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Raise your hand if you don't like Trader Joe's


This place creeps me out. It's like a cult. The kitschy advertising and packaging alone makes me never want to shop there. I've tried to like it, but the few times I went with the purpose of buying something, I wound up leaving and wondering why people liked it so much. Am I the only one? Does anyone else feel like this?

  1. Just like WF, I don't feel that I need to burn money so I can show of my TJ's bags when I heave out the trash. I can get the same stuff, even better quality, at Costco etc. for a lot less.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cstr

      Burn money? Just like WF? WTF? One of the chief appeals of Trader Joe's is that its prices are distinctly lower than most other grocery chains.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          Since you "wound up leaving" I'm surprised that you remember the prices. I was only in the NYC one a couple of times but nothing screamed at me. But I'm willing to be wrong about that. But prices don't creep me out.

    2. Hands raised ... high, very high.

      It has little to do with the prices, selection or even the kitchsy culture. I just don't find most of the TJ branded foods all that tasty.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        "I just don't find most of the TJ branded foods all that tasty."

        From what I've tasted that friends have foisted on me, I agree.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          I feel the same - that somehow I HAVE to like TJ's because the dyed-in-the-organic-locavore-sheep's-wool foodies all seem to think it's the last word in food shopping. Any of the prepared foods I've sampled there were either simply bad or, at best, tasteless. The Spouse likes their bread and I would agree if they didn't sell it in a plastic bag. The bread might have been good once, like maybe before it went soggy from the plastic. Just nothing there to make the trip worthwhile.

          Oh, wait. One exception. The TJ's by us carries a brand of salami from San Francisco that I love and can't find anywhere else here. So once every 3 or 4 months I'll go buy a small package of salami. Otherwise, no reason to go.

      2. The only thing I buy regularly at Trader Joe's is their Pound Plus chocolate. , It is IMHO consistently excellent, and a great bargain. The occasional case of Two Buck Chuck to braise with ($2.99 in the Ann Arbor store) rounds out the trip.

        1. I also dislike Trader Joe's. It's always super-crowded, which I hate. I do go there on occasion to buy nuts and almond meal. They have good nuts, I gotta say. The produce is okay, but I have tried a number of their prepared foods (via family members who LOVE them) and I don't like them either.

          I also find the branding stuff silly. However, if TJ's did not have such a cultish following I would probably dislike them less ;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: visciole

            "However, if TJ's did not have such a cultish following I would probably dislike them less ;)'

            Agreed. But I still would not like them very much; just dislike them less.

            Oh. I am so glad I am not alone in this. I thought for so long I was the only one...now if I can just find a group that can't stand "Seinfeld" it would make my day! :)

            1. re: ttoommyy

              Heh, I can't abide Seinfeld now (although I did watch it some back in its day). But, I do have a routine group of staples I pick up at Trader Joe's, plus try some different things here and there. Ah well, can't have everything. ;-)

          2. Can someone please explain this repeated notion that Trader Joe's has "a cultish following." No doubt it has a very loyal shopping base, but so do many markets (e.g., Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Wegman's, Costco). What is it about TJ's that makes you feel like its supporters are brainwashed, as the word "cult" certainly implies?

            Also, I would like the OP to provide some examples of what he/she claims is TJ's "kitschy advertising." I have lived in LA for 20 years and, other than its own in-store circular, I have yet to see a single TJ's advertisement anywhere at any time. No TV ads. No print ads. No billboards. Nothing online.

            Finally, the OP says, "the few times I went with the purpose of buying something, I wound up leaving and wondering why people liked it so much." Which sounds like that "purpose" went unfulfilled and the OP never bought anything there. So if he/she hasn't tried at least a representative sample of their products, then why come on here with so much shamelessly unfounded, unbridled negativity?

            Look, I'm not saying Trader Joe's is the greatest market on earth, but I do think it's a unique one. If those elements that make it unique are not to your taste, that's fine. But if you think the chain deserves this kind of a major push-back/takedown, I hope you can back it up with criticisms that are a whole lot more substantive and a whole lot less peevish.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Arthur

              IMHO venting on an internet board doesn't really constitute "a major push-back/ takedown."

              It's just for fun.

