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Trader Joe's vs. Amazon and the rest of them
Old 12-01-2018, 01:30 PM   #1
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Trader Joe's vs. Amazon and the rest of them

A recent posting mentioned Amazon including some subtly labeled sponsored gift items in a list of baby shower items made by a customer.

Today I listened to this Freakonimics podcast (#359) on Trader Joe's and how it operates. They examine the big difference between modern grocery store marketing and how TJ's does it. Given that Amazon now owns a supermarket, I figure that is a good comparison to look at.

Should America Be Run by … Trader Joe’s? (Ep. 359) - Freakonomics Freakonomics

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But Trader Joes seems to be aggressively low-tech. No self-checkout aisles. No online ordering and pickup. No customer-loyalty programs and, apparently, Trader Joes gathers no significant data on customers at all. In the modern business world, this is heresy. If you shop at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, you can be sure the company has an algorithmic target on your back. Trader Joes, meanwhile?
Maybe TJ's approach is a good antidote if Amazon gets a bit to assertive?

FWIW, I visit TJ's often. I darken the door of Whole Foods, only when I can't get it at TJ's or Costco. I will even try our local Kroger owned stores before WF.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:45 PM   #2
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Havent listened to the broadcast yet. Ill do that later. I only ever went to TJs once and never went back. Same with WF. I do frequent Aldi and went to Lidl which just opened in the area. I like both of them and seem similar to TJs in terms of culture and marketing. Im getting weary of all the loyalty programs.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:46 PM   #3
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While the lack of Big-Brotherism is appealing, I find some of Trader Joe's low-tech chic irritating. Not only no self-checkout, but they got rid of express checkout lanes as well. It may damage my hipster cred, but I much prefer the modern convenience features of a "real" grocery store like Ralph's/Kroger. If they would carry some of the varied dried produce I can find at Trader Joe's I'd never bother with TJ's.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuckanut View Post
A recent posting mentioned Amazon including some subtly labeled sponsored gift items in a list of baby shower items made by a customer.

Today I listened to this Freakonimics podcast (#359) on Trader Joe's and how it operates. They examine the big difference between modern grocery store marketing and how TJ's does it. Given that Amazon now owns a supermarket, I figure that is a good comparison to look at.

Should America Be Run by … Trader Joes? (Ep. 359) - Freakonomics Freakonomics



Maybe TJ's approach is a good antidote if Amazon gets a bit to assertive?

FWIW, I visit TJ's often. I darken the door of Whole Foods, only when I can't get it at TJ's or Costco. I will even try our local Kroger owned stores before WF.


I agree. I buy almost everything at Trader Joe, and I enjoy shopping there. If I cannot find something, I ask any passing worker and s/he will bring it to me or tell me why s/he could not do that.
I buy some meat at TJ, but for good beefsteak my Safeway is better and cheaper.
TJ sells frozen fish and shellfish. The shrimp and the scallops are very good, but I think I am not a good enough cook to prepare frozen cod or sockeye salmon very well. Best fish for me is at Uwajimaya or at the fish market at the south end of Seattle Public Market. Both these are excellent, but more expensive and a less handy than TJs or Safeway. A lot depends on the particular butcher or fish department manager of these places.

Ha
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:00 PM   #5
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Trader Joe's is okay. Glad I don't have to depend on them for the weekly shopping - far too small a selection.

When I'm in the area, I'll stop in. Decent beer and wine selection, but I seldom bother getting anything else. A nice Hannaford nearby with a great selection, good produce, meat, seafood, semi-prepared foods, etc. And there's a Market Basket if we want the cheap groceries and don't need product/meat/etc.
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:15 PM   #6
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When we are in the US (we are here for 2 wks now over Thxgiving), TJ's is our go-to place for snacks, wines and interesting odds and ends. Always something new and fun. Reasonable prices. When we lived in US full-time we went to TJ's once a month while we shopped the chain groceries at least weekly. TJ's is one of the very few stores we miss as expats living outside the US.
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:37 PM   #7
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Thanks! That was an interesting podcast. I've been a Trader Joe's fan for many years now and have always appreciated the extra service.
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:55 PM   #8
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Trader Joe's for bottled water, chocolate, frozen corn and peas, fresh mozzarella cheese, and peanut butter. A container of their ravioli and one of the pesto tortellini for quick lunches when there are no leftovers. I go maybe once a month. A lot of things are overpriced. I don't buy much fish because of all the contaminants and I haven't liked what I tried at Trader Joe's. Chicken is much cheaper at Sprouts. I don't trust the prepackaged salads and meals at Trader Joe's or anywhere else. Their blueberry waffles don't have blueberries now. So it's hit and miss.
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Old 12-01-2018, 03:05 PM   #9
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Trader Joe's and Aldi's are both owned by the Albrecht Brothers. Aldi's has 11,000 stores in 40 countries.

In the US, there are about 500 Trader Joe's and 1800 Aldi Stores.

More information here:

SS08-BUSAD3700-E01

As to Aldi's... They are undergoing an upgrade, across the board. Our local store has been remodeled, and my estimate is that the number of SKU's has increased by about 30%. Based on my retail background, I would guess that 80% of the packaged products are produced by nationally recognized suppliers... essentially the same product under a different brand.

