Cleanliness and Attractiveness 7
Food Quality 10
Comparison Shopping 8
Trader Joe’s Review
*Disclaimer: While Trader Joe’s is 100% a supermarket, it isn’t your typical mega-chain store that has all of the essentials. For the most part, one goes to Trader Joe’s solely in search of food and very specific items such as spicy tofu or a type of cheese that your average grocery store doesn’t carry.
Having said that, Trader Joe’s is magical within itself. If I’m given a preference of where I SHOULD go every week for groceries, it would be Trader Joe’s. However, I usually end up at Harris Teeter due to convenience. With locations in Cary, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Trader Joe’s is the perfect grocery store for when you have time to look around and truly explore all of the wonderful things that the store offers. Welcome to the land of cheese, fair-trade nuts, and all things lovely.
Keeping that in mind, here’s my review of Trader Joe’s.
The parking lot at Trader Joe’s is kind of a mess. It’s not that it’s small, but the fact that the layout is poorly implemented for whoever designed the shopping center. Skinny rows with people coming from several different directions yells ‘accident waiting to happen’, but somehow people navigate through it. As mentioned, it’s not that there aren’t enough parking spots. It’s just that the store is wildly popular, so Trader Joe’s is always crowded. Still, I’ve never truly had to wait long before finding a spot to park.
The number of tiny red carts is efficient enough, along with plenty of cash registers. There is no self-checkout unfortunately, which is something that I’m not fond of. Nonetheless, the cashiers at Trader Joe’s make the experience of checking out extremely pleasant, so you almost forget about not having any self-checkout lanes. I’ll get to that later, but where the store loses points for not having self-checkout or express lanes is made up in customer service.
Cleanliness and Attractiveness: 7/10
Trader Joe’s hits it out of the ballpark when it comes to cleanliness and attractiveness. Grocery stores are mostly avoided unless necessary, and shopping usually isn’t fun. However, Trader Joe’s is just the opposite. All of the floors are seemingly spotless, and colorful chalk boards featuring large displays are set up throughout the store. The vibrant colors and thoughtful displays welcome you in, even from the outside where things such as glitter trees and plants sit waiting at the door.
The only reason I gave this category a rating of 7 is due to the shelves not being fully stocked. I understand that the store is wildly popular though, so it’s probably normal to see the shelves not completely stocked. For the most part, Trader Joe’s does a great job of pulling all of its inventory to the front of the shelves, to make it easy to find what you’re looking for.
Food Quality: 10/10
I’m giving Trader Joe’s a perfect 10 for food quality. For its private-label products, they have rules that include no antibiotics, preservatives or synthetic colors. They also do not sell genetically modified foods. Aside from this, much of their food is sold in BPA-free packaging. Instead of checking all of the labels, you’ll find relief in the fact that the quality of the food you are consuming is considerably healthier than other supermarkets stocked with preservative-full products.
I observed all of the fruit and vegetables, and was fully impressed. All of the apples were perfectly colored, and I was tempted to grab a banana and eat it right there in the store. The vegetables were of the same quality.
Obviously, any meat that isn’t genetically modified is going to be of good quality, but you’re going to pay a lot more. I’ll get to that later. A large selection of both deli and fresh cheeses made me very happy. Another cool thing about Trader Joe’s is that they offer pre-marinated meat that’s ready to be thrown on the grill. Gone are the days of having to get up early to do it yourself.
Something that holds true across all Trader Joe’s is the fact that you can return any product that you don’t like. This includes personal preference or taste. No explanation is needed, which means that Trader Joe’s has that much faith in the quality of its food. I’m right there with them. With all of the variety and selection, you’ll want to try it all.
Part of Trader Joe’s mission is to provide customers with “the best food and beverage values that they can find anywhere else.” Essentially, the chain buys directly from suppliers whenever they can, so that they get a lower price. In turn, the savings then get passed on to the customer. Trader Joe’s also buys in volume, and contracts early to ensure good deals. Finally, Trader Joe’s doesn’t charge grocers supplier fees for putting items on the shelf, which would create higher prices.
While all of that is great and dandy, not everything is cheaper than your typical Food Lion or Harris Teeter. As a rule of thumb, vegetables are cheap. I bought an entire bag of jalapeños for $1.00. At Harris Teeter, a single jalapeño costs $2.29 for comparison.
Here are several items with prices in order to give you an idea of how much everything costs:
- Skim milk – $3.39 store brand ($3.59 at Harris Teeter)
- Half-gallon of orange juice – $3.29 for Trader Joe’s brand ($3.99 for Tropicana at Harris Teeter)
- A dozen eggs – $0.99 for store brand, free-range eggs ($1.59 at Harris Teeter)
- One of my friends informed me that the normally $0.99 cent eggs go on sale for $0.79 cents on a regular basis. You honestly can’t beat that.
- Pound of chicken breast – $4.99 per pound
- Ring the alarm, and don’t buy your chicken from Trader Joe’s. The meat is high quality, but is clearly extremely expensive. No one has the money to pay $20.00 for four pounds of chicken.
- Cereal – $2.99 for a box of Honey O’s ($3.99 at Harris Teeter)
- Don’t expect to find your typical cereal selection at Trader Joe’s. You will not be able to walk in and find Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Apple Jacks, but there are still plenty of other well-priced cereals to choose from.
- Family-sized detergent – Non existent
Comparison Shopping: 8/10
As mentioned in my disclaimer, Trader Joe’s isn’t the store that you go to if you’re searching for toilet paper or a specific brand of dog food. The store contains mostly groceries and random other items, but isn’t large enough to offer different brands of staple items. With that being said, I can’t knock Trader Joe’s in this category simply because they make up for it in other ways. Let’s start with wine.
