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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 time...it'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.

              1. You do have to have a certain resolve to go into them. Ours has pretty narrow aisles and is always crowded, even right when they open. I just leave my cart at the end cap and walk up and down the aisles to get what I need, but then again I do this at the "regular" grocery as well, it just avoids annoyance.

                Ours is bustling, but most of the employees are at least 40 so we don't have that youth factor thing going like in yours. However, everyone is overly friendly and I find it a struggle to be that nice and chatty when I just want to be rung out and on my way. Kind of like the Target lady in the SNL skits.

                6 Replies
                1. re: rockandroller1

                  One thing I notice about the TJ's in my neighborhood is that they have really good looking female customers. Much better than the local grocery stores for some reason. I'm not complaining!

                  1. re: monkuboy

                    Your right on that Monk, especially the 40/50 somethings. I can't stand the greyhaird ponytailed guys with the tye dyed shirts though.

                    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                      Good thing you don't live here in South Orange County, CA by the beach. Those are my neighbors you're describing.

                  2. re: rockandroller1

                    I agree completely. I go to the one in Woodmere (east side of Cleveland, for those who aren't local), and have the same perception of the employees. Sometimes, I actually enjoy the conversations with them. I guess I can buy into the idea that they are being genuine, at least some of the time. I even navigate the aisles the same way. The place always seems too small for carts. Three people in an aisle can cause a hold up.

                    1. re: madgreek

                      I also patronize the Woodmere location and everybody seems to be unusually friendly and courteous because its understood that it is crowded. I usually shop there during the week when I have a meeting with a supplier in that region, but Id hate to think what it would be like on a Saturday afternoon. This is the only Tjs Ive ever been to so I cant say that it is typical location size.

                      The Woodmere neighborhood is a culinary paradise with SurLaTable and Penzeys in the same plaza as TJ's, and a Whole Foods a mile down the road.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        "The Woodmere neighborhood is a culinary paradise with SurLaTable and Penzeys in the same plaza as TJ's, and a Whole Foods a mile down the road."

                        Oh yeah. It's easy for me to spend a whole Saturday between those places. Actually, I often start the day at the Stone Oven for some pastry and/or bread (plus my daughter won't let me come home without some of their chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons). I'll hit SurLaTable and Penzey's (if I'm looking for spices) first, then to TJ's and Whole Foods. Sadly, I usually don't have time for Whole Foods, but it's probably for the best, since it's so pricey. Then, it's about an hour home. A big cooler is a must for this trip.

                  3. LOL at all these great comments. They're so reminiscent of what I USED to go through.

                    To be honest, the ridiculously high quality of food lured me and many countless others into their aisles. I used to guffaw at how low the prices were and simply felt sorry for those unenlightened enough to shop at regular chain grocery stores, or gasp! eat out!

                    But once you're 'in the know' you're willing to tolerate just about anything. On the careless occasion I used to wander in after 5:30 PM, the socal TJ's used to look like a hurricane had blown through, and devoured 90% of the goods, leaving a pathetic remainder behind barely fit for consumption.

                    And there was the cheesy attempt to ingratiate. You knew it was eating the employees up inside having to dole out their souls piecemeal to random strangers as part of corporate policy, and I cringed as their recipient. But the price/quality ratio was the highest on the planet, so you went back and cringed and endured the farce.

                    But now, after several less than pleasant exchanges with brain dead TJ's employees and the rising cost of food even at TJ's, along with a noticable decline in quality, it's less than special. In fact, I'd say the price/quality ratio is dropping to the point that it's approaching Ralph's level of abysmal-ness. Not quite there yet, but it's gettin' there.

                    It's really too bad. At this rate, we'll all be eating dog food in ten or fifteen years. I don't know where the next bastion of quality will be, but it won't be at TJ's. The TJ's of 2003-2006 was a high point that will likely never be achieved again. Here's to the memories!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: NewDude

                      Well I still think TJ is a great place to shop. I have noticed no deterioration in quality or anything else at the two TJ's near me and the way I look at it, if the quality at TJ's goes down by say 10%, I can expect my neighborhood Ralphs to decline by at least double that amount.

