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Has Trader Joes gone downhill over the years?

e
Eater0329 Aug 24, 2009 05:56 PM

I have shopped at Trader Joes for over 20 years. Many products that I used to buy have dissapeared.

It seems as if Trader Joes is trying to change its focus. In the 1980s Trader Joes was known to have wine, cheese,snack foods, frozen foods and dried fruits/nuts.

Over the past 10 years Trader Joes has become more of a mass appeal store trying to lure customers away from stores like vons and Ralphs.

They no longer carry large cut up blocks of Ghiradeli chocolate that they used to have at the checkout.

Today thier selection of one day breads(La Brea bakery bread) has been cut in half. I was looking for Youngs double chocolate stout beer and they don't carry it anymore.

Being more positive Trader Joes gets all of its fresh squeezed juices from Juice Evolution or Perocines. The prices on Juice Evolution fresh squeezed juices are half the price of Whole Foods or Gelsons.

Many Trader Joes parking lots are very very small.

There frozen food items are a hit or miss.

Whole Foods has a better selection on most items but they are more expensive.

The produce at Trader Joes is medicre at best.

At many Trader Joes locations if you don't arrive by 12noon the store is wiped out like a tornado.

Why are Trader Joes stores so popular and busy?

I shop at the Encino, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Woodland Hills locations.

Trader Joes is also expanding to locations that don't make any sense such as Santa Maria,CA and Palmdale,CA.

  1. vronic Aug 28, 2009 08:42 PM

    Nothing beats the ready-made food section at Whole Foods, but for quick weeknight meals or heat-up choices, TJ's is still cheaper and better tasting than anything I'll get at say, Albertson's. I do tend to get my produce elsewhere (go ethnic stores!) and the meat is fairly astronomical, but for everything else, I don't see a huge problem with them.

    Plus, I easily spend half as much there as I would at any chain store. I'm still a fan...

    1. t
      TomSwift Aug 28, 2009 10:47 AM

      I've been shopping at TJ's since the days when the original Pasadena (CA) store was Trader Joe's and Pronto Market. Back in the days of the CA Fair Trade liquor law. Since I live in Woodland Hills I shop that store now, as opposed to the Canoga Park store whose larger space doesn't justify the drive. I agree that TJ is schizoid, trying to appeal to a broader market than their traditional focus, but still trying to retain that elite, fringe customer base looking for bargain priced truffle oil, wild rice, house brand imports and the like. The store I go to is almost always packed with what apear to be both groups of people. Has TJ gone downhill? IMO their service is still good. Their wine selection doesn't seem as good but I think that is because of competition by places like BevMo and WH Wine Company and similar wine stores. They can't be beat for milk and eggs (watch the exp dates!). Some (but only some) of their cheeses and pates are comparable to WF and significantly cheaper. I am disappointed in TJ (does that mean it's downhill?) mainly because they've stopped carrying products which were staples for me: for example, the Muscovy duck breast was $7/pound, elsewhere it's $30/pound for the exact same brand; discontinued because the TJ management decided that the ducks were not raised correctly! They sure tasted fine to me. Why are TJ stores so popular? I think it's because they offer a wide selection of foods and liquors at prices that are less than the majors (although does TJ come close to qualifying as a major now?), even though the quality of some of their stuff is less than you'd get if you paid a premium price. The recession may have something to do with their popularity.

      Santa Maria and Palmdale? I agree with others that these places in particular (and others with the customer base to sustain the store but with no store nearby) should get them. Just take a look at the boards from other areas of the country - the two things from SoCal that the people are asking for are In-N-Outs and TJs, and when a TJ's opens they are thrilled. More stores means more purchasing power, which we all hope will translate into still lower prices and wider selection with better quality.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TomSwift
        OCEllen Aug 28, 2009 12:21 PM

        I miss those duck breasts, too!!!

      2. g
        glbtrtr Aug 26, 2009 09:39 PM

        YES! It started putting too many additives and fake chemicals into its previously "natural" food. There is little I like to buy any more. Plus it always was primarily a liquour store when you count how much floor space is devoted to alcohol compared to food.

        I think TJ's was just an alcohol marketing concept trading allegedly "healthy" food and snacks as a front for aging hippies/yuppies who wanted to pretend they did not have real alcohol cravings. So they could go in there for their organic popcorn and feel virtuous while they also picked up a quart of Jim Beam.

