I love Beyoncé. I thought La La Land was terrific. I think the Walden filter is the strongest Instagram selection. I’m usually in total, complete, passive agreement with the trends of popular culture. However, one trend I just can’t get behind is everyone’s infatuation with Trader Joe’s. Here’s why the “neighborhood supermarket” is overrated and, frankly, kind of sketchy.
1. How Cheery Are The Employees, Really?
In a New York Times article published late last year, Thomas Nagle—a former Manhattan Trader Joe’s employee—claimed he was reprimanded for not being cheery enough and for lacking a “genuine enough” smile. Nagle has filed an unfair labor practices charge. Maybe I should re-examine that Veggie Chip display again. “Crew Favorites” might be code for “Crew Cry for Help.”
2. Hostile Crowds
Apparently not a lot of people agree that TJ’s is overrated, because the store is packed. After-work rush hours are especially bad, when shoppers are forced to wait in long lines, while chiming bell tolls lead people to the checkout like sheep. Occasionally, the crowds can get downright violent: In 2011, an Upper West Side mom was charged with misdemeanor assault after she slapped another woman when both reached for a Trader Joe’s frozen pad Thai dinner. Yikes. At least it happened in the frozen section, so there were plenty of cold food items to soothe the burn.
3. Will the Real Trader Joe Please Stand Up?
The way the supermarket brands itself feels super deceptive. Trader Joe’s calls itself, “your neighborhood grocery store,” and yet, it has over 461 locations (more than Whole Foods) and it’s owned by the same company that owns Aldi, a chain with over 1,600 locations. Also, can Trader Joe’s really call itself a “neighborhood” grocery store, when its owners aren’t American? The Albrechts, a crazy-rich family in Germany, own the Trader Joe’s empire. Oh and many of their house brands, like Trader Joe’s Pita Chips with Sea Salt, are just another brand with different labeling—in this case, the Simply Naked flavor of Stacy’s Pita Chips. So there’s that.
4. Their Private Labels Are Super Fishy
TJ’s is really private about the suppliers of its products, meaning that consumers don’t really where the product they’re purchasing is coming from. This means you could be unintentionally supporting a company you don’t like by purchasing TJ’s products. (Stacy’s, for the record, is owned by PepsiCo). Also, those private labels might help the grocery giant deceive people: In 2013, a class-action lawsuit was brought against the company when several California residents claimed TJ’s intentionally mislabeled its products to make them appear healthier, including listing the ingredient “organic evaporated cane juice,” which is, in reality, just sugar.
5. It’s Nuts How Unfriendly the Store is For People with Allergies
As you could probably determine from the entire aisle they have dedicated to trail mix, pecans, cashews and peanuts, Trader Joe’s doesn’t exactly cater to people with nut allergies. There isn’t a lot of variety for people with nut allergies, as most of their products only contain one nut-free version. If shoppers have an air-borne allergy, even walking into the store could be life-threatening. And EpiPens aren’t featured in the Frequent Flyer.