                    2. This is a very interesting discussion. I used to patronize a couple of older TJs, one in Fairfax VA and one in Falls Church VA, near Tysons Corner. In retrospect the Tysons TJ was pretty stressful -- narrow aisles, crowded, LONG lines, etc.

                      Then I started going to a new one in Reston VA. Lines were often long, aisles still narrow, but not nearly so chaotic.

                      Now I almost exclusively patronize a big new one in Centreville VA. Aaah, much better. Much wider aisles, much better parking, never seems packed, etc. So I can understand the complaints from some about the TJ's experience. It definitely varies from store to store.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Bob W

                        Very interesting, indeed. I'm either the most unobservant journalist in the country or I shop at what must be odd hours- I've had exactly one not-so-great experience at a TJ's since I started shopping there - and there are - what? 10 or 12 here in the Phoenix region?) a decade ago. (And not once any "cheesy" or stupid incidents with any staff members playing pirate. What's that about?) Where the heck do you guys shop? Ate these all East Coast stores? It seems to me that quality varies at almost every grocery, particularly in anything with a house label. A s for "social" shopping - sheesh. Whole Foods used to have "singles' happy hours." Now THAT was yucky!

                        1. re: Alice Letseat

                          maybe it's because you have 10 or 12 of them. Where I live, we only had one for quite awhile, now there is another but it's way on the other side of town. So people flock to both of them and they're always packed.

                          I am in flyover country, not on a coast, FWIW.

                          1. re: Alice Letseat

                            "Social" shopping is definitely a part of the DC scene. The Safeways around here are given nicknames -- the Secret Safeway, the Soviet Safeway, the Suburban Safeway, so of course there is the Social Safeway.

                            Personally, I can't stand Safeway. 8<D

                            1. re: Bob W

                              i remember patronizing the social safeway during college -- cause it was the closest one up on wisconsin. all the "ambassadors" and the goldiggers who wanted to key into that scene would shop there, too. plus us georgetown students. where is the soviet safeway?

                              and while we're at it, the secret safeway? is that at the watergate? is there still a safeway there? i didn't see it on the store locator.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                The Secret Safeway in on 18th and S St.

                        2. While I can't say that every item has declined in quality, a number of items I've purchased in the past reliably, have now been subject to cost cutting measures. For example, the organic chocolate chip cookies. The cookie is noticeably more porous and even though it's always been crispy, is now not as moist.

                          The fried rice used to have a good mix of veggies, but now is overwhelmingly rice, with a very skimpy portion of veggies.

                          The organic veggie pizza is still good, although I've noticed it's no longer labeled organic, which is a pretty clear indication that they may switch over to non organic ingredients when they can no longer afford organic ingredients.

                          But you can still eat in a healthy fashion by eating almost exclusively from their store. It's just not the stupid bargain it used to be, and quality has slipped incrementally, if noticeably.

                          Most groceries at large chains are expensive by comparison and so thoroughly processed and oversalted, it's disgusting by comparison. If there's still a wide margin of difference, it's because the bar drops without an apparent floor at the major chains.

                          Inevitably, as TJ's Manifest Destiny pushes forth with plans for expansion, quality will inevitably drop, and it looks like we are seeing the beginning stages already.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: NewDude

                            The first TJ's I ever visited in 1985 -- on National Bl. in West Los Angeles -- was a nightmare. GREAT food and awesome beer prices, but they had the STUPIDEST check-out configuration ever.

                            Against one wall were the check-out lines; there was no passing thru. The registers and counters were flush against the wall with no pass-thru. You'd walk your cart up to a register, load all your items onto the counter, then they'd bag them, put 'em in your cart, and you had to back-out and go to the actual door.

                            So you'd have these enormous lines of people behind you, squeezing you in, and you'd have to BACK OUT against the tide of filthy humanity just to get your stuff out to the car.

