Opinion: Don’t be a Traitor-Trader Joe’s…


Bernie Huang

As popular as it is, Trader Joe’s stock is often lacking.

For loyal TJ’s fans, nothing compares to the satisfaction of scoring a coveted item at Trader Joe’s you have consistently been scanning the aisles for; like that inexplicably delicious pint of cookie butter ice cream that you thought was gone forever staring right back at you. Yes, it’s yours-all yours! You have hit the jackpot.

Trader Joe’s unmatched prices, welcoming staff dressed in Hawaiian t-shirts, and whimsical ambiance, make it difficult not to adore them. Sierra Shattenfield emphasizes the joy in shopping at Trader Joe’s.

“There is a wholesome, family-friendly experience you get while you are there,” Shattenfield said.

Despite the adoration of devoted shoppers, their products have established a pattern of vanishing off the shelves after you fall in love with them. Sometimes they will return, but other times they will be gone for good.

This Fall season, Trader Joe’s dropped brand new pumpkin-ginger mini ice cream cones, organic maple butter, pumpkin spice hummus, pumpkin spread, and an assortment of similar, delicious, fall-inspired foods. However, getting your hands on these popular Trader Joe’s items has turned into a “cruel game of chance,” Karen Miner from Mashed explains in her article “The Real Reason Trader Joe’s Is Always Out of Products.”

Trader Joe’s markets itself to the people. TJ’s prioritizes the highest level of customer service and satisfaction. In fact, according to Noam Scheiber from the New York Times, author of the article “At Trader Joe’s, Good Cheer May Hide Complaints,” John Sheilds, the former chief executive of Trader Joe’s, who personally interviewed prospective managers,  said he “eliminated any candidate who didn’t flash a grin within 30 seconds.”

So, if Trader Joe’s is so focused on satisfying their customers, why are they ultimately letting them down?

High school sophomore, and avid fan of Trader Joe’s, Sara Fernandes admits that she finds Trader Joe’s unreliable in their product availability.

“Shopping at Trader Joe’s has become unreliable,” Fernandes said. “They have discontinued many of my favorite items, and I now find myself having to travel to different supermarkets because of their lack of stock.” 

On the contrary, Karolina Bukowski admits that she has never had an issue with their stock.

“I have always been able to find foods I want at Trader Joe’s,” Bukowski said. 

Perhaps this may suggest inconsistency between their stores and their inventory.

However, items are not just disappearing into thin air; there is in fact a method to this madness. According to Mashed, Trader Joe’s markets on a truck to shelf system, meaning that they don’t want to order too much because it wastes less, and helps keep prices low. 

Although it may pose as difficult to argue against the idea of keeping inventory low to diminish waste and redundancy, how are these decisions affecting their customers? Their lack of stock has evolved into a real source of frustration for many. 

College senior at the University of Texas at Austin, Amber Meyerson explains that Trader Joe’s has very budget-friendly choices for the average college student.

“The beauty of Trader Joe’s is their healthy foods that sell for impeccable prices,” Meyerson said. “College students are on a budget; when we can’t find items we want, that’s a problem.”

Additionally, Ryan Cohen notes that the social media app Tik Tok might also be playing a role in their lack of food stock. 

“I have traveled to Trader Joe’s on multiple recent occasions because of some of the foods I have seen on Tik Tok; one of them being soup dumplings which I have never been able to find,” Cohen said.

It’s not the design, it’s the inconsideration of the customers who believe they are the only one’s shopping!

— TikTok Commenter

To this point, a recent Tik Tok captioned — “name a store that was so poorly designed that it is essentially impossible to shop in” — illustrated continual traffic of people shopping in Trader Joe’s with their carts stacked with products. The video went viral with over 3 million views, and 11 thousand comments, some of which attacked Trader Joe’s overindulgent consumers rather than Trader Joe’s itself.  

So, who’s to blame? Trader Joe’s or its customers?

Both sides play a role in this seemingly ongoing issue, but when it comes down to who will budge first, I would not bet my money on the people. People will keep buying, and buying, and buying. Why? Because they can, and because it’s cheap. 

Trader Joe’s, your products are ridiculously delicious, but your stores lack enough of it for all of us to enjoy. Your customers love you, but you have to do a better job at satisfying demand or inevitably, people will find alternatives. They always do.