IMHO, light years ahead of the efficiency of other major supermarkets.
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Old 12-01-2018, 03:11 PM   #10
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I am bit surprised they did not mention the now defunct Pirate Joe's that was in Vancouver B.C. for a while. The owner and his troops would cross the border and hit the TJ's in nearby cities. He paid full price for the products, took them up to Vancouver, and still managed to sell the stuff. TJ's banned him from their stores, but he managed to sneak in. I can't imagine he made much of a profit, but who knows.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/08/b...vancouver.html

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Note: While traveling in the South East, for the first time in my life I managed to shop at both an Aldi's and a Lidl. I can't wait for one to open near me.
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Old 12-01-2018, 03:45 PM   #11
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Only shop at 3 stores: $.99 for most items, TJs for rice milk, fruits and veggies. DW uses Instacart for Ralphs.
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Old 12-01-2018, 06:00 PM   #12
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We buy most of our groceries at Trader Joes. They are definitely a low tech company, but its fine with me. I like the fact their most of their foods are free of artificial ingredients. And their prices are very fair.

I remember before they got their checkout scanners how the cashiers just had to pretty much memorize the price of all of the foods because half the time the pricing sticker would be missing. They would ring up each item manually while shouting out the price to you so you knew how much they were charging. It was like shopping in the 1960s but it was kind of a cool retro experience.

When I was working in the technology industry I had a chance to visit their headquarters and meet with their Chief Technology Officer. They were just evaluating the switch from manual cash registers to scanners. It took more than five years from the time I met with him until I first saw scanners in the stores. He definitely did not move quickly. I dont think much has changed since then.
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Old 12-02-2018, 07:06 AM   #13
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Unfortunately Trader Joe's opened a store a block from my house. I have to fight the urge to enter because of their 17.5 ounce Belgian milk chocolate bars for $5
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:12 AM   #14
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I like Trader Joes, but the cheapskate in me has me at Aldis for most things and Wegmans for fresh fruit and meat.
I've been in Whole Foods a few times and can only think "how can I get in on this scam!
?" While I'm shopping.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:22 AM   #15
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Aldi is our goto… Who is Whole Foods? Never been there probably never will. I though WF was missing a letter. .

We also shop the sales at Winn Dixie and Publix if need be. Our Walmart has great food..... yes it surprised us too. It is entertaining also people watching the Wallies there while DW spends ages choosing an apple.

4 Grocery stores all within walking distance of each other and only 3 miles down the road, so not inconvenient.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:33 AM   #16
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Aldi is big out here in the exurbs; Trader Joes stores seem concentrated in the inner ring of more affluent suburbs. Aldi's first entry into our metro area was in racially mixed neighborhoods, by chance or design, and at first some customers shunned it because they considered it a "ghetto" store.
Aside from the lower prices Aldi offers on items like organic produce, it also has a lot of very good European cheeses and chocolates like TJ's. With Christmas upon us, I've noticed liebkuchen and other European sweets on the shelves.

Another recent development was the arrival of seasonal beers from a brewer in the former East Germany. Their domestic house-brand craft brews leave something to be desired, but the Feldschossen German dopplebock and ur-bock the stores have stocked in the last year have been very good.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:37 AM   #17
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I remember before they got their checkout scanners how the cashiers just had to pretty much memorize the price of all of the foods because half the time the pricing sticker would be missing. They would ring up each item manually while shouting out the price to you so you knew how much they were charging. It was like shopping in the 1960s but it was kind of a cool retro experience.

.
I still remember my first Aldi's experience in the 80's. They had moved into a space that Safeway had outgrown. Very limited selection so easier for cashier to remember all the prices. Old school mechanical cash register, I think. Cash only. I was shocked how they dumped all the items in the cart for customer to bag or box. Couldn't beat the prices, though and I had 5 mouths to feed on one income. The new stores are high style!
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:03 AM   #18
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I still remember my first Aldi's experience in the 80's. They had moved into a space that Safeway had outgrown. Very limited selection so easier for cashier to remember all the prices. Old school mechanical cash register, I think. Cash only. I was shocked how they dumped all the items in the cart for customer to bag or box. Couldn't beat the prices, though and I had 5 mouths to feed on one income. The new stores are high style!
Do they still require a deposit on the shopping carts? That was interesting...

We have tried Lidl and it is OK, but not our go-to. Very strange that they dedicate a large section for "surprises," which is a bunch of random low quality tools and such. It must work for them.

Like Aldi's, they are based in Germany and have a lot of European import items.
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:08 AM   #19
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I really question Trader Joe’s level of food quality. Google them and you’ll find stories on what I mean.
After getting food poisoning from their precooked chicken and having to return prepacked veggies that were sold beyond their expiration date, we took them off the list.
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Old 12-02-2018, 01:39 PM   #20
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TJs, for us, is a novelty store. Lots of house branded "stuff" that you would never buy in the first place but is marketed as a necessity...TJ's exotic cookies, candies, salads, frozen MRE-type dishes, etc. We do visit from time to time for a seasonal item or two, but usually get suckered into buying overpriced nuts, condiments, etc, and end up leaving with a $50 bag of "huh?". Purely our fault.

We'd go broke buying "essentials" there. The cheapskate in me I suppose. Their flyers are cute however.


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