                            I've avoided TJ's ever since, although I've seen a disproportionate number of low-level rock stars at the TJ's in West Hollywood (on Santa Monica Bl.).

                            Now, my girlfriend shops at the one in Sherman Oaks (Hazeltine and Riverside) so I can avoid the madness. The aging hipsters hitting on the young(er) women is really annoying, if I want that kind of enviro, I'll hit a nightclub.

                            -cb-

                            1. re: CucumberBoy

                              I would think this topic would be of interest to TJ's management as most successful chains are good about training and maintaining a consistent 'culture'. I live in a beachside area of SoCal and there are 3 TJ's that we frequent. Never had anything remotely like the OP's experience at any of them over 10 years +. If you go right before the dinner hour, they all get a little crowded but never more than 3 or 4 people waiting in each of 8 lines or so.

                              The staff is extremely friendly and helpful all the time. Usually the contact is about an item that is out of stock or discontinued and they'll check in the 'office' and find you with an answer. Back to the OP's sample area complaint: I have had a couple of instances where an employee was sampling while I was there and I distinctly recall them being very careful to clear the way...... one even ducked down as if they were not supposed to be seen sampling, or maybe not when customers wanted samples. Yes, they do fill shelves during their open hours sometimes, but they're always polite and try to get out of the way quickly.

                              As in most customer service situations, this kind of thing is a factor of corporate setting the rules, but is never any better than the specific store management. Given what I've experienced here, compared with the OP, I'd say some of their stores need some discipline.

                              1. re: Midlife

                                Ah. I'm so used to shopping there that it never occurs to me that stocking during shopping hours is something unique to TJ's. Really, though, it's necessary because of their business model. One way they keep overhead down and the product variety up is that they don't keep a lot of stock on hand, and they don't keep large quantities of any one product on the shelf. Their backstock is minimal (have you ever looked at the stock area of a TJ's compared to a regular supermarket -- it's tiny!). Basically, to maximize the sales per square foot, they keep almost all their stock on the shelf. That's why they often run out of stuff, and that's why they restock during store hours: when the deliveries come in, the stuff goes straight to the shelf, where there's probably an empty space waiting for it.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Ruth, I didn't mean to say that stocking shelves during business hours is unique to TJ's, though TJ's IS the only market I can think of where it's not unusual for them to be stocking throughout the day rather than very early in the morning or very late at night (as other markets do). Like you say, it's got to be a factor of space. My closest TJ's is something like 8,000 square feet, while the Ralph's and Albertson's seem more like 25,000 - 40,000.

                                2. re: Midlife

                                  I would have to agree with this poster, I have 4 TJ within a 2 mile radius of my house and usually try to go once a week. If you have problems at your locale, you should speak to the management. They are usually very helpful and apologetic. My TJ takes their customer complaint very seriously. Overall I think TJ's as a corporation is very customer service oriented.

                                3. re: CucumberBoy

                                  My local TJ's is one of the newer stores in Oakland. It has a great checkout configuration: 1 line that feeds about 10 registers and leads the entrance/elevator to the 2nd flr. of the parking structure.

                                  I like the fact TJ's restocsk during shopping b/c there usually an employee very handy for questions, leading me to the product I couldn't find, or checking in the back for more product (as in cases of sparkiling juice).

                                  When I shop at Ruth Lafler's local store, I've even gotten offers of help out to the car when I've bought multiple cases of goods!

                              2. I live in So CA, not far from the TJ headquarters. Love the place,haven't noticed a culture yet I find it ironic that they dress in Hawaian style and decorate with the polynesian flaire yet there are no TJ in HI. Whenever I go visit my dear sister I have to stuff a carry on with pirate booty and fruit leathers.

                                1. Get ready to laugh out loud:

                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdB7GD...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                    gordeaux! EXCELLENT!

