I was interested to read recently that Trader Joe’s got high ratings from consumers, or so says Consumer Reports. The store’s exemplary ratings for service and cleanliness are definitely deserved. But very good marks for perishables runs counter to my own experience.
Trader Joe’s has been around my part of California for a couple decades now, I think, and I’ve shopped there all that time. Stores are fairly small and manageable. Displays are helpful. And the staff is super-helpful.
I’ve had to return perishables purchased at Trader Joe’s more often than I have with items bought at other stores. Half and Half? I returned at least three that had gone sour well before expiration date. Then I stopped buying it there. Packaged produce, like a trio of colorful bell peppers? I’ve found mold, mildew and cobwebs in packages more than once. Back they went.
We buy frozen chicken breasts and the Trader Joe’s pricing was cheaper than the bags we bought elsewhere. Until we looked at net weight: the bags were also lighter. No deal there. And the quality of the breasts was awful, at least compared to similar breasts we bought at Safeway and the superb frozen chicken breasts sold by Costco.
Packaged goods often bear net weights far lower than their supermarket counterparts. Customers just don’t look at anything but the low price. I say, look more closely.
Quite of a few of Trader Joe’s packaged products don’t identify the country of origin. Labels simply say “Distributed by Trader Joe’s” which to me screams “Product of China but don’t want to tell you that.”
I have to do so much label reading at TJ to get so little information –and have gone back so many times to return spoiled items– that I gave up regularly shopping there. I’ll go once in a while for a product I like, such as packaged cold-case beets or lentils. But I steer clear of produce, meats and dairy. Or anything packaged or canned that doesn’t identify country of origin. Including dog treats.
Trader Joe’s is expanding its empire and more and more customers are excited to have a store in their neighborhood. To them, I say, Buyer Beware. Know exactly what you’re buying. And don’t be surprised if it’s not what you thought it was.