alcohol -- no need for a separate stop, and while I won't serve a glass of "Two-Buck Chuck" alongside dinner it is definitely good enough to braise a chuck roast or supplement a sauce. Fourth, superior customer service -- responsive staff who seem to enjoy being there, the return policy that is the subject of this thread, and even clean and convenient bathrooms.

                                                                Most important, it is just more fun to shop there. Kids get balloons, the staff is always handing out samples, customers and cashiers chat about favorite items. Sure, once in awhile the milk goes bad or the zucchini gets slimy; a very small inconvenience to pay. But the stores are more manageable, the whole experience is more friendly, there is a sense of community missing from the supermarkets that makes it feel like an independent even though TJ's is a chain.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: nosh

                                                                  nosh, not quite sure why jfood is singled out but he is glad you like where you shop as jfood does.

                                                                  Milk & eggs - jfood has local dairies that sell to his employee owned store; milk @ $2.29/HG and $2.90 for a dozen X-L Egglands is a good deal. When he is in the are, he goes to Stew Leaonard, always voted one of the top customer service in America. And talk about a great place to take kids.


                                                                  Frozen - jfood does not buy frozen prepared food, he cooks each night when home for M&M. When he takes something from the freezer, it's because he makes his own (he bought a bag-sucker years ago). He is eating Hazan Canaelloni tonight, can;t buy that at TJ.
                                                                  No need for alcohol since he does not drink, but that's an interesting idea for the $2-chuck for a nice braise, thanks
                                                                  Customer service - yes exceptional, but so is the employee owned store jfood shops in. jfood can call and an order is ready, or they will deliver to the house.

                                                                  But as jfood stated, he is very fortunate to have this great employee owned stores, selling fresh produce, meats, well priced milk/eggs, nice selection of cheeses and it's 1-mile from the house.


                                                                  TJ is just second tier to this store. But if that store ever closed, wow is jfood in trouble.

                                                                  So once again, to each his own.


                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    I guess jfood was singled out b/c he said he did not like most of what he bought at TJs.

                                                                    I see jfood is located back east/contributes to the TriState boards, where I do know local grocers still exist (I grew up in Detroit and The Mister grew up in Boston). This is not the case in Southern California, and accounts for many differences with the fascination for TJs (a longtime institution here that has finally made its way to other regions but does not have the 'allure' for people not in California as it does for 'us'.).

                                                                    FWIW, the Two Buck Chuck is Three Buck Chuck in all states other than California, and most of the dairy and bakery items are locally provided (and so prices and quality vary by region).

                                                                    I enjoy shopping at TJs to see what is new and different, because the prices are not crazy/outrageous for items which I consider "yuppie snobby" which are sold at higher end grocers in town.

                                                                    I do shop everywhere, looking for sales and tend to just stop when I see a place I have not been. (This little quirk of mine does drive The Mister crazy, because I tend to take many sidestreets instead of straight roadways to get from one point to the next, but I digress...) I find some great produce in the smaller markets which are local to some in the San Diego area,,,

                                                                    TJs has a place in my general shopping route, primarily because of a New Year resolution I made about 5 years ago...to only buy organic milk. "My" TJs sells cream top organic in half gallon cartons. I figure if I am going to pay more for organic, it is going to be non-homgenized also...

                                                                    However, I can't seem to get out of there without spending at least $20...even though I really only go in to buy milk...

                                                                    Jfood is lucky he has the local grocer so close to home.

                                                                2. When I got an item that had spoiled, on the next visit I got a replacement and told the cashier that this was to replace the one that was bad. The cashier bagged it without scanning it in and told the manager about it. No problem.

                                                                  1. Simply put, if you're so disappointed in an item that you're going to demand you're money back--particularly if it is a perishable item that has been opened--you need to make that oh-so-daunting special trip, or cut your losses and forget about the couple bucks. I agree that I would not drive 20+ miles to get back my money on spoiled milk, but that's because I would have weighed the costs and benefits and realized that my time is worth more to me than $2, and I would've just said 'forget it.' That's a decision you have to make, not say that it isn't worth it to you to make the drive in order to make a quick return with the bad, unconsumed product at hand, but it is worth it enough to cling to a receipt and demand the measly few dollars back a MONTH later with no proof you didn't consume the products...that's absurd. There are certain unspoken limitations using common sense. A $10 bottle of olive oil with one or two tablespoons missing? Fine, return on your next visit. A $2 carton of spoiled milk? Either deal with it quickly in a logical fashion or just forget about it.

                                                                    As far as returning food you just didn't care for: I find it pretty ridiculous and would never do it, but if it's part of their policy and you have no problem doing it...by all means, go for it.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: crsin

                                                                      The working policy at the TJ's in Towson MD is: the customer is always wrong, the customer is nuts, the customer is our enemy. This applies to managers, especially.

                                                                      1. re: chowsearch

                                                                        bizarre. total opposite experience here in Michigan.

                                                                        I wonder if TJ's is feeling the curse of corporateness and expanding too fast, or someone started to see the returns as a "cost" with no quantifiable benefit and decided to crack down--"look how much we could save".

                                                                        1. re: coney with everything

                                                                          That thought has crossed my mind with the economy in a pinch and all; I am sure all grocery businesses are looking at their operations very closely. Frankly before I started reading Chowhound, I had never heard of a return policy that allowed returns just because you don't like something. It has to add up.

                                                                        2. re: chowsearch

                                                                          The working policy at the TJ's in Towson MD is: the customer is always wrong, the customer is nuts, the customer is our enemy. This applies to managers, especially..

                                                                          Go to Pikesville ;)

                                                                          1. re: chowsearch

                                                                            Seriously?!? That's the TJs I go to, and I've never had a problem. .... though I've also never tried to return anything. What leads you to say this?

                                                                        3. It's hit and miss. If you live in a cool community, the TJ's will be cool. if you live in a backwater, the influx of a TJ or two will not exactly turn the tide singlehandedly.

                                                                          I gave my local TJ's another chance (or two) and they still f#cked things up. They had a sign clearly indicating one price for an item. When I went to checkout, it rang up at a higher price. They refused to honor their price.

                                                                          Just realize if your community has a higher than average percentage of douches, so will the local TJ's. If you're living in a sophisticated, urbane town, then you'll likely have a cool TJ's as well.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: NewDude

                                                                            "They had a sign clearly indicating one price for an item. When I went to checkout, it rang up at a higher price. They refused to honor their price".

                                                                            In Michigan, that is not legal. If you are charged a different price than either the sign, the sticker, or a sale ad, you're entitled to the difference times 10, or $5, whichever is less.