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May 16, 2009 06:42 PM

Trader Joe's culture

Just got back from my local TJ's. I've never been to any others but people say the one near me is spacious. As usual, I feel like I need a few stiff drinks. I got some delicious looking items but once again left before I could finish my shopping. I just couldn't take all the guys in tropical shirts running around yelling stuff back and forth and slamming down boxes of merchandise. I couldn't get near the sample area because two guys that worked there were having an impromptu cheese sampling and discussion. I was waiting patiently in line and had to jump back fast as one of them very nearly backed into me. Two sweet older women were manning the registers while the guys were all playing pirates or something. Once in awhile I see one or two younger women stocking the shelves, but usually they are working the sample area. The nice cashier asked me how I was doing and I said "jumpy". This is about my seventh trip to TJs, they just opened last november and I always leave feeling stressed. I want to take my time and think about the meals I am planning but there is always such a ruckus there. The grand opening was fun because they had a guy playing steel drums and he drowned out a lot of the antics. It can be even worse when I go on a slow day, more employees to dodge. Are all TJ's like this? Just curious. Maybe next time I'll get someone to drive me and hit the brew pub Before I go to TJ's.

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  1. On weekends, yes.

    I go in the first hour it opens or the last 30 minutes before closing.

    If the parking lot is a mess, I just drive right out.

    1. This just may not be the place for you. Good you recognize it.
      If one is stressed in a locale..Move on..

      1. I don't find it like that at all. It can be a little crowded with customers. One aisle in particular gives me problems as it's really too narrow but has a lot of the staple foods in it. Sometimes I have to go around a few times. But then I typically have certain items or types of items that I know I'm going to buy there and certain things I know I'm not, so it's more of a quick trip. Rarely spend more than 20 minutes or so. Not trying to do meal planning as I go.

        But really, if the whole experience leaves you stressed, jumpy, etc, even after several tries, I say skip it. Life is too short....

        3 Replies
        1. re: CrazyOne

          Thanks CrazyOne, I was really curious about other TJs. Mine is bigger with wider aisles. I read the whole fearless flyer before I went and they had some yummy sounding items. I think the crew at mine is just hyper. Except for the sweet older women chained to their registers. Maybe things will calm down there after they have been open longer. Mine feels a lot like being at a Renaissance Faire. I love ren faires, but not when I'm trying to remember the dang sour cream. :)

          1. re: givemecarbs

            I am curious where you shop? I frequent four TJ's in So Cal and never have these issues. When do I shop? I shop at various times on various days. Three of the stores I frequent have wide isles and the fourth store...I patiently wait until the next shopper passes by and I go on. It aint no big deal!!! The worst thing that has ever happened was that some young kid was stocking bottom shelves with his boxers flying in the wind. It looked bad and I said something to a cashier who pulled the kid aside. I love my TJ's!!!

            1. re: SIMIHOUND

              The East Coast TJs are all really different from each other.

              The one on Rt 7 in Northern VA is a calm well stocked cake walk -- compared to the density of crowds on 14th St in Manhattan (long lines, stripped shelves, general frenzy, leaving mercifully no room for antics and pirate school shows) The Manhattan store has the BEST mix of staff, by age and race and cultural style. It's nutty there, but they are plenty of people working and they seem to maintain their pleasant demeanor. It's noticeably different from other non-TJ city grocery stores I've been to in that way.

              The Brooklyn store is larger, and it really depends on the hour you're there -- but all the NYC stores do so much volume that the lines can get long quick. Again, no antics.

              The Western Mass store I was in was silent as a church, but I must have hit a non-collegiate night right before closing's been 10 years since I was in a Bay Area Trader Joe's, but it seemed really different from the way it is here.

        2. In terms of "culture", ALL Trader Joe's are the same. I love the store, I love their products, I love the selection and I CAN'T STAND these insufferable 20-somethings acting like a bunch of self-involved high schoolers trying to draw attention to themselves by throwing things, talking loudly, ringing bells and acting "oh so cool". It's pathetic. What's even more pathetic are the employees 35 and older who act the same way. I guess it kind of ties-in with the self-absorption of a lot of the Whole Foods/Trader Joe's clientele. Attention Trader Joe's Folk: get over yourselves: We do not find it entertaining or childlike. It's annoying!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Paul5400

            Wow Paul! Thanks so much! You said it so much better and more succinctly than I could. I thought it was just me. And thanks for many of the other kind comments. I love my fellow chowhounds. Rockandroller, I was going through a really rough patch this past winter and I just went in to buy some blood oranges and a few other treats to see me through. Surely I must have looked like I had a black cloud hovering over my head But that didn't stop them from the whole overly friendly routine. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Too bad Penna TJs can't sell any beer wine or alcohol. And whole foods is just scary. But that's a whole other post. :)

            1. re: givemecarbs

              If you haven't seen the Target lady skits on SNL you should go to NBC's website and look them up. That's exactly what the TJ employees are like where I live.

            2. re: Paul5400

              ALL trader joe's are the same in terms of culture?

              i've been to three here in northern virgiinia -- none resembles the chaos and lackadaisical customer service described in the original post. saturdays are very busy at most stores (in general), but it's the customers (not the staff) that are more of a pitb -- standing in the middle of the aisles, wandering aimlessly, letting their kids "push" the cart around, hogging the samples, acting clueless. some of the clerks are young, and a couple have been a little over the top, but never in a loud or vulgar way. this is my experience over several years, too.

              plus, if you ask about a product. they'll take you to the location in the aisle, and will look it up if it is not on the shelf to see if they still carry it, or when it'll be in. no shouting, no dumping of boxes everywhere.

              that being said, we usually go on the weekend at around 10:45 sunday morning. saturdays -- well, you're on your own in there!

              1. re: alkapal

                I agree. I've only been to a few TJs, but none have had the feel of craziness or poor work habits described above. Crowded? Sure. But the level of service of the type I like (friendly, though hardly obnoxious cashiers, easily available and very helpful staff to aid me in finding things) is always high. I will take that over the UFO staff at my local big chain grocery market (I think they might exist, but I've never actually seen one) or the sullen blank stares of too many of the teen cashiers (was I that sullen when I was a teen riding the register at my local CVS?).

            3. Trader Joe's. You either love it or you don't. Living within a stone's throw of Boston/Cambridge Massachusetts let me just say that shopping at a TJ's is an experience that requires a recuperation period when you get home. (crowded aisles, folks wandering around aimlessly or super aggressive....) Several drinks may help in that regard. We love it for many reasons but then I always have a shopping list and a game plan. Cambridge sells beer and wine so that's a plus, and the one near us is about 6 minutes away. The prices are very competitive and sometimes much lower than local markets. I say go, look at everything and see how the foodstuffs they sell can work for you in your kitchen.