              1. re: visciole

                visciole, that kind of "fun" has been shown to be exceptionally costly to businesses.

                1. re: Arthur

                  A handful of people on an internet board who think TJ's is kitschy and don't particularly love their products is going to take them down? Great, then it might be less crowded when I want to go and buy my almond meal. Let me know when it happens so I can run right over ;)

                  Listen, I don't hate Trader Joe's. I'm just not wild about them. Is that okay?

                  1. re: visciole

                    These are the TJ branded products that I've tried, and my opinions of them.

                    Sweat Tea: bland no tea taste, just a lingering molasses aftertaste

                    Granola (various flavors): too hard and crunchy, made me feel like I was eating gravel, then they went and raised the prices ...

                    Marinated beefs and ribs for grilling: Beef always turned out mushy and ribs were often too fatty.

                    Peanut butter: tasted too much like butter, and not enough like peanuts.

                    Those are the ones that come immediately to mind. There may be others. Like I said above, I could care less about the prices (low or high), the supposed cult following or kitsch. For me, it just comes down to taste, and that's where TJ's falls flat.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Serves you right for buying "sweat" tea - the molasses was needed to mask the salt!

                    2. re: visciole

                      "A handful of people on an internet board who think TJ's is kitschy and don't particularly love their products is going to take them down?"

                      Yikes! I've been found out! :)

                2. re: Arthur

                  To Arthur, from ttoommyy, the OP:

                  "What is it about TJ's that makes you feel like its supporters are brainwashed, as the word "cult" certainly implies?"

                  "Brainwashed" is your word. I NEVER said or implied that. I also never took a potshot at anyone who shops there. All I said was "This place creeps me out. It's like a cult."

                  "Also, I would like the OP to provide some examples of what he/she claims is TJ's "kitschy advertising..."

                  Their web site is advertising. The packaging and signs in the store is advertising. I NEVER said there were commercials, billboards, etc. And yes, the are indeed online. They have a web site, which I went to to look for something. THAT is what made me start this post.
                  As for the kitchy advertising, how about poducts named: "Oh My Darlin'! This Clementine Sparkles (soda)." "Honey, Pass the Snack Mix." And their use of the word VinTJ for their house-produced wine ( a play on the words vin, Fench for wine, and TJ, Trader Joe's, otherwise, vintage.) Not to mention those silly hand drawn "victorian-era" cartoony things that are found in the stores, on their web site and in flyers. Those are all examples of advertising/marketing and very kitschy. AND...all of this is found on their web site (another form of advertising/marketing.

                  "So if he/she hasn't tried at least a representative sample of their products, then why come on here with so much shamelessly unfounded, unbridled negativity?"

                  If you took the time to read any of my responses, you would have read this, "From what I've tasted that friends have foisted on me, I agree (that the food at TJ is not that tasty)." I have tried many things from TJ at friend's and family's places. I've never thought any of it was special or even very good.

                  "No doubt it has a very loyal shopping base, but so do many markets (e.g., Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Wegman's, Costco)."

                  A loyal shopping base is different than people gushing over and discussing ad nauseum how great a place is. Which is what I find here in the NYC area. This post is just my opinion.

                  "why come on here with so much shamelessly unfounded, unbridled negativity?"
                  As you can see, MY OPINION is not really unfounded. And, I do not think my use of the words "don't like," which are in my post's subject line, constitute "unbridled negativity."

                  I rest my case.

                  1. re: Arthur

                    Arthur - I am 100% with you.

                    I really dont understand the comparisons some posters have made on this thread. TJ's shoppers are liken to cult members? Frankly I find that offensive. I am going to stop there because my last post was deleted and I got a warning from the moderators! Double standard in here sometimes

                    1. re: Arthur

                      My wife and I moved to Miami 2 yrs. ago for family reasons after 40 yrs. in L.A. TJ's is one of the many things we miss big-time. We lived in Glendale the last several years there and we had one there, one in Eaglerock and one in the Los Feliz area. We bought wine and liquor there on a regular base...can't beat those prices. Also the fair trade 5-country coffee beans, bread from La Brea Bakery. etc. LOVE TJ's and miss having one close by!

