Friday, July 07, 2006

Trader Joe's: The Hipster Smack

In ninth grade, because I fancied myself a badass, and because I was utterly wrong, I had many (what I thought of as) hip tees. Hip like “Funkin Go Nuts” spelled out to the Dunkin Donuts logo, or “White Trash” to the Oscar Meyer wiener logo. My favorite of all was purchased in London and red with the words, “Ketamine: The Techno Smack”. The draw to this one was twofold. First, it showed the world that I knew what Special K and raves were (thereby proving what a badass thirteen year old I had become), and the second was that my mom believed me when I told her it was a band, therefore enabling me to wear it.

As I clutched a bag of prized Peruvian rice and whole-wheat waffles, I was reminded of that shirt for the first time in years.

The past few months have not tamed the beast that is Trader Joe's. Oh no friends, no they have not. First of all, at certain times, there’s still a line to get inside. Inside! And with a friendly, bearded treehugger at the front, cracking jokes and kicking an invisible hackeysack, not letting anyone in while simultaneously singing the praises of his employer’s establishment. Nice guy, but really not in the mood for it as I’m waiting in the crushing heat. As I stood seven deep in a line…to get in…a grocery store…I could almost hear my mother cackling with a really clich├ęd accent, “Ooooonly in New Yaaawwwk!”

Once inside, one line is traded for another, the newest snakes past dairy, around the produce, and doublebacks near granola in an ingenious way. Like one of the rides at Six Flags where they bundle in tightly woven gridlines so you can’t tell how long a wait you actually have. A guy in glasses holds a cutesy, cartoony sign that beckons, “Line starts here!” instead of “One hour wait for morons right here!” to lift the mood.

To circumvent delay and maximize shopping, some couples have formed systems in which one will wait on the atrocious line, empty-handed, while the other races around the store, haphazardly grabbing items and tossing them at their partner in a makeshift version of Supermarket Sweep. Who can grab the most trade-free items first before the line is at the counter? All you got was organic asparagus and fruit leather? Too bad! Times up!

What makes this event even better is that people can only run in spurts, since it’s more crowded than Sheep’s Meadow on a Summer Friday. Everywhere you turn, you bump someone, or an old lady steamrolls over you. Everything is nearly sold out, and that frenzies the masses even more. Give me that edamame you bitch! I was here first! The hell you were! Okay, fine, I’ll trade you for this jar of almond butter. What do you mean, “Maybe next time??” Screw you!

There are mommies, hippies, respectable homeowners and teens. But most of all, it’s a sea of hipsters, with a few scattered yuppies in the mix. Everyone is strung out on branded pitas. People are grabbing pseudo-Terra Chips like it’s moonshine. It’s pure, unadulterated mayhem.


And highly addictive. I'm drawn to it like no other, engaging in this ridiculous activity regardless of how obscenely difficult it is. More violence than your average bar crawl, more eye candy than any club, and more half-grown mullets and mustaches than Williamsburg.

It reminds me of that time in ninth grade when my wardrobe was dictated by obscure, irreverent sayings and logos. Hmmm. Kind of like it is now.

Trader Joe's: The Hipster Smack.

Someone ought to make a T-shirt.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHA. Priceless.

shellz said...

LOL! Reminds me of the Yoga Nazis in my Bikram class. I've been nearly trampled several times by a stampede of them fighting for the spot by the window. Some days in there are seriously treacherous. It's just such an oxymoron. I thought yoga was supposed to make you peaceful!

C-47 said...

I have this same addiction, but to home depot. No matter how busy it gets in the depot there will be no more then two registers open, ever, 11 and 14. God forbid you try to check yourself out. Watching people try to master the simplest of self scan processes, it amazes me that humanity hasnt destroyed itself yet. But damned if I wont spend 4 hours in there, and be damned if you reach for that 10" c wrench or 1/2" masonry bit in front of me. (As they say in tombstone "you brought down the thunder and hell followed with it")
They seem to hire employees just competent enough to button up their vests, but with a knowledge of tools i imagine paris hilton to have. I rollercoaster through so many emotions at the depot, awe, love, brutal crushing frustration and hate, jealousy, envy, bliss. Home Depot would be my whiskey I spose.

Mon Dieu! said...

I can't believe it's like that there! Ours is small and crowded sometimes, but there is never a line. Maybe you should take the train to PA for your shopping?

myboyfriendiscrazy said...

Hahaha! Nice post.

"Ooooonly in New Yaaawwwk!" <-- My mother too

Laura said...

