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Trader Joe's Does Not Honor Their Return Policy

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I tried returning some fruit juice products last week at Trader Joe's. I brought back two of them, an antioxidant drink (fruit mix) and orange juice. The juices had gone bad well before the expiration date.

In the past, on the rare occasion I've returned items, I've never gotten grief. This time, the manager flatly refused. "No." I told him that I didn't want a refund, just an exchange for other products. "No." I told him I was a long time customer and rarely asked for returns, but believed Trader Joe's had a customer satisfaction policy. "No, try asking another manager." "Is he on duty? Can I speak to him?"

"No."
"When can I speak to him?"
"Try calling this number."
"But, he may or may not accept the exchange."

At this point, I was really getting frustrated by this person. Trader Joe's has a clearly stated policy of accepting items not only for exchange but for a refund, and I was not asking for a refund.

I tried to remind him of the store policy.

"I'm done."
The other manager on duty glared at me also.

I'm wondering if I should pursue this with the higher ups or just give up on this store for good.

I like some of their food items and have dropped a ton of money on their stores in the past, but this sorry state of customer service makes me feel comfortable never returning.

Have any of you experienced similar?

  1. There's the product guarantee on their website which hasn't changed.
    http://www.traderjoes.com/about_tjs.html

    Call or e-mail them with your complaint and let us know what they say. I've never had a problem returning something and the workers encourage me when I'm contemplating even a wine....."you don't like it bring it back."

    1. Welcome. I see this is your first and only post on Chowhound.

      Where did this happen? It is very unusual and I am certain the management of the company would want to know.

      1. As Cathy noted above, welcome to Chowhound. I hope you will be a regular presence here. And I hope your future posts don't strain credibility as much as this one does. Sorry, but I find it almost impossible to believe that any Trader Joe's manager would so flagrantly and noxiously violate a cherished refund policy that is so well known, popular, and basically written in stone.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Arthur

          I was not only surprised, but shocked by the manager's response and behavior. I've spent many, many of my precious dollars shopping there and in the past, they've rewarded loyalty. For example, in the past, I've occasionally asked about specific products, whether they're good, etc. I was astonished when a cashier just gave me the product I was inquiring about for FREE! He just handed it to me! I've also been given a product for free for having to wait too long, or because there was an unfresh product. Of course, they'd see me there several times a week, so they knew I was a loyal shopper.

          But, I've moved and this is a different Trader Joe's and the experience has been quite different. I might give them another try, but I feel comfortable now simply saying adieu Trader Joe's! Adieu!

          1. re: NewDude

            Again, which Trader Joe's?

            We all would like to know.

              1. re: NewDude

                You are making a serious complaint about a specific manager of a store that has a very clear policy. There are more than 100 stores in Northern California alone. Which specific location?

                1. re: Cathy

                  I don't feel completely comfortable posting the exact location. I would like to maintain some anonymity on this board.

                  1. re: NewDude

                    And identifying the location would make your identity obvious? Was it the Neverland Trader Joe's? Are you Michael Jackson?

                    1. re: ferret

                      Wait, I thought he had to move out of Neverland!

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        He shoulda saved on expenses with TJ's prepackaged instead of hiring chefs. Still would've saved money even if he couldn't return stale products.

        2. No. And I don't believe you did either.

          1. I emailed them. I'll let you know of their reply.

            1. I don't find it completely out of the question that there is a TJs out there somewhere with surly management or someone having a really bad day. Maybe the manager just learned he was getting fired or something or got some bad personal news, everyone has a bad day. OTOH, maybe the OP is leaving out some of his end of the conversation that might have caused such unusually hostile behavior in a store known for their jovial, easy-going employees. Either way, if the OP did pursue the complaint with corporate, that's about all you can do. I don't know why we automatically assume the OP is lying just because he's a new poster.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rockandroller1

                On my part, it's not because he's a new poster. It's because the behavior and the description of it is so far outside even the worst behavior from a Trader Joe's employee I've ever seen or heard about that it, literally, strains credulity. In my view, there is either some piece of information missing entirely or the description is inaccurate. I suppose there are circumstances that would lead a Trader Joe's manager to decline a return/refund but in the case that a customer brings the product back and the product was spoiled or otherwise unusable prior to a sell by/fresh by/expiration date Trader Joe's has a pretty open and shut policy about that.

