Wednesday, March 18, 2009


why Trader Joe's?

i've been meaning to blog this query for some time:

why is it that progressives in northern california love Trader Joe's? and, more to the point, why does no one seem to object to spending money at Trader Joe's as opposed to, say, Whole Foods?

from a freakonomics piece on TJ's...

Who owns Trader Joe’s? ... A huge German discount-grocery chain best known in the U.S. for no-glamor stores often located in marginal neighborhoods.

this company, according to a wall street journal piece (that i haven't read because it requires a subscription),

is so good at selling cheap goods that WalMart couldn’t compete with it in Germany.

i've been wondering for a couple years now why no one i know seems to have a problem with shopping at Trader Joe's. anger against and boycotts of Whole Foods have been prominent in my various communities for almost a decade now, but i've never heard *anything* regarding objections to Trader Joe's.

my inclination is to think that this is a fairly straightforward case of people not educating themselves, making assumptions, believing rhetoric, and/or willfully ignoring the corporate nature of a brand because they really like the brand.

but i'm also curious as to whether i'm missing something--are there reasons to support Trader Joe's over Whole Foods? do they have better practices in some categories? (my main complaint with TJ's, as a conscientious consumer, is their packaging--the quantity of plastic is obscene.)

note that for the moment i'm controlling this discussion for scale of business--i'm not interested in the debate about whether to shop at chain grocery stores or locally-owned/cooperative stores in this particular discussion. (i'm kind of assuming most people on my side of san francisco, when asked whether they'd rather support Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods, or Trader Joes', would say they'd prefer to support Rainbow; what i'm interested in is which of the three stores they'd list second, and why.)

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