                                  2. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if people are looking for things to be pissed off about. Ponytails? Hawaiian shirts? Maybe they hate your polyester pull-ups with the matching button-downcollar shirts just as much but are too polite to judge you by them..

                                    If you have a complaint about somebody, please make it about how they act, not how they look, especially if the clothes are part of the corporate uniform. Could you stand up to the same scrutiny?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                      I also don't get how anyone can develop anxiety from a 20-minute trip to a grocery store. We live in a time when we can get an unprecedented variety of international - and formerly exotic - products at reasonable prices. Okay, so you have to suffer the indignity of employees stocking shelves as you wander down the aisles. Still hardly PTSD-inducing.

                                    2. MY TJ's is small & gets crowded depending on when you go. But it doesn't carry the full range of items a regular grocery does - so much faster to get in and out! I don't mind the stocking going on. That just makes it so easy to get help when I need it.

                                      My only issue with them is when the cashiers are being chatty to the point they forget to scan. I think that is partly due to lack of experience. If you work with the public for long you generally learn ways to be professional and friendly without allowing it to bog down the transaction.

                                      1. I live in MA, regularly shop in two TJ's stores and sporadically in a third. None are roomy but I've never had any problems navigating around the stock clerks and customers. I've found the staffs to be uniformly helpful and they seem to enjoy working there. I have never seen any pirate show antics or noticed them being loud or tossing boxes. Even if they did display juvenile behavior, it wouldn't bother me as long as they know their stuff. Being a woman who worked in a nearly all-male workplace for decades, I know that men will be boys!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          I've wondered lately if the Brooklyn Trader Joe's, which opened about a year ago, has had a policy change re. the fake-friendly employee shtick. At the beginning it was insane--the checkout people would chat up every customer to the point that lines were backing up. Once my always-polite husband was trapped listening to some failed actor kid regaling him with the tale of an audition (the tone being that my husband had never been lucky enough to have met anyone involved w/the theater before) and I finally just interrupted and told the checker to stop talking and start bagging--that we were in a hurry. (He didn't seem to comprehend what I was saying and kept telling his boring story.) Anyway. They don't really seem to do that anymore. I wonder if customers complained.

                                          1. re: gnosh

                                            Not having been there I can't really speak to the "fake-friendly"-ness of your Brooklyn experience...................... so please don't take this personally. As a transplanted New Yorker, now in a SoCal Beach city, I find my local TJ's people to be genuinely friendly and very responsive to the desire of the customer to engage or not....... as well as the length of the line re the above.

                                            It's entirely possible that it's more difficult to find 'genuinely' friendly checkout staff in Brooklyn, but I'd hate to think so. On the other hand, if you're correctly quoting your own part in this: "stop talking and start bagging--that we were in a hurry", and that is more typical of customers than the out-of-work actor is typical of staff................ ouch!!!

                                            Sounds like a comedy scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm or an old Seinfeld episode.

                                        2. TJ's became popular because it was different. Now that it's more popular, it's not as different. Prices have gone up, they sell less organics (or maybe just as much but with more demand for the same amount), the stores are bigger, the products more mainstream, and overall, the product mix is generally less interesting.

                                          As far as the shove it down your throat friendliness, that's less of an issue than the tangible changes I'm seeing in terms of quality and price. They're still far superior to a traditional chain grocery store and less expensive as well. So the gap is not closing any, even if there is an erosion of standards across the board.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: NewDude

                                            They're also competing against the major chains for private label product. Walk down the aisles at any Albertson's or Safeway store and you'll see formerly specialty items that have become more mainstream. Harder for TJ to differentiate itself.

                                          2. TJ's is owned by Aldi. Same stuff with "creative" names. Suckers.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Fu Dee

                                              They are actually two separate companies, different branches of a German family.

                                              http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/...

                                              http://everything2.com/title/Aldi

                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                Here in SoCal I've never even heard of Aldi before. The entry of Tesco's Fresh n Easy has been our major European invasion lately.