                If the story were that the manager had been rude, surely or abrupt and dismissive while processing the return or refund, I would have no reason to dispute that. If the problem the customer had was that the manager refused the refund for a reason the customer didn't think sufficient for refusing the refund I and others could decide whether we thought the reason was good enough. But the combination; a very rude, abrupt refusal with no explanation: I simply don't find it remotely likely. That the OP hasn't given any further information about the interaction (though has declined to specify the store out of privacy concerns which...ok) I don't find any reason to think the story as told holds water.

                I should clarify, I don't think the OP is lying. I don't believe that he or she made up that he or she had an unpleasant and perhaps quite rude experience. I believe there are important elements that aren't here. Absent any description of other parts of the story, I'll register my disbelief.

              2. I'm shocked at the animosity directed toward this poster. If you love your TJ's, great - keep going there. But don't automatically call someone else a liar because they had a different experience than yours. NewDude may have encountered a new manager, someone who was having a bad day, or a manager who just wanted to be a pain - and he noted how he's never run into that problem before.

                And by the way, we were all new posters at one time. Welcome, NewDude.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Suzy Q

                  I just read this and also cannot believe the vehemence directed at this poster. Only time will tell if he is a "poser" or not--so I hope he gets back to us soon w/the company's response--but as someone said, we all have bad days when we know we're being mean or inflexible and not following the rules--and we don't care. And I like TJ, so though I find this to be an anomaly, that doesn't mean it can't ever happen.

                  1. re: Suzy Q

                    I AGREE! I can't believe some of the asinine replies I have read on here! Some of you should really be ashamed of yourself ... yea, let's start attacking the new poster and make sure he wants to come back (roll eyes) ... but if he does decide to come back I just hope his posts "don't strain credibility as much as this one does"

                    If NewDude doesn't want to tell you what city he shops in (for whatever reason), what is it to you? He has that right. Also, this is a forum for "chains" So it really doesn't matter where ... how is that relevant anyway? He was asking if he should report it to the higher ups or not.

                    Not only that, he stated that he has been a loyal customer and this was his first complaint ... Do you think all employees have to be baptized and declared a saint before they can work there?! GIVE ME A BREAK!

                    1. re: boisenewbie

                      The reason that NewDude's refusal to name the exact Trader Joe's branch that supposedly copped an attitude and refused an exchange is that it reflects on the credibility of his story. Let's examine the situation: A couple of weeks ago we had a lively thread debating the ethics of taking advantage of TJ's gracious return policy; of dozens of replies, not one person ever reported having a problem returning an item. So now we have a firsttime poster with a highly atypical experience, reporting that not only did a manager act against the widely-known and publicized policy but behaving rudely as well.

                      So, facing such an unusual situation, someone asks the OP which TJ's is responsible for this amazing refusal. His response? Oh, uh, I don't want to say, I want to maintain my anonymity. C'mon.

                      Isn't the headquarters of the Safeway grocery chain located "somewhere south of San Jose"? Nice try, NewDude. I'd like to hear the alleged TJ manager's version of this interaction, assuming he exists. And NewDude, I'd be very interested in you posting a copy of the email you supposedly sent, with all of the original dating and labelling.

                      1. re: nosh

                        Dude, I don't know what you're smokin'. Safeway is a joke. Granted, I do shop there every once in a blue moon to grab a necessity when I don't feel like driving to a Target or what not. But their prices are astronomical, and I would have no problem reporting on an issue if it were to occur. But like I said, I shop there so infrequently it's a non-starter.

                        Paranoid much?

                      2. re: boisenewbie

                        The title is a blanket statement, accusing the Trader Joe corporation of not honoring the decades old policy.

                        That is simply not true. If it happened, it is definitely a single store problem.

                        There are 5 Trader Joe's I shop at regularly in San Diego County and if something is inconsistent with one store in comparison to the others, I will very certainly want everyone to know abou tthat specific store, not just anonymously post a general statement about the company. It isn't like the OP is the only one who shops at that store.

                        it does seem odd that this person never posted even one comment on CH before and decides that his first post has to be such a broad based title giving no specific information yet indicting an entire corporation. He certainly has spent the rest of today commenting on everything. I would give more credibility to someone who has been around on CH a while and who had something like this happen.

                        As I see it, he is just someone who wanted to get a discussion going and we are all falling for it.

                        1. re: Cathy

                          I'm with you, Cathy. Too little detail, with too much anger. Something doesn't smell right.

                          Why the reluctance to try another manager, or the one who's number was offered? Why not return it to a different TJ's?

                          1. re: irishnyc

                            I remember when I started posting several years ago that I got slammed for a positive opinion I gave and I stated that it had been several months since my visit to the particular (non-chain) restaurant and many insisted that my information was bad.