                    2. Kitchy or cult? Never got that vibe or noticed their advertising, just toss that flyer when it comes in the mail. I go there because it's in the shopping center as my supermarket and I can get a bigger bunch of fresh basil, bags of nuts and flowers cheaper than I can get at the grocery store. They have some products I enjoy, like their chocolate mac lace cookies and some different condiments I've only seen there. No hipster crowd in my local TJ's. Inlaws fron a small town in WI like to make a stop at one in Az where they go for the winter because they have a huge supply of stuff they can't get at home. To us it's just another store.

                      1. You cant call it cultish or whatever you want

                        I could care less the food is organic. I dont give a flying..... if the food is carbon neutral or hormone free or pesticide free. There is stuff I really like at the place and stuff that isnt so good, just like any other market. I shop there (and other markets) because the prices are good and they have some unique and tasy items. Period. You take offense to their advertising, packaging, or crowds? GOOD! Makes the lines shorter for the rest of us! In fact them more I think about it lets start 10 more threads just like this so I can get in and out of there on a Saturday morning in under an hour!

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: joe777cool

                          Count me amongst the baffled.

                          Maybe it's because it's across town and not all that convenient. Maybe it's because we have two EXCELLENT supermarkets nearby (Sendik's and Grasch's) that have TJ-like products AND excellent produce AND excellent meat AND all the brand-name basics (real staples like flour, sugar, etc.). Maybe the Milwaukee/Bayshore TJ store is just sub-par.

                          What I did see was a poor selection of sad looking meat, produce, bakery and dairy, a LOT of wine (which I don't really drink), and a LOT of frozen and processed foods. Oh yeah, and REALLY high prices. To each his own I suppose, but not planning on returning.

                          1. re: MikeB3542

                            Mike I got hooked on Honey Crisp apples when I was cruising around WI and the MI UP for fall foilage season a few years ago and Trader Joe's was the only place I could find them when I got back here in San Diego. Now I see them briefly in the fall in our large supermarket too, but still better at TJ and neither are even close to as good or big as the ones I had in WI.
                            Lots of firsts foods back there. in addition to those delicious Honey Crisps I never had a caramel apple (fudge covered too!) or snickerdoodle cookie until that trip and I ate them from farmers market stands all over the place. Pumpkin fudge too!. How did I miss those goodies as a kid? Great scenery and car munchies. Fish boils with cherry pie too. Good thing there were lots of places to get out and burn off those calories!

                            1. re: MikeB3542

                              "Oh yeah, and REALLY high prices."

                              Sorry, but I have to call BS on this claim. As I noted near the top of this page, TJ's prices are famously low, at least where I live in Los Angeles.

                              1. re: Arthur

                                I'm with you, Arthur. I buy their tomatoes because I just can't bear the pain of San Marzanos. Also produce. Costco may be less but at TJs I can buy onesies and twosies. But perhaps other parts of the country are more expensive. I also buy their Greek yogurt for about 1/3 the price of Safeway et al.

                                1. re: Arthur

                                  Ditto. The prices at TJs are sooo far below what I pay in any other market in Central MA.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    Good to know. I really couldn't imagine that it could be a West/East Coast thing. Someone here has mentioned good prices on their liquor. That I've never seen. I find their liquor quite expensive actually but we're usually buying at a big grocery store where you also get an additional 10% off with the purchase of any (mixed) 6 bottles.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Prices that are on the high side for any liquor that's advertised in glossy magazines, but there are screaming deals on more obscure stuff. That bottle of Chopin potato vodka that's $30 at TJs might be cheaper at Safeway, but you can pick up a liter of Monopolowa potato vodka for under $10; it goes for $15+ elsewhere, and to my palate it's every bit as good as the pricier stuff.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        My store doesn't sell booze, due to archaic MA liquor laws.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          I still remember trying to buy a six-pack of beer in Boston for a 4th of July picnic. I thought the right to buy beer on the 4th of July was a right guaranteed by the Constitution, but nooooo... It was right there in the grocery store, but the aisle was cordoned off because of the blue laws. Gotta love the place.

                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                          Is that the same brand as the gin?

                              2. I like the food they sell, the prices they sell it for, and the extremely helpful service. Nothing to do with a "cult," just good products at a good price. Naturally they market what makes them different, though you don't see or hear much advertising for them around here. So what's the problem, really?

