I need to talk about it because CLEARLY they’re doing something right. I go to new stores all the time. What made this one so different? Why am I now 100% committed to buying my groceries from Trader Joe’s? Because that’s real. I’m now totally devoted.
So in order for you to understand, I need to backtrack and take you to this past Sunday, where I decided that it was time to stock up on groceries. And now that our church meets at a new place that’s conveniently close to a Trader Joe’s, I figured I might as well test it out.
Now, I’ve heard things about Trader Joe’s. But I’ll be totally honest – this is what I imagined when I went in there…
Tree huggers. And people who don’t shave their armpits. And a lot of…”natural” things. I was honestly expecting body odor and possibly bare feet. And for them to try to sell me tea leaves dipped in organic, free-range, gluten free chocolate. For $12.
My expectations were low. But my excitement level was high! “Hey, at least this will make a great story.” I thought, as I pulled into the parking lot.
….I had no idea.
I walk in and low and behold, there was absolutely nothing “uppity” at all about the atmosphere in TJ’s. In fact, it looked VERY normal.
And no one was barefoot! Or smelled bad!
I perused the outskirts and with every turn was pleasantly surprised. Fresh herbs for a dollar?? Lobster Ravioli for $2.50?? These are high-quality things, people! And they’re not asking me to pay a fortune! In fact, as I continued to wander, I discovered that a LOT of the groceries that I would normally purchase at Food Lion were way cheaper here! I stinkin got yogurt WITH a granola attachment for $0.99. I mean…. wow. “Is this real life?” I mused as I continued to explore these unknown food items and ingredients.
I was shocked. What had I been missing out on for my entire life?! Why oh WHY had I neglected TJ’s for so long?!
Here’s the kicker. I was starting to get that feeling that I get at Target…..the conundrum that happens where you get sucked into their “amazing” deals and pile up your cart with things you think you need. Then you get to the cashier, unload your cart, realize you have a new shower curtain and nail polish, and suddenly you owe $150.
So I hesitantly fill my cart, embracing the entire experience at TJ’s, and then get to the cashier. I look into my cart and get a lump in my gut…all this organic and fresh food….there’s no way I’ll be in budget for this paycheck. I was prepared for the “Target Conundrum” to hit me square in the face. “Just stay under $100.” I whispered to myself as I browsed my copious amounts of food.
Now…my cashier. She is just the friendliest little lady that ever was. And she packed my bags like she had majored in Tetris in college. I’m serious. It was unbelievable. So she’s ringing up my total and it’s WAY below $100. I looked at her shocked. Not only was she charging me less than I expected but somehow, she had managed to put my two-weeks worth of groceries into THREE bags. THREE!
Then…I said something which anybody else could’ve just brushed off. Something like… “Wow, this is my first experience at Trader Joe’s.” She looks at me, wide-eyed, and says “Are you ready for the announcement?” I kind of chuckle and then say, “Wait, what?” as she moves to the other side of the register. She rings a bell at her station and shouts “WE’VE GOT A FIRST TIME CUSTOMER!” to which all of the cashiers IN UNISON shouted “WELCOME ABOARD!”
I died. Sold. And that was the moment I became a lifetime customer.
And I kid you not, I put my groceries in my car, got in and “Eye of the Tiger” was playing on the radio.
There are 3 main things I’ve learned from Trader Joe’s as a company…
1) People crave authenticity. From the genuine interactions I had with customers, to the clearly labeled packaging, there was never a question in my mind of what I was getting myself into. Good food, nice people, cheap prices. Win-win-win. Nothing was puffed up or inflated to be something it wasn’t.
2) Hospitality can change the world. Showing people that you care for their needs and desire to make them feel loved and welcomed will literally change the world. It’s exactly what Jesus did here on this earth. He looked people in the eyes and showed them that He cared. Way to go, TJ’s employees, for looking like Jesus.
3) Don’t be something you’re not. Trader Joe’s feels absolutely no need to be Whole Foods or Fresh Market. They’re in a category all to themselves and they’re entirely okay with it.
And that is the story of how Trader Joe’s totally won me over.