Trader Joe’s Insanity in DC

I thought I’d write a little blurb about how different the Trader Joe’s is out here in DC versus California. I’ve biked to the only two “close by” TJ’s locations in the city, both of them on the west end of town. It’s about a 3 mile bike ride to each location, but both are in very different areas which makes t
hem unique. For the rest of this post, I’ll write about the second location I visited in Meridian Hill, but they both were pretty much the same.

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Getting There

I first hopped on my “Capital Bikeshare” bike by our house and rode NW to the store with Google Maps semi-successfully trying to keep me going the right direction through my headphones. The ride was really nice. It took me through a nice residential part of town, filled with awesome rustic buildings and one way streets. It really reminded me of downtown San Luis Obispo, one of my favorite cities. Surprisingly, I made the journey in under half an hour, so I didn’t have to pay for overage. I parked the bike at one of the convenient stations just a block away, and walked down to the store.

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You Can Live Above a TJ’s?

It ‘s interesting that both Trader Joe’s stores were on the ground floor of a residential building. When walking in to either location, there is always a security guard and a series of elevators that can take shoppers up to their residence or down to the underground parking garages. Walking in, it seemed pretty familiar at first. There was the traditional TJ’s wood paneling, artwork, signage, and Hawaiian shirts in abundance. I felt like home! But the differences really sank in when I went to grab a shopping cart.

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Tiny Carts

In California stores, we have giant signature red shopping carts that can handle enough TJ’s goodies to feed a family for weeks. However, in DC, the shopping carts are little two-tiered baskets and are really small (I’ll try to take a picture next time I go). They look like they can hold about 3 bags worth of groceries max, which makes me think that the stores here are geared for the “everyday” shopper or someone who needs only a few things. I was on a mission to buy groceries for my floor, so I made it a priority to find a giant cart, and I lucked out.

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Different Products

Once I got my cart and headed inside past the elevators, another problem became very obvious… these aren’t the products I’m used to! I know that different regions offer different products, but the products that we carry in California have different labels and packaging. For example, I went hunting for my favorite bread, Trader Joe’s Cracked Wheat Sourdough. I couldn’t find it! The breads here are all different, and the ones that I do recognize all have different packaging or labeling. It’s madness! I feel like I’m shopping at Trader Joe’s for the first time.

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Checking Out

When I eventually filled my cart with “necessities,” I headed over to check out, where I got another surprise – single-line queue! In California stores, customers who are ready to check out pick their own lane and wait in that line or move to another. In DC, customers are filed into a single line that winds around the store and are called over to an available register, something I think is much more efficient than our system back home. I wheeled over to the checkout lane and found their registers to be really really small, like unbelievably small. The check stands are so small that there is no area for customers to stand help bag groceries. Everything basically has to be bagged immediately by the crew member because there is literally nowhere to put anything. I offered to stand next to my cashier and help her bag though, because lets be honest, standing there and doing nothing is incredibly awkward (California crew, you know exactly what I’m talking about).

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Getting the Groceries Home

My cashier was thanked me for bagging and I was quickly on my way, but I realized had a huge problem… how am I going to get all seven bags home? I quickly weighed my options. Most people take the Metro home and carry one or two bags, but since I had seven, I knew I needed a car. I dialed up a Lyft and the car was there almost right away. Thankfully, the driver had an empty trunk so fitting all the groceries in was no problem. He was a pretty crazy driver though, backing up in roundabouts and going the wrong way sometimes, and somehow the eggs didn’t break. Taking them up from the car was another task itself. Our kitchen is at the rear of our housing complex, up a little flight of stairs, so now I kind of sympathize with customers who used to tell me that had a “far walk.”

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Making Room in a House of 17

If you know me, you know I’m a pretty organized person. I have a bit of organizational OCD, so I really like tearing apart the cabinets and fridge to get rid of clutter and make space for new things. I had no trouble reorganizing our two refrigerators to make everything fit together and creating different cabinets to hold different things. I’m sure my roommates didn’t mind me going out to buy the groceries and then shuffling everything around to make them all fit.

Overall, it was an interesting day. I like the TJ’s here, but I like California stores better. They are better laid out and less chaotic. DC’s stores make me wonder just how bad New York’s locations are.

On that note, tell me what your favorite Trader Joe’s product is and why you like it. I like reading all the feedback. I’ll check back soon!

– Matt

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anissa Lawrence says:

    My favorite TJ product at the moment are the unsweetened plantains!! OMG! They ar addicting; Im sure there’s crack in there!

    Like

  2. Joebob says:

    I love the pineapple juice !!!! I can’t help it…. Gotta have it !!!!! Second is the Chocolate pudding… Dee-lush-us !!!!

    Like

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