Trader Joe’s: Penny Wise, Pound (Extremely) Foolish

Those of you fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s grocery store nearby know the wonders of shopping there: vast and various (and ever-changing) selections of foods for prices that lead one to suspect that “Trader Joe” is actually “Trader Joey ‘The Shiv’ Giambino”, ever-willing to sell foodstuffs that just “happened” to “fall off the back of a truck”. My experiences at our local TJs have been largely positive – the food is good (the produce – meh.) and I always end up spending far less than I think I will and yet come out with more food than I was expecting. Plus, they have balloons which the cashiers hand out to Will each and every time we go, resulting in hours of helium-fueled fun back home.
However, TJs recently made a horrendous, nigh-unforgivable decision: they changed their paper bags. In what can only be some mid-level manager’s idea of a cost cutting tactic, Trader Joe’s switched to a far inferior bag. Their bags used to be on par with Whole Foods’ bags: sturdy, hefty and rarely prone to handle-rippage. Their new ones are mere waifs compared to their old ones;handles rip exceedingly easily and always at the most inopportune times, bag bottoms drop out suddenly and double-bagging is required for anything heavier than a carton of orange juice. These ghostly, wispy bags have cost me several loads of groceries thus far – fruit bruised, jars of salsa smashed, cookies and crackers crumbled. This evening, one of their bags even disintegrated in the parking lot before I could make it to my car. Fortunately, their store management is ever-willing to address issues and replaced all the contents of the broken bag, without question.
I can see where the idea may have initially made sense to some pointy-haired buffoon. Still, if you have to double-bag everything and you end up replacing loads of groceries for disgruntled customers, I fail to see where the cost savings will possibly accrue. You’ll lose more in good will, additional bags and replaced food than you ever save on bags in the first place.
So Trader Joe’s, listen up: bring the old bags back. You’ll certainly turn this customer back into a happy one.


I find that these decisions typically come from people who had never before dealt with the product they were changing, and would not have any dealings with the product after changes were made. In this case, a Business school grad trying to make an impression, without “going to the lab”, so to speak.
Alas, the issue you face is a daily reality for me as of recent…