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All hail the Trader

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I’ve loved Trader Joe’s ever since I walked into one for the very first time. I swing by every week or two to pick up my “essentials.” (Gimme some more of that Double Rainbow chocolate sorbet, and my world wouldn’t be the same without the toasted oatmeal flakes.) I remember once while living for a time in New York City that I made a major detour on a trip upstate just so I could swing by a Trader Joe’s and stock up on meringue chews. (Now there’s a TJ’s in Chelsea.)

But for all of the time (and money) I spend there, I don’t know much about the company. You rarely read about Trader Joe’s in the news. Turns out there’s a reason for that — the privately held German company is notoriously tight-lipped.

That’s why I was so interested to read this article on Yahoo Finance that includes little-known details about this grocery-store chain that just keeps growing, including how much employees can earn (managers in the low six figures, starting full-time employees in the $40,000-$60,000 range, plus the company annually contributes 15.4% of employees’ gross income to tax-deferred retirement accounts — no wonder everyone is so friendly there), and how products get chosen for the shelves. One of the most interesting aspects of the story is how the limited number of items actually turns out to be a boon for sales:

Customers may think they want variety, but in reality too many options can lead to shopping paralysis. “People are worried they’ll regret the choice they made,” says Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore professor and author of The Paradox of Choice. “People don’t want to feel they made a mistake.” Studies have found that buyers enjoy purchases more if they know the pool of options isn’t quite so large.

Makes sense to me. So, Beehive readers, any other Trader fans amongst you? What’s your can’t-do-without product? Or is there anyone out there who can’t stand the place?

Responses to "All hail the Trader"

I love Trader Joes and they have some things that I simply couldn’t live without. I enjoy their “two buck Chuck” white zin very much and at that price, I’ll make a trip just to stock up (not a wine-o, honest! haha) but I also love their cheeses, the chocolate mint “UFOs”, their roasted red pepper and sweet corn soup, and those are just a FEW things I love from there. Shopping there truly makes grocery shopping feel like a pleasant experience rather than a chore- and hearing how they treat their employees- let me put it this way- should my current position ever fall victim to this economy- TJs will be the first place I apply for a job! ;)

mdub420 says:

WOW!! I need to get a job at Trader Joes. I like the beer they sell.

Caroline says:

I Love Trader Joes! Their Sublime ice cream sandwiches are a necessity! I also love their low sodium free-range chicken broth… I use it for any soups I make. I also go there for nuts & dried fruit, salads, cheese… ok, now I’m hungry :-)

Heather says:

I’m new to the Trader Joe’s fold, but I love it. Financially, it’s a great alternative to Whole Foods (though the selection isn’t as broad).

Plus, my reusable Trader Joe’s bag is huge — I can use it at other places and for other things, too.

Candice says:

Ak-Mak crackers, Tofutti better than cream cheese and honey! Dee-licious!

Donald Munro says:

OK, I’ll bite. What is an Ak-Mak cracker?

nancy says:

I LOOOOOVE the Hummus quartett that they sell!!! Absolutely theeeee best! Their fresh soybeans are the best tasting around….all of their produce is super fresh. Trader Joe’s is definetly my fave grocery store.

Angie says:

My favorite item is their Hummus (agrees w/ Nancy). I always walk by the flowers and every now and then, I’ll pick some up.

kidcapri73 says:

Salmon crepes, in the frozen food case

Mintz’s Blintzes

Juice selection

Dutch Polder Blanc goat gouda

Tofutti Cuties

Just the Clusters Maple Nut cereal

Thai Lemon Grass rolls

I’ll stop there, the list could go on and on.

Kristin says:

My last year of college I had to go on a gluten-free diet (for an allergy issue) and Trader Joe’s was the only place I could go on the Central Coast for things like potato flour bread, or gluten-free banana toaster waffles. It was a life saver.

My favorite product, though, is the Chocolate Soy Delicious soy ice cream. Yum!

Candice says:

I actually had to Google it. It’s an Armenian cracker bread.

dcbishop says:

Armenian cracker bread. We get them at Winco. I think ak-mak’s based in Sanger.

Stephen says:

I actually don’t find much I like at Trader Joes. I’m quite vanilla, don’t eat healthy foods, and my tastes run along the lines of my childhood foods.

So I like Whole Foods better, but can only go there as a splurge-trip because it’s so frickin’ expensive there.

Whole Foods produce is the best, their staff rocks, and anytime I need fresh meat or fish freshly cut, Whole Foods is it for me.

JML says:

When I lived in a snobby Boston suburb, the local weekly paper did a price comparison of some basic food items like bananas, orange juice, loaf of bread, etc. Of all the stores in town, Trader Joe’s was the cheapest.

Even though it has many luxury items, I liked shopping there for the basics because it was a lot less hassle.

Dale Stewart says:

The Joe has an over-arching health conciousness to most everything they sell. If they can find a way to put fiber in anything they will do it. The Joe is the opposite of McDonalds. They try to teach people that food can be relatively inexpensive and taste very good without all the high levels of fat, sugar and salt. To do this they don’t carry most ‘major label’ food manufacturers. Current faves: Greek style chicken and Mission St. Hefeweizen.
Can’t live without the Joe.

kidcapri73 says:

There’s a lot of healthy things there, yes, but it would be wrong to characterize Trader Joe’s as a health food store. It’s a grocery store with better and more affordable options and in some cases unique items you can’t get anywhere else. They also have a lot of great junk and comfort food–some things you can find elsewhere, but many things unique to them. Affordability is a key for many of their items. I’ve had some favorite things that suddenly disappeared from the shelves. When I asked about them, I was told their cost went up and they couldn’t sell them at the price people were used to paying. If their cost went down, I would see it again. I think that is what makes Trader Joe’s successful–their commitment to keeping prices low. If another store had the same inventory of products but charged a premium because of they were so carefully selected it would be considered a store for elitists and too upscale. Trader Joe’s is for everyone.

Other favorites: Sweet potato fries, chicken gorgonzola, chocolate & cherry soy ice scream, excellent selection of frozen fish, great chip selection

Marguerite says:

I love TJ’s too, but I have two complaints. Their pie crust used to be better than homemade, extremely generous crust, very thick. People would rave about my pies. The pie crust is now extremely thin and I can barely make it stretch across the pie plate. I’ve mentioned this to the store manager, and he said they probably have a different manufacturer now. I would rather pay a little more even to have a decent, generous pie crust. Also, I’ve always loved their frozen Chicken Chow Mein, but now they’ve cut the ingredients in the package quite a bit – less chicken, less vegetables, and less noodles. Oh well, maybe they’ve heard the rumors about all the fat Americans, and they’ve decided to put everyone on a secret diet! It is still my favorite store though, much better than Whole Foods.

May says:

Trader Joe’s is a regular stop on my shopping rounds. I can’t live without the rice crackers, frozen blueberries, and fair-trade/shade-grown coffee. I’ve shopped at TJs in many places over the years and the best parking so far is here in Fresno.

Lynn says:

Trader Joe has the best prices and selection on gourmet cheeses anywhere! And Carr’s crackers to go with it (only they are trader brand) for 99 cents compared to $3-4 at the grocery store. Great person who is so helpful with wine selections in the Blackstone store. Wish a store was right in my neighborhood!