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Dec 19, 2008 08:54 PM

Trader Joe's Pet Peeves

• You get to really, really love a product and buy it for months, even years. Then suddenly, it's gone. (R.I.P. Ginger Joe's, Hansen's Cola, Double Rainbow Pumpkin and Blu Italy Lime water, to name a few). I understand that they have limited contracts with vendors, but while this practice may benefit the buying public from a cost perspective, it is ultimately very frustrating and more of an annoyance than a service.

• You get to really, really love a product and buy it for months, even years, then they go and make a TJ-branded version of it that is definitely not the same thing and in many cases, simply a poor imitation.

• You can't access areas of the store because there are 14 workers restocking the shelves and they are so wrapped up in their little worlds that they don't bother to see if a customer might actually want to buy the product they are blocking. Yes, fresh is good, but there's a point where it's just obnoxious to have that many employees impeding the shopping experience. Perhaps this is naive to say, but maybe they could stock enough in the morning to last the day?

Any others?

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  1. A new TJs just opened up near us and people tell me this one is spacious. I hear you about the aisles being blocked by employees. I can see both sides, the boss tells you to stock something but the customers are in the way. I think customers should have the right of way but then you end up with a lot of employees standing around staring at you, and if I want that, I can go to Whole Foods. I really like my new TJs and am glad they are there, but things can get a tad awkward. Especially when everyone, including me, zeros in on the ready to eat section. Maybe they could put sandwiches and soup in one section, and salads and whole cooked chickens in another. For now I just quickly grab a salad I might like, and then go read the list of ingredients in a quiet corner, if I can find one.

    1. Yes. People who bitch endlessly about a grocery store and think they should always have exactly the items they want, at all times, with no wait, at a price they like and without the inconvenience of other people anywhere nearby.

      Here's a survival tip: you say to the person stocking the products "excuse me, I'd like to get to the [fill in name of item here]." It turns out that if you treat them like they're a person doing their job, that they can treat you like a person doing your grocery shopping. Of course, that's if you can get over the insanity of the person doing their job while you happen to be shopping rather than in the morning when other people are shopping. This can also work if there happens to be other customers who are also likely to be people.

      Also, if its actually annoying and not a service.....stop using the service.

      9 Replies
      1. re: ccbweb

        I see, so customer service means I should ask them 5 times to "please" move out of my way, because that's what it would have taken. Right, well, you have all the answers. The customer shouldn't have a pleasant, unimpeded shopping experience. It's all about us making sure the employees are treated well. Never mind that they should bother to notice their surroundings enough to see there are "people" waiting behind them.

        And then there is the issue that maybe, just maybe, the service is simply just flawed.

        So I should just stop going, right? Why bother making it a better experience for the shopper? I mean, what's the point, just leave?

        1. re: biscuit

          Well said biscuit, don't let the scolds get you down. I wonder if TJ management reads these boards, but then I wonder about a lot of things. Anyhow, thanks for the post and happy holidays to you!

          1. re: biscuit

            If there were no employees on the floor filling the shelves, the products you were looking for would not be there. It's a little unrealistic to expect the shelves to stay perfect throughout the whole day no?

            If you had the unimpeded shopping experience you desire, I'm sure you'd be complaining that there weren't any employees to answer your questions or help you find products.

            1. re: snowpuck

              Right, because I just register disagreements for the fun of it, not because it would suggest an improvement or anything. If I'm wrong, so be it, but I haven't heard a convincing reply yet. No other market I know of has employees milling about, stocking up all day and night.

              1. re: biscuit

                No other store seems to care much about anything the way TJ's does - like giving you back refunds no questions asked even without the product, and sometimes without the receipt.. or opening more checkout lines when it gets crowded. Like snowpuck said, if there weren't employees stocking the shelves you'd be complaining about not enough employees stocking the shelves. The inventory turnover is so fast they have to have the restocking going on during business hours. If this isn't too your liking you can always go somewhere like Ralphs where the prices are high so the turnover is lower and the aisles are wider so you can avoid your unpleasant confrontations by skating around them.