                                                From what I've read on the subject, one half of the Aldi group owns Trader Joe's through a trust, so the influence of the parent company is structurally limited. I DId see, however, some online info about the Trader Joe's label being used in some of Aldi's European stores on certain products.

                                                As one who has been a fan of TJs since its early days I would disagree with Fu Dee in principle, though I have never been in an Aldi store I have not seen any reason to think TJs products are over-priced compared with anything I've seen in this market. Suckers????? I don't think so.

                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                  I agree. I find most of TJ's items to be very competitively priced. The only categories that I can do better in are produce and fresh meats. I've noticed my local Whole Foods matches the price on many items they have that can be found at TJ's.

                                                  Aldi is an interesting concept. Very streamlined, super efficient layout so very nominal staffing. More basic food stuffs. Great prices. Their private label corn chip tastes just like Frito's! (I'd never found another product that tasted like the real thing before.) I think Aldi is one of the few places that is doing well with the economy!

                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    I was half kidding. I do find some of TJ's stuff kind of ordinary and only a few things worth going in for.
                                                    Frozen artichoke hearts and veggie meetballs are excellent.

                                                    1. re: Fu Dee

                                                      If it turned out that there was meat in those I wouldn't be surprised. Those meatballs are very good for a veggie product.

                                            2. wow, okay. I just like the food and the prices so much that I don't mind any of the crazy stuff.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: blue socks

                                                Good point, blue socks. I think of the consumer can try to just focus on the quality of the products, and reasonable prices, life is good. Also, despite the negative (strange) comments about the customer service, I find the employees to be helpful and happy. I'll take Trader Joe's over the miserable Albertson's or even Whole Foods, any day.

                                                1. re: Leancuisine

                                                  My experience in general with customer service at the three places that you mention:

                                                  Whole Foods - indifferent to hostile.

                                                  Albertson's - indifferent.

                                                  Trader Joe's - Very helpful and happy. What's in their water there? :)

                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                    well, they are from the medical mary jane state. or maybe catnip is sold in their herbal remedies section. http://www.stupidvideos.com/video/ani...

                                              2. I've been back to my local TJ's a few times since I posted and things seemed to have calmed down somewhat. Or maybe I've calmed down. :) I was able to pick out everything I wanted on my trip a couple of days ago and didn't have to abort my mission. Maybe it's just the sleepy end of summer mode in this neck of the woods. Of course I had some weird experiences but I'm very happy with the items I picked out, I'll save my comments on those for a different thread. Since I like to read and write about the culture of TJ's I'll mention the odd things just for the heck of it. My friend was with me and the sample lady offered him some yummy chili cornbread pie. When she handed it to him he said and I quote: "kewl!" She looked at him and said sternly "not kewll, thank you." Okay then. The other thing that happened was when I got to the register. The place wasn't crowded, I must have gone at an excellent time, about six thirty pm, and I saw that a cashier that I liked was just finishing up. I pulled up in his aisle and the cashier next door who was closing out told me that the cashier next to her was open. A lady behind me heard her and started to head that way. Sweet. But the closing cashier said oh they were first, pointing to my friend and me. I said calmly that I didn't mind I was in no hurry to leave as it was hot out. So I got the cashier I wanted and my friend and he joked around a lot and had a good time. There was no one waiting behind us or anything. I guess I'm starting to understand the culture a little more. I get why the closing cashier was so helpful, she wanted to keep the line moving so carts and customers wouldn't back up. I still think I have to be in the mood to shop at TJ's and pick my times wisely.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                  don't you mean that he said "cool?" I thought "kewl" was just made up spelling for cell phone texting purposes.

                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    Naw. Kewl has been around way longer than cell phones. Sigh. I remember those times.

                                                2. I saw a first a few weeks ago. It must have been a slow night. One of the employees was walking around the store holding a giant question mark sign mounted to a pole. He held it above his head and it definitely caught the eye! It worked too, lots of folks approached him with questions.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    i just saw that yesterday!