I HATE Trader Joes. It claims to be all cool and better than all the "evil" chain grocery stores. Whatever. It reminds me of Hot Topic. It just commodified anti-commodification. Eff that. I shop at the Stop N' Shop with the other working class tools. Cheap and quick. Yes ma'am. /End Rant.

Cheetarah1980 said...

I have no clue what Trader Joe's is. Does that make me unhip? Probably so.

Victoria said...

I'm surprised. Washington D.C. has had Trader Joes for years... several of them. This it just open in NYC?

D.T. said...

But despite the long lines (which is something I'm so glad we dont have here at our Trader Joes!) isnt the food delish?! In fact, I'm totally craving those cinnamon and sugar chips right now...

GeminiWisdom said...

Trader Joe's don't get like that here in Phx. Maybe you oughtta come down for a visit and stock up. And browse at your leisure, of course.

The Seeker said...

I found you through Vixen, I just read this entire page (a rarity for a new blog I must say). You are simply delightful. May I visit again?

Lynn said...

I have pretty much no desire to go there. I know it's supposed to be amazing and everything but I will stick with Health Nuts on the Upper West Side. Anything that sounds worse than the maze at Fairway is so not my style no matter how healthy.

Jennifer said...

I've heard many a story about Trader Joe's, but never seen the place with my own two eyes. There have been rumors one is coming to town, swirling for months. The frenzy? She is already building to manic proportions, and it's yet to be confirmed.

Can't wait. ;-)

LisaBinDaCity said...

When I lived in L.A., Trader Joe's was part of my weekly grocery shopping. When I moved to the city, I had BIG TIME withdrawal! I missed TJ's very much. Occasionally I would go to LI or NJ but it just wasn't the same as it being local.

Happy, happy, joy, joy ;-)

Oh and the veggie chips ROCK.

taza said...

oy vey ist mir!

we have 4 TJ's here in Tucson--the newer, the bigger. it's amazing to consider waiting in line to get IN....we'd simply melt, in our heat.

the one i frequent has water misters rigged up outside so that you get a nice cool sprinkle on the way in. a bit fou-fou for my tastes, but admitedly refreshing when it's 100-degrees-plus!

City Slicker said...

You are so funny
From a NYer living in London I remember my first visit t Tarder Joe's in Yonkers years back
Cant believe they are still going
Keep typung
Cityslicker
http://www.cityslicker1.blogspot.com/

sugarcandy said...

Trader Joe's is a bunch of druggee redneck hick managers who run around like chickens with their heads cut off because the regional is coming to visit their store and they don't know who to call since a homeless person just clogged the toilet after taking a bath in it. True story. I worked there for 10 years and am finally free. Oh yeah, and the food sits out on the floor for ages before being put in the refrigerators and freezers. Also true story.

Moses said...

Never have a been to a Trader Joe's, but god damn they have great food don't they. I don't know if the Trader Joe's that my boyfriends mom goes to is much like the one you must put up with, but, god damn the Peruvian rice it the best.

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's is horrid. They pretend to be "local" where ever they are but all their stuff comes from New Jersey. Their staff acts like a bunch of moonies, "how are you, so happy..." Two Buck Chuck--gee, step up to the five dollar bottle--what a joke that it is even drinkable. But if you do decide to spend more money, don't do it at "TJs" the wine is at least two to three dollars more than the local grocery. The produce is HIGHLY irradiated, tastes, well, funny, it needs lots of preservatives to get to your place from New Jersey. Maybe the cut flowers are worth buying. I can't believe this business model, local photos all over, staff who labor for next to nothing, and "fresh" stuff shrink wrapped, frozen, and trucked in from some warehouse somewhere. Note: I actually really like New Jersey, but Trader Joe's is truly wretched--TWO BELLS!

Anonymous said...

Anyone who would say "happy happy joy joy" about Trader Gyps deserves to shop there.

Anonymous said...

i agree Sugarcandy & the last anon post
PLEASE people, read this carefully IT IS JUST A GROCERY STORE, GET OVER IT!!! IT. IS. ONLY. A. GROCERY STORE!!! how do seemingly normal people go crazy over something like this? are your lives that empty? you have been brainwashed. do not drink the kool-aid! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CO-OP!!! they appreciate it. as do the local farmers.
trader joe's is a privately owned company, they are owned by ALDI ( the German company) it seems because they are privately owned it gives cunt (oops crap) managers joceylyn & amy (here in Atlanta) license to treat employees like crap & over work them.
trader joe's really does not give a crap about you, me, or it's employees. i worked for them. i was recently fired for asking for a day off so i could study for an exam (trader joe's also looks down on employees if they are pursuing ANY outside education, as long it has to do with them they are fine with it), this was the thanks i got for opening the store here in Atlanta, working crazy hours whenever i was asked, 10 min lunches, working 7 days a week & having all customers request me because i knew my job!! thanks trader joe's!!. i have my degree now so it's water under the bridge, but this does feel good to vent! i would not recommend this job (at least in Atlanta) to anyone if one is in pursuit of a career that makes a difference in this world (ie: NOT retail, but in the medical field) they shun you & make your life hell while you work there.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CO-OP!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous states that the produce at Trader Joe's is highly irradiated. I wrote to Trader Joe's and they say that they do not irradiate. I would love to find out your source for this info as I have a feeling that they DO irradiate! Please let me know.