                1. re: monkuboy

                  I do go to a regular supermarket for certain items, but I do the bulk of my shopping at TJ's. Some of the very things you mention are why I will continue to go to Trader Joe's, regardless of my noted irritations. Overall, it's a great market, hence my title is "pet peeves", not "I'm never to going to TJ's again unless they do what I say." The whole point of this dialogue isn't to give up and go somewhere else, as I've already stated, but to suggest that perhaps there might be an alternative, which, seems not to be the case.

                  1. re: biscuit

                    Well actually I noticed they always have people restocking and sometimes they get in the way, too.. but it's amazing how fast stuff flies off the shelves over there so I guess in such cases it's damned if you do and damned if you don't, lol..

            2. re: biscuit

              "I see, so customer service means I should ask them 5 times to "please" move out of my way, because that's what it would have taken." That hasn't been my experience at all. Whenever I've said "excuse me" to TJ staff who are stocking shelves or otherwise blocking my path, they either promptly step out of the way or hand me whatever I need.

              What you don't seem to appreciate is that Trader Joe's carries a fairly enormous variety of different products in what is usually a relatively limited amount of space. When you want a certain product that has flown off their shelves, would you honestly prefer to come back when they restock those shelves the next morning? Yeah, I didn't think so.

              1. re: Arthur

                You nailed it... Big floor space = huge overhead = higher prices. Given their basic business model of relatively small stores, high turnover, and wide inventory, one will have to face some inconveniences. As others have mentioned, a simple, "excuse me - could I reach in there and grab some _____, please?" works. With a few exceptions over the years, the vast majority of TJ crew members are polite, helpful, and happy. They truly seem to like the fact that they are working there, as opposed to the local Ralph's...

          2. Never had the Giner Joes- but last week I bought the TJ triple ginger cookies- really thin-about the size of a cracker- and so so good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: macca

              I ate one of the two packs in the box on the way home... OINK OINK - BURP!

              1. re: bulavinaka

                They ARE good. The kids finished them off yesterday. Now they are looking for the Joe oreo cookies with candy cane in the filling. Guess another trip to TJ is in order. Love to try a different frozen treat every time we go.

            2. It's quite naïve to say that they can stock enough for the entire day in the morning. I have been there right when they open and the store appears to be fully stocked at that point; you may wish to consider going at opening if your schedule permits. For them to stock through the entire day, they could either expand the size of the store (making the rent go up and the prices along with it), or get rid of even more slower-selling items (in which case you have even less reason to complain that they stop carrying something). Instead, they put out a small quantity (relative to what a big grocer puts on the shelf) and replenish it as necessary throughout the day.

              I'm right with ccbweb... A simple "Pardon me" works wonders. The employee doesn't have eyes in the back of his head, and can't read minds; when he sees you standing there, he doesn't automatically know if he's in your way or if you're just standing there trying to figure out where to go. If you don't like how they run their business, nobody is forcing you to go there. I wouldn't mind one less person at my local TJ's; usually I'm so busy dodging other carts that I don't even notice the people restocking.

              1. Biscuit: From your mouth to God's ears. I posted a thread on that exact thing a few months back. I am disgusted by the fact that every single thing that I really like from the store eventually discontinued. It never ceases to amaze me, every single time.

                I just still don't get it.

                3 Replies
                1. re: yankeefan

                  However, it may be that you like "every single thing you really like" because of the price point. The fact that something is an excellent, or even decent, value figures into its popularity, so an item that you (and others) like at its set price point may be less popular at 20-30% more. Trader Joe's negotiates prices with its vendors for a set period (or crop or production run) and when it's time to renegotiate it may end up at a higher price point that they deem marketable. They are pretty good at what they do, so there has to be a method to their madness. Also, their shelf space is necessarily limited so sometimes they need to clear out less popular items for new stuff.

                  1. re: ferret

                    Thanks for the insightful explanation. I can see why they handle it that way. I imagine demand dictates things to a large degree, though it's still a downer to get attached to something and then have it disappear. And I have to guess that sometimes they just cut a product due to a price surge even if demand is relatively high.

                    1. re: ferret

                      I would be MORE than happy to pay the extra money to keep the things I like on the shelves. I happen to like a lot of the more pricey stuff that I can only get there.