                                                    also, there was some contest for kids to find the "hidden tiger" for a prize. one nearby mom remarked that the "hunt" was keeping her kids dilly-dallying around the store longer than usual.. hey, those tj folks ain't no dummies ("mommy, can we get *this*?").

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      I asked about the hidden animal once (it was right above the "lost" sign) and they said that it was a reason to give children a sticker.

                                                      1. re: Cathy

                                                        oooo, a sticker! ;-)).

                                                      2. re: alkapal

                                                        The other day there was another fellow with a sign indicating him as the menu planning assist person...

                                                    2. The part I don't like is how so many of the cash register jockeys think they have to be your dearest, best friend. It's like - no I'm not going to tell you my weekend plans you fookin' stranger.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ArrowSmith

                                                        Well..... that sortof says it all, doesn't it. I have no way of judging the sincerity level of the 'jockeys' in your TJs, but we live in a smallish city (actually part of the second largest metro in the US, I think). The staff at all our local TJs are very friendly and don't seem fake at all. If yours are just trying to be genuine, what's the big deal?. On the street we live on, we actually know all our neighbors too.

                                                        There are certainly days when I'm, not all that into sharing. But I've never felt like I had to either.

                                                      2. There IS a TJ culture, I'm so glad you posted this. I never go when I'm stressed, I have to be in "Zen" mode. My nearest TJ is full of yuppies (very self-congratulatory yuppies, I must say -- chatting very leisurely with the kiddies: "What sausage should we get now, Kayla? You think this one? Or this one?" Never looking to see that anyone else may be behind, wanting to get AT said sausages ...)

                                                        13 Replies
                                                        1. re: batchoy

                                                          You never heard of saying "excuse me"? There are all kinds of oblivious, self-centered people in the world, and in lots of places besides TJ's. At least the people in TJ's are usually in a decent mood and less likely to snap your head off when you ask them to move.

                                                          Honestly, people. If the only thing in your life you have to carp about is that sometimes people are too friendly, then you should count your blessings! It's amazing what lengths people will go to in order to find something to make them stressed and unhappy!

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            Don't fret about it Ruth. You and I will live longer than the rest.

                                                            I've never found that a quick "nothing special" or "just the usual" doesn't end the conversation if I want it to end. I certainly have my days, but I guess I'm a smallfry in the Type A pool.

                                                          2. re: batchoy

                                                            batchoy, I was going through the worst period so far in my life last winter and of all things Jim Leff posted about blood oranges being in at TJ's and praising them here on chowhound. I was desperately looking for something to cling onto as things were spinning out of control and of course being a chowhound, those oranges sounded like hope to me. I only had a few desperate minutes to shop, and I must surely have looked like there were thunderclouds over my head. There was no way light banter was going to cheer me up and I was making it clear that I didn't want to be bothered with my body language. Did that stop them from trying to chat me up? Hah! It's a good thing I hate being rude. But I was shaking all over by the time I got to my car. Not sure it was worth it but those blood oranges did mean a lot to me.

                                                            1. re: givemecarbs

                                                              I went in with a similar situation a few months ago and the Cashier started with asking me how I was doing and I just said I was feeling upset, nervous and that it was awfully crowded in there and she said "ok, we'll get you out of here fast" and was quiet, efficient and said she hoped things were better for me when I was leaving.

                                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                " . . . those oranges sounded like hope to me." Sheer poetry.

                                                                Thank you for responding to my post, it makes me feel very good to know that I am not alone (in my TJ's experience)

                                                                1. re: batchoy

                                                                  Thank you for your kindness batchoy. Good luck in the trenches! Errr, aisles.

                                                              2. re: batchoy

                                                                Ooooh that's my biggest pet peeve. If you're going to ask your child or spouse or whoever their opinion, please do it so that you're not blocking the aisle.

