I’d argue that Trader Joe’s isn’t just a store–it’s a store with food in it.
It’s also a store that has cultivated a fierce brand loyalty–and with its commitment to great prices, great quality, general grocery excellency, I’d argue this loyalty is very much deserved. And undeniably this loyalty has helped render Trader Joe’s a very specific and important experience for 20-somethings nationwide.
For the past eighteen months, I’ve “like, totally lived” on stuff from Joe, Giotto, Ming, and Jacques. Sorority girl quotes aside, here’s what I’ve learned from my continuos immersion into the Trader Joe’s experience:
1. There Are A Million Ways To Fail At Hitting On A Girl On The Grocery Line
MTV personality, and very funny dude Andrew Schulz listed a downtown NYC Trader Joe’s as one of the best “pick up places” in New York City. Schulz is very on point, in the sense that this particular Trader Joe’s–the one I frequent–basically consists of 19-32 year-old people who are eternally frustrated with their twitter bios. It’s very much the type of vibe you’d get at a bar, sans the aphrodisiac that is Pitbull.
That said, the grocery line is also a very dangerous place to spit your game. During peak hours you could be on there for fifteen minutes–enough to cultivate some chemistry, but also enough to sit there awkwardly for 10 minutes after one of the parties clearly isn’t interested. TJ’s definitely presents a great opportunity, but it’s one that’s immensely difficult to capitalize on. Proceed with extreme caution.
2. The World Is Best Observed Listening Through Turned Off Headphones
This simple trick goes a long way. What starts as me listening to podcasts in an attempt to feel cultured almost always ends up with me crushing it on my iphone note app, convinced that the outrageous banter being spewed around me is grounds for the next great theatrical comedy.
A Trader Joe’s line will never disappoint, and the guise of headphones allow you to eavesdrop without appearing like you’re eavesdropping. It’s the 2013 fly on the wall.
3. Giving A Shit About Mundane Encounters Actually Makes A Huge Difference
The place seems ripe for mob rule at any moment, which makes the capacity for genuine human interaction that much more difficult. But amazingly, pretty much every TJs checkout homie is a pro at conducting cheerful, yet somehow not-fake conversation.
Trader Joe’s employees are really great at reinforcing the notion that there’s a chance you actually might matter. Way too nice. There’s gotta be something they’re not telling us.
4. Spontaneity Is Only Good When Rooted In A Plan
If there’s a long line (this is likely), it’s best to hop on the train as early as possible. Know the store, so you can pick things up along the way.
Then, give into the end of the line “treat yourself” branding and get some chocolate. According to capitalism, you deserve it.
5. Being A Dick Is Never Gonna Help Anyone
The crowded areas and vulture-like tendencies of human beings almost make it too easy to swipe something in high demand, or accidentally bump into another human who’ll inevitably get all self-righteous about personal space.
Wonderfully though, Trader Joe’s has managed to cultivate an environment that intrinsically looks down upon this sort of behavior. It’s a cross between a yoga studio and an avacado-obsessed surf shack, and it’s a refreshing vibe that reinforces the idea that there’s no point in being a dick. We need more of this in life.
6. People Are Animals, And Sometimes Need To Be Tamed
At the same time, there’s a difference between letting things go and getting taken advantage of. Line cutters and humans playing out their dreams of being professional fullbacks do happen every now and then, so it’s your job to address those situations in the most manageable and mature fashion.
Again, the predominant culture generally frowns upon this sort of behavior, so the taming will generally occur collectively. People weirdly have your back here.
7. Free Samples Aren’t As Awesome When You’re An Adult
Free samples used to be a real joy. Now, I feel like a creepy uncle if I get too excited about them.
The real dagger though, is that taking two samples is now completely out of the question. Heartbreaking, really.
8. There Is Nothing More Fascinating Than Observing Human Beings
Go early, and you’ll see people with a fresh enthusiasm that seems to imply the world is theirs; that they can take on anything, and the world exists to be conquered.
Go late, and you’ll see people drained; stripped of their dignity at times, just trying to get through the day in one piece. Just trying to survive in their own little way.
Grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s is a process that, while incredibly isolated in nature, breeds a rare form of unified pride. We’re all going about our grocery shopping in our own little ways, but we’re all just doing our best to get the job done.
I guess that’s a metaphor.