My Letter to Trader Joe’s Would be that I Never Felt you From the Start


When we visited Kansas City during one of our trips home last year, I was so excited to shop at the city’s new addition: Trader Joe’s.

For years, I had heard about what a fantastic store this was, especially if you are eating healthy. I had even received some fair trade Trader Joe’s coffee one year for a gift.

We brought coolers and I was prepared to fill my cart with fresh organic produce and shop for healthy alternatives that our rural, locally owned natural food stores don’t carry.

When I lived in the city, we did have a Whole Foods, but I had long boycotted them for a myriad of social infractions, including how they treat their workers and the fact that they (at the time) would not support labeling GMOs or inform people when their products carried them.

Our Trader Joe’s stop was our last errand on our way out of town – I wanted all of those good foods to remain as fresh as possible – and so I entered the store with great expectations.

(Insert fail buzzer here).

Instead of finding a great selection of organic, locally grown produce, I found a section smaller than our tiny natural food stores. I couldn’t even find most produce organic that was on the Dirty Dozen list.

Not only that, but the people in this store were crazed. Typically, in a regular grocery store, there is a route most people tend to follow, first toward the produce and then around the store.

Not at this Trader Joe’s. People were frantically pushing their carts every which way. It’s bad enough to be in a store when it’s crowded, but when people are actually frantically running up and down the aisles willy-nilly, it is unbearable.

After seeing the tiny section of produce, I pretty much lost interest, but I did stay long enough to notice they had aisles and aisles of processed, sugar-laden food and candy, most of it bearing their logo and name.

I think we spent less than $10 in the store. We returned home without our week’s worth of groceries, which meant another trip to town for me to our natural food stores, where I can get locally grown, organic produce.

So, when I saw this open Dear John letter on Eat Local Grown breaking up with Trader Joe’s, I had to laugh.

My Dear John letter to Joe would have went something like this:

Dear Trader Joe,

Please quit stalking me on Facebook. Although you lured me out with sweet promises of calm, healthy living in a tropical paradise, I instead found you a bit full of yourself (since your name was everywhere) and full of everything else.

I also think a relationship with you would be too drama filled for me. I’ll stick with what I have, although predictable and sometimes boring, at least I know what to expect.

Sorry, I’m just not into you.

Best to you and all of your other paramours.


What do you think about Trader Joe’s, love it or hate it?

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18 Responses

  1. Jane Boursaw says:

    We don’t have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods here in Traverse City, but we’re very, very blessed to have an awesome food co-op where we do most of our shopping. And oh yeah, WE OWN IT! 🙂

  2. Amen, sister! My first time in Austin’s first Trader Joe’s will be my last. Nothing appealing about it.

  3. Kerry Dexter says:

    I’ve been to TJ’s when I travel — the one in Alexandria specifically — and while I was interested to check it out I find Whole Foods a much better place for me when I am on the road — have found what I’ve need in Cambridge, Alexandria, Austin (of course), and other places.

    I miss Wild Oats — do they even still exist?

    A regional chain here in the deep south has good produce and fair prices (and good labeling practices), so that’s where I shop when at home. when on the road I’ll take WF over TJ’s any day.

    • keri says:

      Trader Joe’s has slipped from their former top-list status as far as I’m concerned. Before inflation roared back into our lives, they were brashly raising prices, and their produce got worse and worse, as in not as fresh, not as good (period!) and not as clean (period, period!). They are good for decent prices on wine, and unusual fare, but they are no longer offering bargains, and too many once-prized finds have deteriorated in one way or another. Whole Foods is another disaster, always over-priced, not consumer-friendly, though they have a good deli/salad bar . . . but, even like New Seasons, not worth the extra money. In Portland, Oregon, we are stuck with those stores and over-priced Albertsons and Safeway, and farmer’s markets that are REALLY
      overpriced, even for non-organics. More and more people will be gardening on their patios!!

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, I loved Wild Oats, too, Kerry. I haven’t seen one for years, but being out here in a rural area, I wouldn’t. Not sure if they’re around anymore or not.

  4. Alexandra says:

    Interesting. I shopped there today. Convenient when I’m in Hyannis. The Whole Foods there has not opened yet. I did buy organic strawberries today, and organic yogurt. I always buy the nuts. I got organic walnuts this time. Our local market opens May 15th. Cannot wait!

  5. Sheryl says:

    I have mixed feelings. They just opened a new Trader Joe’s near me – the biggest in the state – so I’m not experiencing that sense of craziness. I don’t buy much there; usually nuts, cheese and lentils (they;re already cooked and super convenient). But that’s about it…I find their produce sadly lacking. Sorry you did not have a more positive experience.

    • Kerri says:

      I probably should have checked out their selection of nuts. Since I’m mostly vegan, I buy little cheese, except for my husband (I do cheat and have it with Mexican food). My local health food store also carries a nice organic canned lentil that isn’t too bad.

  6. Roxanne says:

    They have stores here now (several months), but I still haven’t gone. I hear the parking lot alone is enough to make a girl cranky.

    • Kerri says:

      Actually, Roxanne, the parking lot should have been my first clue. The Kansas City store is in a strip mall and we had to park way down at the other end of the building.

  7. Monica says:

    they don’t have signs saying what’s in which aisles, I think that purposefully creates chaos. People can’t find what they want so they do more browsing.

    One of my coworkers says Trader Joes is for people who don’t like to cook. (So much of the inventory is pre-cut and overly packaged!)

    • Kerri says:

      That makes sense, Monica. Now that you mention it, I don’t remember the aisles being marked and I was looking all over for stuff. Ugh. I have nightmares just thinking about it.

  8. What a shame they turned out to be such a disappointment. I feel very lucky that the small town I live near, has a grocery store with locally grown produce and meat (though our meat consumption is pretty limited.) My daughters live in California and I know that when Trader Joe’s came along, they were thrilled to have an alternative to Whole Foods. I haven’t talked to them about it for awhile, but I wonder if they too have grown disenchanted with the Trader Joe’s brand. Sounds like this grocery chain lured people in with promises of organic, local foods, then pulled a bait and switch by stocking shelves with unhealthy, chemical laden, sugar filled products, while relegating the true organic foods to a small, pitiful selection. At least you do have some places in your small town where you can get local produce and other food items. It seems to me, that our best hope for getting fresh, organic foods, is to stick with the small, local shops, and avoid the big chains, even when those big chains promise all kinds of organic and wholesome foods.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Kathleen. Like with your farmers, you can develop a personal relationship with your local grocer. I might have to go a couple of places to get all that’s on my list, but I do get it.