Monday, November 7, 2011

Trader Joe's, We Have To Talk....

Dear Trader Joe's:

You know I have shown my loyalty to you many times over the years. Yes, there was the time you discontinued my favorite Sweet n' Hot Mustard. It took me months of therapy, and bags--cases I would estimate--of your Baked Cheese Crunchies, but I learned to trust you again. 

Trader Joe's, you had me at “Better N’ Peanut Butter.” I see you almost every day. More than I see anyone aside from my immediate family, who live just .3 of a mile closer to me than you do. You never go on strike. You don't confuse me with an ATM or cafe in-house. You are everything that is pure and good in the food-services industry. I would never cheat on you.

Well, except for cold cereal. What can I say? My kids watch television nonstop and are slaves to corporate marketing. Let’s face it, General Mills’ graphic designers could so whip your graphic designers’ asses. The honey dripping from that honey-dripping doohickey on your box of Honey Nut O’s does not motivate my child to Just Eat Your Damn Breakfast Already! the way Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee does. And Buzz is so darn cute! And s/he has so much wisdom to impart about the FDA food pyramid! It’s a win-win-win situation!

OK. I also avoid your paper products like the plague. Yes, I am fully aware that the toilet paper at Target is not made in an Amazonion Rainforest (as I am assuming yours is), but there is only so much I can fit into those damn re-usable Trader Joe’s cloth sacks. I cannot tell you how many of those reusable bags I have purchased over the years. I have most likely filled a good-size landfill with the bags I have purchased and promptly lost. But I turn lemons into lemonade by thinking of all those in-store raffles I have entered in the name of the environment. Although I have never won the weekly raffle, I am not bitter. I do not throw the recyclable bags I can find away, just to wipe the beatific grins off the faces on the photos of your happy and loyal customers. Guess what? I have seen in person the prominently featured trio of Francesca, Makayla, and another person with many vowels in her name (loyal shoppers since 2003!), and they did not appear to be anywhere near as Zen as they appear in the photo next to the bag display. If I am not mistaken, I may have even seen them carrying a bag from the big-box grocery store down the street. 

Come to think of it, I also go elsewhere for pre-ground coffee. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this in such a public forum, but I do not grind coffee beans. I tried—Lord knows, how hard I tried—to dutifully grind your Fair Trade Organic Sumatra Coffee beans right there in the store. The pride I felt at performing manual labor in full view of so many of my neighbors was only slightly diminished by the mortification I felt at getting pelted with flying Fair Trade Organic Sumatra Coffee grounds when I mishandled your industrial-strength grinder and had to use the supplied brush to clean up my mess. At the time, it was worth it to be able to have a role in the production of my very own cup of coffee—and I experienced the trifecta (Fairly Traded! Organic! and Sumatran!) of moral victory with every subsequent sip. Yes, my aversion to measuring coffee prior to brewing meant that my experience of bitter or watery coffee at times outpaced my feeling of righteous superiority. But, to be honest with you TJ (may I call you “TJ”?), I am tired after a long day of work when I visit you and my nerves are shot. Between the taking off of the various plastic lids (which I assume are free of BPA, by the way) and that grinding sound--that infernal grinding sound--I just couldn’t take it any more.

Which brings me to the real reason for this talk. Between the grinding sound, those constantly chiming bells, and your perpetual Coldplay/Rolling Stones/Motown soundtrack, is it really necessary for your cashiers to talk so damn much? I swear I know more about a certain blonde female cashier’s daughter’s snack preferences than I know about my own children. Trust me, if I had questions about what side dish to serve with your frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken, your staff would be the first ones I would ask. And if I really couldn’t make up my mind on whether to try the Thai Vegetable Kao Soi or Lemongrass Chicken Stix, sure, I would stop a Hawaiian-shirted team member and pick her brain. Ditto if I didn’t find an item I needed, thank you for asking. But, barring any of the aforementioned scenarios, please just scan and bag. At the very least, please make your innocuous observations while simultaneously scanning and bagging. No need to pause the check-out process (and, why is it such a process??) to look at the ingredients of an item I am buying and vow to try it yourself. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I am pretty sure I am oozing all sorts of nonverbal cues (and some fairly to-the-point verbal ones, as well) to hint at the fact that I really want to get out of there. Quickly and quietly. 

But, the truth is, in the end, I would endure hours of cheerful food-related small-talk if it meant that I could get my weekly stash of Chicken Gyoza Potstickers, Beef-less Ground Beef, and those little tiny pizzas that are the only thing my daughter will eat for dinner.

Glad we had this little talk!


P.S.: See you tonight!

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