Monday, March 2, 2009

How Do I Love Thee, Trader Joe?

Let me count the ways:

1. Organic raisins at $2.79 a pound.
2. Crumpets in both plain and cinnamon.
3. Humanely farmed bacon.
3. Pesto-filled tortellini.
4. Free samples of excellent coffee and whatever unusual treat has been cooked up for the day (yesterday's was macaroni and cheese with fresh edamame).
5. Bunches of daffodils for a buck fifty.
6. Honey-oatmeal soap.
7. A toothpaste with natural peppermint, baking soda, and fluoride, and without sodium lauryl sulfate, which gives the Troll canker sores.
8. Chocolate sold by the half kilo.
9. The Fearless Flier, which, with its purple prose and vintage artwork, presents the month's specials with style.
10. Lots of perfectly unremarkable staples--like toilet paper and frozen peas--at far better prices than the big supermarkets can offer.

The only part I hate is the crowds. We've given up on trying to park in the store parking lot--you can spend fifteen minutes trying to get to a spot ten feet away. So now we go only on Sundays, when parking is free in town, and park in the lot next door. But there's no way to avoid the crowds in the store itself--people and carts clogging the aisles like the arteries of a middle-aged couch potato who lives on McDonald's fries. If anything, the crowds seem to have grown worse since the recession came down on us in earnest--which seems odd, since most of the stuff you buy at Trader Joe's strikes me as the sort of luxury items that consumers are reported to be cutting back on. Could it be that all the folks we keep bumping into (literally) in the aisles at Trader Joe's used to shop at Whole Foods and have changed their allegiance in search of better bargains? Or are these folks still piling their carts with Joe's merchandise because it's the one luxury they still can afford?
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