        I go back for their whole wheat couscous and mozzarella sticks, but nothing else anymore. They lost me a long time ago when they changed their house brand shampoo to some junk that was terrible. No reason to patronize them after that on a regular basis, plus they increased all their prices immensely taking advantage of the S. California grocery store strike a few years back when all their "virtuous" customers refused to cross union picket lines, not realizing TJ's was not even unionized in the first place and treated all their workers as part timers while they boycotted union stores picket lines.

        TJ is no longer "honest food" for quirky tastes. It is a marketing sham for alcohol and adulterated junk for the most part, IMHO.

        3 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr
          Honeychan Aug 26, 2009 09:54 PM

          "So they could go in there for their organic popcorn and feel virtuous while they also picked up a quart of Jim Beam."

          ROTF!! This made me laugh alot more than it should! I never get to see the yuppie winos at my TJ's in Vegas. In fact I seem to be the only one in the liquor department when I'm shopping, so-

          OH CRAP.

          1. re: glbtrtr
            BarmyFotheringayPhipps Aug 26, 2009 10:35 PM

            Er...doesn't really explain why there's so many TJs out here in states that don't allow liquor sales in grocery stores.

            1. re: glbtrtr
              Akitist Aug 27, 2009 01:27 PM

              In the beginning TJ's was heavier on alcohol, percentagewise, than they are now. I'm talking back when The Man himself was owner, before they went foreign-owned corporate. Wine, some beer, and distilled spirits to go with cheeses, pastries, some off-the-wall packaged goods. This was understood. Ground meat would more likely have been beefalo or buffalo than plain beef. Since they were an LA area chain a lot of the stuff was locally sourced.

              Wish I has come of those early Fearless Fliers, which were better-written than the smarmy current equivalent. Does anyone know if Joe actually had daughters named Madeleine and Charlotte, whose names appeared on some baking or pastry-related products?

            2. m
              mlgb Aug 25, 2009 05:11 PM

              "The frozen, ready to heat foods? I keep trying the samples, seldom like 'em. Range from meh to feh on my taster scale."

              I've given up on TJs. Too often their dairy, cheese, and produce go off too quickly.

              Now that I have a Fresh & Easy at an equal distance, I never go to TJs any more.

              1. f
                ferret Aug 25, 2009 03:28 PM

                I once again have to pull the (paraphrased) Norma Desmond line out of mothballs (i.e. "I am big; it's the pictures that got small.") The rest of the world caught up to and, in some cases, passed TJ's. A walk down the aisle of any Safeway/Albertson's/etc. outlet reveals house-branded and name brand goods of a variety unheard of even a decade ago. It's harder for TJ's to stand out, or compete, in that kind of a market. In Chicago, for example, we have Japanese, Korean and other International megamarts which offer great exotic produce and products at pretty competitive prices. Trader Joe's model of locking in prices on items that were otherwise too expensive or had limited distribution is more difficult just because there's so much competition from even bigger and more mainstream outlets. So it's not so much that TJ's has fallen off, but our expectations have certainly grown.

                1. l
                  laliz Aug 25, 2009 02:19 PM

                  Why NOT Santa Maria????

                  I've shopped Trader Joes for over 30 years. No, I don't think they've gone downhill at all.
                  I do wish they still carried reception sticks.

                  1. Akitist Aug 24, 2009 07:02 PM

                    I, too, have shopped TJ's for over 20 years. I agree that many of the changes have been for the worse.

                    I lament the old TJ branded wines that were surplus or distressed production from major wineries, each with its individually designed label.

                    I'm unhappy about the sausage situation. Nothin' much left but the TJ's chicken sausage in maybe a dozen flavors. (Mango chipotle chicken sausage?) Nary an honest bratwurst to be seen. Tofu dogs don't count, of course.

                    The frozen, ready to heat foods? I keep trying the samples, seldom like 'em. Range from meh to feh on my taster scale.

                    However, a business is a business, and they certainly attract customers. Even if it's herd instinct that brings 'em in. Used to be that a TJ's shopper was out of step with the mainstream. Now that TJ's is mainstream we out of steppers are out of place, I guess.

                    BTW, how do Santa Maria and Palmdale rate as not making sense for locations? People in those cities need somewhere to buy their mango/chipotle chicken sausage, not to mention their Two Buck Chuck.

                    1. monkuboy Aug 24, 2009 06:00 PM

                      I still think TJ's is a distinctive store. I'd rather shop there than a regular grocery store or Whole Foods or Henry's, etc. Why do you say that it doesn't make sense for them to expand to Santa Maria or Palmdale?

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