                                1. Oh thank you! I always thought it heresy not to worship at the altar of TJ.

                                  Outside of their brownie mix and sweet and salty trail mix, I'm not impressed with their goods at all. I am always astonished at the people who have a full cart at the checkout, considering the prices. One hand raised.

                                  But, I still love Seinfeld.

                                  1. It's a status symbol, but it still feels like chain. The whole yuppie atmosphere creeps us out. My Cole Haan brother drags us there when we visit out west. All a moot point as there are no TJ's in Maine, but one might be coming soon the that little foodie city by the sea, Portland, three hours away.
                                    We have a truly wonderful little store, John Edwards, that keeps us happy; even my preppy bro and wife love it.

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                      I agree that shopping there seems to have become a status thing for people who don't have a clue as to how to achieve genuine status. Personally, I'm just as big a cheerleader for the anti-TJ's, Aldi, which is owned by members of the same extended family. The quality of basic items is just as good or better and the prices are about half of TJ's. I stroll into TJ's a few times a year to pick up the handful of items which I've found to be good quality and value, but I always come out with additional impulse purchases which don't do much for me except inflate my food bill and my waistline. Frequently those items aren't as good as they look, either.

                                      TJ's is just another example of the triumph of marketing over good sense.

                                      1. re: Emm

                                        We don't have Aldi where I live (Los Angeles), but I just took an extended look at the Aldi website and concluded there is simply no comparison there to Trader Joe's (other than perhaps the "extended family" connection you mentioned). Aldi products may be of good quality, but without exception they also all look very basic and uninspired - and I'm not just talking about their generic packaging. Frankly, Aldi's entire line looks identical to the in-house ones at stores like Smart & Final, not to mention that it's a full-service market that sells national brands (e.g., Oscar Meyer, Uncle Ben's), small appliances, pool supplies, and offers photo developing. I'm certainly not saying there's anything wrong with any of that. I'm just saying that comparing these two stores is way off-target and, frankly, bizarre.

                                        Check it out at http://www.aldifoods.com/index_ENU_HT...

                                        1. re: Arthur

                                          I just read a CH post about Aldi (never heard of it). Posters were comparing it to a Dollar Store --- and not in a good way.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Yep, a Dollar Store - that's exactly what Aldi looks like.

                                            Which makes Emm's assertion that shopping at Trader Joe's "seems to have become a status thing" all the more revealing.

                                            1. re: Arthur

                                              What does Trader Joe look like ?
                                              I have never been to one. But I keep hearing about hawaiian shirts and tropical themes.

                                              1. re: rochfood

                                                rochfood, the tropical theme is unmistakably there, but IMO TJ's doesn't go overboard with it. As is usually the case with questions like this, you can get a pretty good sense of the store by exploring its website: http://www.traderjoes.com/

                                      2. re: Passadumkeg

                                        Yuppy? Well we certainly aren't aren't shopping in the same stores. Creatures of all shapes, sizes and walks of life are roaming the aisles in San Diego, but I haven't seen many prepsters since leaving the east coast.

                                        1. re: Island

                                          I have limited experience w/ TJ's but this is my impression. Preppie is, I guess, a relative term. I've never seen anyone in their lobstering gear at a TJ's. This thread seem to have ruffled the affluent feathers of the the TJ birds.

                                          1. re: Island

                                            Yeah, that's a little ridiculous. Just because someone's preppy brother frequents the store doesn't mean that's their key demographic. My TJs is filled with all different types of people.

                                          2. re: Passadumkeg

                                            It's definitely a chain, but a status symbol? The individual stores probably reflect the neighborhood they're located in, but Birkenstocks outnumber Cole Haans about 10:1 at the TJs I go to.

                                            PS - if you see somebody wearing lobstering gear in Las Vegas, groceries are the least of your worries.

