7 Things Wrong With Trader Joe’s, According to Fans on Reddit

published Feb 24, 2020
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I’ve loved Trader Joe’s for a while now, but I just recently started adding a mandatory Trader Joe’s trip into my weekly routine. Every Friday before noon, I grab a coffee from my favorite neighborhood cafe, get in my car, and head to TJ’s to tackle my grocery shopping for the week. Oddly, it’s one of the most relaxing and productive parts of my week. However, if I don’t make it to the store before noon or 1 p.m., it is… not so relaxing. This is because, as most of us know, everyone else loves Trader Joe’s, too.

In big cities in particular (I live in Philadelphia), Trader Joe’s can get very, very busy. Last Friday I arrived at the store around 1:15 p.m. and ended up getting the very last parking space available. Needless to say, these are very minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things. Long lines and all, Trader Joe’s is still an oasis of good deals and yummy food. But, as diehard TJs fans on Reddit pointed out, there are a few things about the grocery store that are less-than-perfect—though the reasons behind them may be more complicated than you think. 

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Small Parking Lots 

If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s with a parking lot (as someone who used to live in Manhattan, I know this is not always possible), then you might have noticed some of those lots can be pretty small. As Reddit user longhairdad pointed out, the smaller lots can be frustrating for shoppers who just want to make a quick trip to the store. According to Trader Joe’s National Director of Public Relations Kenya Friend-Daniel, the brand can empathize when it comes to parking—and there are complicated logistics at play.

In episode 5 of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast, President of Stores Jon Basalone expanded on some of the limitations Trader Joe’s leadership faces when selecting and building new locations: “Sometimes we have to make decisions based on, ‘Well, this is the only way we can have a store in this neighborhood is by turning this old armory into a Trader Joe’s. This is the space that’s available, and here’s the parking that comes with it,” Bassalone said. “We certainly have minimums that we need to work with. A lot of our parking lots in Southern California are just sort of older store sites that now are just incredibly inadequate for the business that we do. The way cities work, it also causes some issues for us, where the number of parking spaces is based on the square footage of your space, not how many customers you expect you’re going to have. You know, that doesn’t match up with us because we run pretty small stores. So we’re not allowed to have as many spaces as we would like to have.” 

When Things Get Discontinued

Part of the appeal of Trader Joe’s is that there are always new and exciting products to try, and all at affordable prices. This, unfortunately, means that TJ’s is always tinkering with their stock—and sometimes good items are discontinued to make room for potentially-great ones. While Trader Joe’s always brings back the most popular items based on demand, it can mean that sometimes your particular favorite product might not make the cut. If you ever find a Trader Joes staple you can’t live without—like a great shave cream or moisturizing balm—stock up.

Credit: Tara Bellucci

The Best Products Are Seasonal

Of course, everyone loves TJ’s because of their have-to-have, seasonal products. However, as Redditor YukiHase points out, this means that some of the most beloved products are only in-store once a year. But… this is part of the appeal of Trader Joe’s! It makes the seasonal products feel that much more special. 

Big Crowds

Trader Joe’s fans are insatiable, so you’re likely to see a crowd almost any time you go. In fact, it seems like sometimes the checkout lines are so long and winding that you might as well grab a spot in line as soon as you walk in the door and shop as you go. Yet somehow, those massive lines are always fast-moving, organized, and efficient. And as Friend-Daniel tells Apartment Therapy, the stores are designed this way for a reason.

“Our customers are our primary focus, so in addition to providing them with great quality products at amazing, every day prices, it’s important to us that we also offer a fun, engaging and memorable shopping experience. Our stores are set up in a way that allows us to provide this overall customer experience,” Friend-Daniel says. 

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No Self-Check Out Lines 

Trader Joe’s has no self-checkout lines, as Redditor Montag4819 points out. However, as another user replies, this is probably a benefit in the end. “I like that they have more employee opportunities since they don’t do self check out,” user mycophyle11 writes.

And as Friend-Daniel tells Apartment Therapy, self check-out lines just aren’t Trader Joe’s thing. “That’s just not who we are. We do appreciate our customers and value their time so we make sure we have plenty of Crew Members (employees) available to help customers find what they’re looking for, make informed decisions about their purchases and get through the checkout as efficiently as possible.”

Produce Uses A Lot Of Plastic Packaging 

“I love TJ’s, but am disappointed that their produce section uses so much more plastic than a conventional grocery store,” wrote Redditor berninger_tat. Luckily, though, it seems Trader Joe’s is taking on new initiatives to reduce their packaging and promote sustainability. The store announced plans to eliminate more than 1 million pounds of plastic from stores in the coming years.

“We are excited to share that since announcing our plan to eliminate more than 1 million pounds of plastic from our stores in 2019, we have made substantial progress in our efforts,” the announcement read. “Currently, we have identified and are in the process of implementing packaging changes that will remove a total of nearly 4 million pounds of plastic, annually.”