                            It's not really nice or productive. Give the guy a chance to catch on and understand the lengths that some of us go before posting. I am no bleeding heart but the guy felt mistreated to a great extent by a company where he was spending his hard earned $$.

                            I also noticed that he has posted several more times and is getting into the mix.

                    2. Well, thanks for all this great discussion. As I have tried to state, my experiences with TJ's have been quite positive until recently. I ran into two emotionally toxic and unprofessional staff members, and quite frankly, that's been enough to sour my experience enough to make me consider never returning.

                      I've done some research on other websites, and unfortunately, rudeness is a complaint that has popped up about several local TJ's. I won't go into detailed discussion of why this does not surprise me, but it doesn't.

                      Anyway, I've found alternatives to just about everything available at TJ's. The positive about my experience is that I've learned I can live without! Ah, isn't capitalism grand?

                      There is always an alternative.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: NewDude

                        NewDude, what you apparently still fail to grasp is that because your posted grievance appears to fly in the face of reason (i.e., why would any sensible manager so flagrantly violate the store's well-known return policy?) as well as Trader Joe's outstanding record of customer service, it is inherently unreliable and cannot have any valid practical impact (i.e., it is useless) unless you can back it up with some supportable facts (e.g., at a minimum, disclose the exact store at which the bizarre alleged incident occurred). As Cathy said above, you have indicted the whole chain based on the purported isolated acts of two employees at a single undisclosed location. Clearly, one of the primary reasons many of us come to this site is for details that help us make better-informed chow decisions. But, by definition, it is not legitimately possible to make an informed decision without proper information - particularly the kind of information you've so conveniently and suspiciously omitted.

                        1. re: Arthur

                          And if you look around this site, people are definitely not shy about sharing specific details of their experiences...the TJ police aren't going to knock on your door late at night because you posted adverse comments on CH, so I don't understand why maintaining some anonymity (on a board where no one knows your real name unless you share it!) is important to you.

                          I say welcome NewDude to Chowhound, but be prepared to have people challenge you when they disagree or suspect that they haven't heard the whole story.

                      2. "you have indicted the whole chain based on the purported isolated acts of two employees at a single undisclosed location. "

                        I find this comment wildly amusing when there are many, many posters here who will denigrate a restaurant or establishment they haven't even visited simply because it's a chain. Why is it OK to slam someplace like, say, the Cheesecake Factory, but not report a bad experience at Trader Joe's?

                        Honestly, I don't get it. As long as there are human beings and not robots working in stores, the shopping and customer service experience will vary. The people working at TJ's are the same people who work at any other retail establishment; they don't get brain transplants when they don the Hawaiian shirt. They're just as capable of being rude - or very pleasant and helpful - as the rest of us.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Suzy Q

                          Because he could have gone to a different TJs and returned the items and not gotten any hassle. He very much accused two specific persons of not following very widely known and printed company policy. Policy that has been in effect for more than 20 years. Not just a mood thing, but management of a certain location blatantly not following policy.

                          Cheesecake factory has standardization of ingredients and preparation and people saying they don't like the salad dressing or sauce or something like that is making a statement that someone eating at a CF in Kansas City, Miami or Los Angeles can relate to.

                          To make a statement (with a title of "Trader Joe's" and *not* 'Trader Joe's on Main Street in Midtown' is implying that *the company* does not follow written well known policy.

                          1. re: Cathy

                            My point remains. When someone posts a negative commentary here about someplace like Cheesecake Factory (which seems to be an example of Satan's Kitchen here on Chowhound), you don't get twenty replies accusing them of lying and telling them that they're wrong because they didn't go out and eat at another location.

                            I understand that many people are loyal to TJ's, and that's fine - I often shop there myself and have had good experiences. However, the vitriol directed at NewDude is, in my humble opinion, completely out of line and unnecessary.

                            1. re: Suzy Q

                              The only complaint I have about the OP's comments are that he refuses to identify the specific TJ's he is talking about. What is there to be afraid of? If he tells us which one it is, then other people can visit and relate what sort of experience they had at this same store. I am also waiting for him to tell us what the response from the corporate office was. If I encountered as bad a service as he says he did, I would definitely report the specific store AND send a complaint to the corporate office. His willingness to write off his entire prior long-time pleasant experience with TJ's on the basis of two people, and his refusal to give any details about the store or a response from corporate in my opinion is just not right.

                              1. re: Suzy Q

                                This thread has allowed varying points of view on this topic, and it's starting to loop back on itself. There have been some unfriendly replies as well. We'll lock it now. Thanks.