                                          3. I can live with/ignore the kitsch but sometimes the hyper-super-friendly "helpfulness" can get to be a bit much - you know, like God forbid you innocently ask where something is and they drag you at lightning speed on the spot before you can even tell them you'll find it yourself when you get to that part of the store. (lol) Otherwise, I've just never found anything there I like enough to make a special trip and deal with the invariably huge lines. They're opening one in my neighborhood and I'm sure I'll stop in once in while if the lanes are sane, but I don't think it'll change my basic shopping habits.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: MikeG

                                              OMG, I forgot to mention how much I hate the excessively chatty, faux-BFF cashiers. The last time I was there one of them asked me "what are you going to make with this?" about my package of frozen langostinos. Hell, I had no idea. Or how they alwayssay about whatever you're buying "Oh, I just love that."

                                              1. re: Emm

                                                I've worked in grocery stores and had frequently asked how a customer might cook a product, because many times people have asked if I've ever used it before and how I cooked it. Jeesh, if you don't want anyone talking to you at a store plug in an iPod and bob your head.

                                                1. re: SmartCookie

                                                  I don't mind the fact that the cashier is chatting with me, it's the overly friendly, insincere tone I notice ONLY at TJ's that gets on my nerves.

                                                  1. re: Arthur

                                                    Begs the question.......is it insincere/overfrieldly cashiers or difficult/cold customers? Maybe somewhere in the middle? I know that several trips I have made there I didnt notice anything out of place at all cashing out. Maybe they chatted with me, maybe not - I honestly cant remember....but even a rude cashier wont deter me from shopping where I want to shop.

                                            2. oh right here! paws in the air! i can't stand tj's. the company's history of greenwashing, bullying small companies who operate as commissaries for them, and that famous secretive non-transparent sourcing is absolutely despicable. don't get me started on this store's attempts to shut down independent small business and nonprofits locally to me. all sorts of other reasons not to patronize this chain.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                Really? I would be interested to hear more about this, or be pointed in that direction. Thanks.

                                              2. Wow this is one weird thread, but it looks like there are a lot these about TJ and other....dare i say the dirty word....."chains". More polar opposite opinions than CNN vs FOX "news".
                                                I get my goods and get out just like any other store. I'm looking for that stuff and not examining the customers or staff. As long as they aren't blocking the aisle by walking NEXT to their cart (what the hell is up with that ?Costco usually), or clueless/slow at the check out I don't give a crap.
                                                It's a grocery store. Period. Does it really deserve worship or wrath? Getting riled one way or another is really what's creepy, kitchy or cultish. That's amusing, but yet a tad sociopathic. Should I build an altar to TJ and if I do should I light a candle or slaughter a small animal?

                                                BTW this is not directed at any specific post of individual, just an opinion on the "debate".

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Island

                                                  You are certainly "not an Island entire unto oneself". Good perspective. I come from a very rural downeast Maine perspective. I still see lobstermen leaning against crates at Dunbar's General store and shootin' the shit, and drinking their Bud pounders (16 oz.). I find the whole suburban strip mall scene very surreal. This may also be a vent for the Holy anti-chain CH sect. Bless me Father....

                                                  1. re: Island

                                                    >>>>As long as they aren't blocking the aisle by walking NEXT to their cart (what the hell is up with that ?

                                                    How funny. This just happened to me yesterday (again) but this time the rude guy was 6'2' and 280#. I had the temerity to say 'excuse me' and got a glare that dared me to say anything more. I would have been flattened, right there next to the yogurt.

                                                    Wow. What IS it with people today indeed?

                                                    OT, I once bought some marinated meat in cryovac that was touted to be wonderful...and I found it awful. But oh that sweet and salty mix, and those brownies with some JIF swirled in. I gotta give them that.

                                                    1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                      Anonymouse- Annoying isn't it? I see it all the time in Costco. Maybe that's because it's the only place I'm usually with a cart myself and I find it's typically guys slowly sauntering down the aisle with as much distance between themselves and the cart as if to say "What, this cart, oh no it's not with me!", like it's unmanly embarrasing to be behind the cart. Annoying and self absorbed, yet comical. HA! And I'm not being sexist by calling out the boys, just my observance. I doubt an average size woman with average size hands could maneuver a cart riding shotgun. For equal opportunity I'll mention the self absorbed women are outside talking on their cell phones and stepping off the curb in front of moving cars without even looking. Like their cell is a suit of Ironman armor.
                                                      Hmmm maybe I should start a thread with my own pet peeves regarding shopping etiquette!