                                                                I remember being in TJ's when a woman proceeded to ask her toddler about each item in the dairy aisle. "Zachary, would you like mozzaralle or cheddar?" Zachary, shall we get regular cottage cheese or lowfat?" And on and on... the whole time I was trying to squeeze by with my cart saying excuse me. The woman finally turned around, gave me the nastiest look, and told me that her and her kid were comparing fat content on two different brands of string cheese, so whatever I wanted could wait.

                                                                I'm all for shopping with kids and teaching them nutrition thru foods at the market... but please don't be rude to others looking to get around you!

                                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                  she "told me that her and her kid were comparing fat content on two different brands of string cheese, so whatever I wanted could wait."

                                                                  she actually said "whatever [you] wanted could wait?"

                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    yup.. she actually said whatever I needed could wait!

                                                                    In my opinion, more important to teach the child to let others pass by than which string cheese has less fat.

                                                                    Every so often, I take my friend's 4 year old on errands- when we're in the supermarket, she's always trying to be helpful to others. In the cereal aisle, she'll tell a mom that she likes the store brand of cornflakes. Unloading groceries, she'll ask if the person in front of us needs help. More important to teach manners than fat content, esp at a young age!

                                                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                      oh my goodness! wow, that is really astonishing! and not in a good way.

                                                                      i'll bet little zachary will grow up to be a fine specimen of a caring, considerate, other-minded human being! NOT!

                                                                      1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                        How did you respond? Geesh!

                                                                        1. re: Jen76

                                                                          I stood there, and waited till they moved. I couldn't turn around b/c there were tons of ppl behind me and it would have interrupted the flow

                                                                    2. re: cheesecake17

                                                                      Hmm cheesecake, that lady was not being a very good role model to her child. The other lesson she was inadvertently teaching him was that no one was as important as the two of them. I have a young friend who has been treated that way all his life by his mother and grandmother. He has been in jail twice this year so far.

                                                                  2. Our local (Seattle/ East) TJ's are a little more laid back although can get a little hectic on weekends. I have certain items I pick up during slower off hrs, along with shopping PCC, and Whole Foods.

                                                                    1. Is it me, or is this topic just plain bizarre?

                                                                      A company trains its employees to be helpful and friendly. The company grows to national prominence and most people like what they sell and enjoy shopping there. BUT..... Oh, No!........ there are people who find the employees TOO friendly and some of the customers are, what?.............. too....... too..... chatty with their kids???? Heaven forbid!!
                                                                      Oh, and sometimes their popularity makes the stores crowded. No!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                      Yesterday, on Meet The Press, when asked about the uproar over President Obama's TV address to school kids, the NY Times' Tom Friedman said, and I'm paraphrasing here: "It's STUPID!!! It's just plain STUPID!".

                                                                      Different issue, same comment applicable.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                                        Amen, Midlife! Someone's always got to poop in the punchbowl, no?

                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                          now *that's* a word picture, greygarious!

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            Been watching too much South Park?

                                                                        2. re: Midlife

                                                                          huh...for once I agree with Tom Friedman!

                                                                        3. Funny- I am in MA, and have two TJ's near me. Neverhave experienced anything negative in either store. And do not find them too crowded. Went to the Burlington store this past Saturday at about 9:30 or 10:00 am- no problem at all. Lots of room near the sample area, employees as helpful as always. Last year, around Thanksgiving time, i stopped by, and was looking for gluten free items for some TG guests. The staff was wonderful- they gave me a HUGE list of their GF items, and then asked me specifically what I wa looking for, and broght me to the items. I have no compliants about the two stores I frequent. Will have to try the stores when I visit relatives in VA and the Mid west and see if there is a difference

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: macca

                                                                            Macca, Burlington, Arlington, and Tyngsboro are my TJ locations and I agree with you. I was once in the Arl location on Thanksgiving eve. That's a small store with limited parking so it was tight, but nothing aggravating even then. I suspect the differences are more in customer than store.

                                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                                              I go to the Burlington and the Saugus stores- though I prefer the Burlington store, as I know where everything is in that location. But, as you say, have NEVER had an aggravating experience. Maybe MA people are really nice!!!!