Anonymous said...

great writing... I too work at Trader Joe's. Cannot wait to get free. Eight years now. Feel like I'm doing time. Yes, they treat you pretty well, and the pay is better than McDonalds... beyond that, not much. It's a grocery store. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Hm. Interesting. I've worked at TJ's for about 6 months... one of many jobs since the economy collapsed. I used to work in the entertainment industry, making about three times what I make right now, but as a company I've never seen such a reasonable business model. People who generally complain about working at TJ's seem to be - for the most part - lazy or generally unmotivated. People who complain about shopping at TJ's seem to have never shopped at TJ's. I'll probably work there for another few months but even after I've left I'll continue to shop there. I'll take my groceries at extremely reduced prices and I'll take my health benefits (which all employees get) and everyone else is more than welcome to complain if it makes you feel better... I just don't get what you're complaining about.

LedPhloydGeuse said...

Not sure what the deal is. As a TJ's employee, I personally never shop there. Ralphs is cheaper. If your diet consists of more than fruits, veggies, bread, eggs and meat, then by all means get your hummus and frozen brown rice at TJ's. Unfortunately our perishables are really questionable (I head the dairy section and fresh juice), and the most basic healthiest you can eat is fresh, so I rarely mess. It employs generally good people, although it is a corporate-Disney atmosphere complete with fake smiles, flakes and bs. Since I am originally from NJ, I am amazed at how New Yorkers prefer TJ's over any of their fresh ethnic markets. I would much rather go to local my Italian grocer for my goods than TJs. I think it is an addiction.

Anonymous said...

I am sure I will totally sound like a "hipster" dumbass, but honestly, Trader Joe's very much was once better than it is now. You used to be able to get all kinds of very basic (yet high quality) staple food items there at a relatively decent price. Stuff like, arborio rice, quality loaves of bread, juices, cheeses, certain canned beans, certain dried beans, tomatoes packed without preservatives (without citric acid or calcium chloride), etc. But now the place has turned into a fad food / novelty food item store.

What happened to the basics? No, I don't want chocolate covered acai berry vanilla bean truffles surrounded by green tea ice cream. No, I don't want smoke salmon stuffed with mid-east spice marinated ham and bay leaves. No, I don't want lightly salted baked bagel and bacon crisps tossed in truffle oil. etc. etc. etc. I just don't get how people are impressed with this crap. And you see some folks in line, and their carts are FULL of this neo-junk food.

And this is saying nothing of course about the way the stupid Organic movement has skewed their merchandise and pricing too.

I rarely go there anymore. And when I do, there are just a couple of simple items that I get. I am sure though, that given time, they will get rid of those too, substituting them for some stupid, overdone so-called "gourmet", under-portioned, over-priced substitute with obnoxiously overdone ingredients.

I definitely am no hipster. But I can say with confidence and surety that Trader Joe's is definitely not what it used to be. It's just a bunch of novelty food item crap now. Their wine is OK... but the food?

"Once upon a time, there was a chain of stores called Trader Joe's... and it didn't suck..."

Anonymous said...

After reading this, I feel like the marrow has been sucked out of my bones. I came here due to a Google search for "hate trader joes" and got this. I went into a Trader Joe's and was so creeped out I had to leave without buying anything. The idea of shopping at a store that doesn't sell any non-organic ketchup makes me want to either puke my guts out or else hold a one-man protest with a sign saying "naturalistic fallacy."

Out of the Ordinary said...

I cannot stand Trader Blows! We went there with such high hopes and came out very disappointed. We eat mostly all organic foods. But their stuff made us sick. I’m thinking they either are liars about it really being organic or where ever they manufacturer it does not take care of the produce and other goods. I think it’s a good “fake” place for those who want to believe they are somehow paying more for GMO foods making them better that way. It also was a very non feng shui stressful experience for us. Thanks for the vent!