                                                  2. I think this is an odd thread also. We go to TJs occasionally. They have things I like at good prices, not high prices. Also manageable sizes. Gio recommended their smoked salmon some months ago and we really liked it. I got avocados there recently for much less than the grocery stores in the area. I really like their cheese selection and it's the only place in a hundred mile radius where I can buy raclette. If we're there, we may or may not buy some wine. I like their canned, whole tomatoes. Their wild arugula is better than I can get at most places. The stores I've been in, except for Manhattan, have never had long lines and they seem to move very quickly. I've always thought that was because it's not the primary place people shop. I don't find their staff any friendlier or less friendly than any place else I go. And the shoppers there seem to be the same sorts that I see eveywhere else. I haven't checked posters' profiles to see where they live but I wonder if those of us "Out West" have had them around so long, it's just the same ole/same ole, no big deal.

                                                    A final thought from me is I've don't think I've ever seen a store that "creeps me out" or one that feels "like a cult." Maybe I've seen enough in my life that has those effects so I know a grocery store wouldn't qualify.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      Where do you live? Where are you going next week? You are the TJ's target demography.

                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                        And TJs target demography is what? I see college age kids and people using walkers, suits and Carhart, big ole diamonds and plain gold bands (me!). I'd estimate that I've been in 15-20 TJs in a number of different states over 20 years and, again except for Manhattan, that's what I tend to see. Would I drive far out of my way to go there? No. But since there's one within five miles of where my elderly MIL lives, we make it there occasionally.

                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                          I live in a small community of several hundred people at Lake Tahoe. If you drive 20 miles from west to east, there's not a single independent grocer. Next week I'm driving 50 miles to Reno to take my MIL to the doctor.

                                                          The difference between Las Vegas and Reno is only about the difference between night and day. Reno is still basically a cow town.

                                                          And what IS that demographic?

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          I think I'm giving this thread more attention than it deserves because of the "creeps me out". Coincidentially I heard someone say that in Costco a couple of weeks ago. Yes I'm mixing my chains again, but what's the dif. Is it a new fad? (sarcasm)
                                                          Anyway, I'm in the front of the store perusing the mags while my husband is deciding what giant container of nuts to go for and i hear a guy say something like "I've got to get out of here. i feel like someone is watching me and it's creeping me out!". That catches my ear and I look up to see a Jonah Hill look-a-like with his friend. teens-20's perhaps, in the open space between the aisles and registers. He's repeating it in an overly dramatic way with his hands pulling at his hair and if I was closer I think I would have said yeah, you're right, people are watching you because you're acting like an IDIOT! Most within ear shot got a good laugh over it and I'm sure it will be a little catch phrase we'll smirk about for awhile.
                                                          Wish I could say he looked like he was having a bad trip, but I think it was just poser I'm so antiestablishment attitude. Yawn. I feel the same way when someone says "clowns scare me". Yeah right; how cliché

                                                          1. re: Island

                                                            Do you really think TJ "creeps me out" literally? Why is everyone taking me so seriously? I used some words to punch up my basic statement, which is "I don't like Trader Joe's." Some of you people need to lighten up.

                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                              When you say something, on CH or to your boss or your best friend, you're generally taken at face value. There have been 50+ replies where you could have responded that you didn't mean it. Good advice for all of us.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Sorry. I just NEVER really thought people believed me literally. I still stand behind my statement that I don't like TJ and that most people I know who shop there treat the place like the holy grail is hidden on one of its shelves (this is the part where you say "here he goes again").

                                                                Good night all. (And I really am sorry if I offended anyone.)

                                                        3. WTF??? It's a grocery store, not a religion.

                                                          Sure, some items that TJs sells are terrible. And yes, a number of items are not priced competitively (although they tend to be in the same ballpark as full price at most grocery stores). Generally speaking, it just isn't a very good place to buy meat or fresh vegetables, and their prepared foods are hit-or-miss at best.

                                                          On the other hand, the store carries some high-quality foods cheaper than anyplace else in my town. Imported dried pasta, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, butter, cheese, wine - there's plenty of good food and plenty of good deals to be found. And if you're looking for basic stuff (corn tortillas, whipping cream) without additives or preservatives, it may be the only game in town.

