The dark secrets of the island-themed grocer shows trouble in paradise
The Santa Clara
April 11, 2019
When it comes to cool, Trader Joe’s is king of the grocers.
Sure, the owner of your local momand-pop shop might know your name and give you a free lemon with every visit. On the other side, Whole Foods might convince you it’s the best based on its exorbitant prices alone. But with its laidback culture and aesthetic, Trader Joe’s epitomizes grocery-store hip.
However, this hip sheen masks a darker, uncaring corporate culture.
Regardless of how cheesy you find the wooden parrot cutouts, the stores possess undeniable charm.
No matter where you are, each Trader Joe’s transports you to a fantasy while you shop, and that’s quite the feat for a grocery store—especially when situated in the middle of the urban landscapes of Silicon Valley.
With the best samples this side of Costco, the food—wrapped in hip, tropicalthemed packaging—boasts reasonable prices in a beach-cool setting.
Even the employees contribute to the superficial, charm of the experience. Clad in Hawaiian shirts—the symbol of good vibrations—the Trader Joe’s employees act as if they’re only working as a break betweens surfing bouts.
They embody the store’s inviting, laidback culture. They’re beach bums without the baggage, and at any moment, they seem poised to emit a “gnarly” like Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” What could go wrong?
While so much of the chain oozes cool, the corporate side of the business allows the relaxed attitude to run amok. On April 20, 2018, the company publicly announced on its website that “we trust our customers and do not conduct surveillance on them.”
On the surface, this comment only adds to the brand’s hipness—they trust us, man—but it also reveals a darker truth: Trader Joe’s doesn’t care about what happens to you.
Someone could, say, rob you blind in a Trader Joe’s—snatching your purse, wallet, phone or Percocet—and the store where the crime took place would be totally incapable of providing evidence that a crime even occurred.
You might drive yourself crazy thinking “maybe I just left it somewhere,” but only when your bank calls to deliver the bad news.
For those happy that Trader Joe’s isn’t contributing to the developing Orwellian dystopia, you can relax.
In-store cameras aren’t used to distribute tickets for jaywalkingon empty streets; they’re used to protect customers and merchandise.
Even Whole Foods has cameras to make sure that, while its separating you from your paycheck, other customers aren’t doing the same.
When probed about the effects of this surprisingly shortsighted policy on crime, one respectful but too-chill Trader Joe’s employee merely said, “Unfortunately, it happens.” It’s a hands-off, uncaring remark, and that’s the key.
Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t care—specifically about your belongings. Its belongings—the wonderfully themed and packagedfoodstuffs—are protected by watchfulemployees who constantly restock and inspect the merchandise, but watching your belongings isn’t in their job description.
Trader Joe’s doesn’t trust you, it just trusts that if it doesn’t have cameras, it won’t need to be involved in any resulting police work or arbitration. It’s the laid-back lifestyle taken to a laissez-faire extreme.
And criminals and pickpockets know—from the clear advertisement on the store’s website—about Trader Joe’s lax and nonexistent security system, making the stores ideal for petty theft.
Police across the country have warned that pickpockets specifically target Trader Joe’s shoppers due to the lack of instore cameras, but—even with this information—the company refuses to budge on its lackadaisical position.
And without change, criminals will continue to get away.
Trader Joe’s is a tropical vacation of a grocery store, with fun food, prices, employees and atmospheres.
If only its corporate culture could take off its “chill” guise for a moment to care about its customers’ own merchandise.
Contact Brandon Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.