Trader Joe’s is famous for its Two Buck Chuck bottles of Charles Shaw wine. In the last 10 years, the store has sold more than 600 million bottles of the wine that’s both cheap and won’t leave you with a raging hangover. Aside from that, there are many other different wines, ranging from simple whites and reds to brands like Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG that I most definitely can’t pronounce.
Trader Joe’s knows that everyone loves his and her pets, so they do offer a select few options for dog and cat food. I only counted three different brands, but they make up for it in the treats offered. I saw both gingerbread flavored and chicken and smoked salmon dog treats that were wrapped up in packages with bows on top.
As far as organization goes, Trader Joe’s feels slightly crowded in my opinion. With that being said, I’m sure it would be easier to navigate once you became a regular shopper. All of the flowers are in the front on display, followed by the fruit and veggies on the side. The meat comes after that, with wine and cheese to follow. The outskirts of the store are easy to navigate.
It’s the inside where Trader Joe’s loses only several points. For the majority, all of the canned goods are stocked together, as well as things like pasta and sauce, etc. My only complaint would be the frozen goods. Because of the vast selection of frozen items offered, it’s hard to find an organization system that allows for ease in finding what you’re looking for. With quality products such as Mandarin Orange Chicken, Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese, 4 Chocolate Croissants, and Chicken Tikka Masala all being some of the fan favorites, it’s a guaranteed search for each one of these items. My point here is the fact that Trader Joe’s offers such a unique and diversified offering of items, which makes organizing them more difficult. Simply put.
Other items sit atop of shelves, that are easy to graze over if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
When looking at the store as a whole, Trader Joe’s is top of the line. What hurts Trader Joe’s in one category helps it in another. In terms of selection, you won’t find much better than Trader Joe’s. The store has so many wildly unique items. Do you want some siracha-baked tofu? Ok, sure. How about some cauliflower rice? That’s one of my favorites. If you’re looking to switch up your palate, Trader Joe’s will provide endless options to do so.
A large floral section sits at the front of the store, with flowers that look as if they were picked only hours earlier. With many bouquets for $3.99, it’s the perfect option for a quick pick-me-up to put on your table at the end of a long day. I saw roses and small leafy trees and plants as well, offering a wide range of selection for plants.
When observing the on-sale items, I saw several different things that caught my attention. For starters, dark chocolate-covered stars with sprinkles. The item was probably on sale, because the marketing managers know that it’s impossible to only eat a few at a time. Give me 10 minutes, and the entire box would be gone.
The most interesting item for sale was a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Cake. The packaging resembled a mini barrel of bourbon, and was truly tempting not to buy.
If you’re looking for nuts, Trader Joe’s has an entire shelf full of them. From spiced pecans to candied walnuts, you’ll be amazed at the selection. If you’re looking for pistachios that are either in or out of the shell, you can find that. The same can be said for the selection of dried fruit offered.
To give you an idea of some of the products that they have, here’s a list:
- Pistachio & Pomegranate Crisps
- Three Cheese Wafers
- Salty Honey Toffee Milk Chocolate Covered Crackers
- Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Caramel Cookie Bar
- Mini Greek Spirals & Mini Quiche Duo
- Scallops Wrapped in Bacon
- Stuffed Lobsters (!!!!)
I found not only a jicama, but SLICED JICIMA in a container ready to eat.
They also have several “off the wall” items such as pillared and tapered candles. I saw grooming kits for men, a face mask trio, and ultra-moisturizing hand cream. It doesn’t get much better than that.
They have plenty of andouille sausage and different meats, so I’m giving Trader Joe’s a high score for creativity.
While Trader Joe’s doesn’t have the typical salad bar or pharmacy in-store, they do have a lot of other “extras” to offer. For starters, most locations have a permanent sample station located in the back of the store. When I went, they were sampling Honeycrisp Apple Cider but frequently rotate teas, ciders, and cocoa.
I also found not only a jicama, but SLICED JICIMA in a container ready to eat. Speaking of ready to eat items, Trader Joe’s makes its own salads and sandwiches fresh daily, for the perfect lunch option. Instead of having a salad bar, this is the perfect substitute. If you’re not watching your waistline, opt for something like the black bean and cheese burrito that’s ready to heat ‘n eat. The store also offers fresh, grilled chicken strips in a package.
Where Trader Joe’s loses a few points here is for some of the things that you might need along with a trip to the grocery store such as an ATM for some quick cash, or a Redbox stop for a movie to go along with dinner and wine.
From the minute you walk into Trader Joe’s, it feels different than any other grocery store. The employees are dressed in aprons with things like Hawaiian shirts and casual sweaters underneath. I got the vibe that Trader Joe’s want its employees to be down to earth, and that’s exactly how they act. While I was observing the fruit, an employee came up to me and asked what I was looking for. She asked what my favorite fruit was and then went on to detail some of her favorite items that were made with strawberries in them.
I told her she was extremely nice and happy and her exact words were, “Oh my gosh, no, I’m just having fun.” I wish I thought the same while I’m at work. A little known fact about Trader Joe’s is that the employees are assigned to registers, but can hop on and off if it’s not busy up front. This way, they can devote more time to customers and engagement in conversation.
To appeal to the customers, the chain comes out with a Frequent Flyer comic book(ish) eight times a year to enlighten customers on new products coming to stores.
You probably have to pass a niceness test or something to work here. I’m not kidding. Everyone seemed truly genuine, giving Trader Joe’s a 1