                                                          So why get all emotional about it? Buy the stuff that's good, pass on the stuff that's not. What's so hard about that? (FWIW, finding the good stuff can be a zero-risk proposition; if you don't care for an item you can bring back the receipt and they'll give you a full refund, no questions asked.)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            I just made 'olla gitana' (gypsy pot), a Spanish vegetable stew.
                                                            From Asian grocery (99Ranch or Hmart)
                                                            - kombucha squash
                                                            - onion
                                                            From TJ:
                                                            - canned chickpeas
                                                            - frozen French green beans
                                                            - garlic
                                                            - balsamic vinegar
                                                            - olive oil
                                                            - saffron
                                                            - tiny potatoes
                                                            - canned tomato
                                                            - ground almonds
                                                            - mexican oregano
                                                            - ground dried chile
                                                            - salt, pepper

                                                            I've bought all those ingredients from the respective stores based on price, quality and convenience, not because I seek status, or am following some weird cult. And for what it's worth all the pans I used were from either Samsclub or TJMaxx (purchased with an eye for practical quality at a low price).

                                                          2. it's funny, i'm a loyal TJ's shopper [for certain items], but i totally get why it doesn't sit well with some people. the first time i walked into one in LA about 10 years ago i was sorta freaked out by the bizarre decor and all those manically-friendly employees in hawaiian shirts. after all these years, i've grown to appreciate their amazing customer service & return policy, but i still occasionally get weirded out when an uber-friendly employee with a perma-smile is tripping all over themselves to help me with something.

                                                            i tend not to buy prepared foods *anywhere,* so i can't comment on the quality of theirs. but i love their selection of nuts & dried fruit, and they have terrific prices on things like sparkling water, canned fish and beans (in BPA-free cans, thankyouverymuch), frozen fruits and vegetables, *certain* fresh produce (they're admittedly hit or miss on this), wine...and i happen to like their house brand Greek-style yogurt. it's less expensive for me *for the things i buy there* than it would be if i bought the same items at other grocery stores. i have a Costco membership, but i live alone and i'm pretty petite - i wouldn't know what to do with their ginormous family packs of most of their food items even if i had the space to store them (which i don't).

                                                            bottom line, would i die if i didn't live near a TJ's? umm, no. am i happy that i have the option of shopping there? absolutely.

                                                            1. I like to buy cheap booze there, and wine. I mostly don't like Trader Joe's because they are exceedingly crowded here in San Francisco. One is usually mobbed while the others are just crowded. I rarely go there, and hate the produce, but I'm very picky about my produce. I don't my produce prepackaged. Since I rarely buy prepared foods, and their meat is a bit pricey, there's not much I can buy at TJs. Not fond of their baguettes either.

                                                              I don't hate it, but I'm not fond of it. It just doesn't serve my needs very well, aside from the booze. And being in the Masonic branch makes me stabbity, due to the huge crowds of people running me over with their shopping carts

                                                              1. I'm not a big fan of the prepared foods, but I find the dairy products to be fairly reasonable, and I really like their dried fruits and nuts products. I wish they had bulk items and more fruit and vegetables that weren't packaged
                                                                I will say that it's a much better place to work than most of the other supermarkets in the area - the company treats its employees very well, which I think says something about it, unlike Whole Foods which won't allow its employees to unionize and gives them few benefits.

                                                                1. We've had to remove a number of angry responses from this thread, and the discussion as a whole is increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock this topic now.

                                                                  1. jfood on his back with all four paws in the air.

                                                                    Jfood has been to the TJs near him 4-5 times and walked out shaking his head. On a couple of those occassions he bought a couple of items people recommended. They were major yawns at best. Why does jfood want frozen fish when he has a great fishmonger, frozen potion controlled ethnic foods when he can order freshly made? \\He called and had a great chat with TJs regional manager thinking the store was smaller than most. What was agreed that jfood is fortunate for choices and not all locations have other stores that offer what jfood can find in other stores. Likewise he does not have highly scheduled kids, so the 15-minute dinner window was closed a long time ago.

                                                                    He understanbds how it can help some, but for jfood it has absolutely no appeal or usefulness in his life.