Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

December 3, 2010 8:53 PM

Food: Trader Joes

Trader Joes

1101 25th Street NW
Washington, DC
Trader Joe’s is a relatively recent addition to my food shopping list. It has now become a part of my regular routine.

This store is different than all of the others in a number of ways. Just about all of their pre-packaged foods, room temperature, chilled or frozen, are their own brand or brands that do not show up in other stores. And for some reason that I can not quite identify, the different products seem more interesting than at other stores. It may well be because there are no brand with which I am familiar.

My favorite new product, that I find only here, is frozen oatmeal. There are two portions to a package. Each portion is wrapped in plastic, quickly prepared using a microwave. The other characteristic that is quite attractive are the portion sizes of various meats, fish, fruit and other products. They have been prepackaged in quantities just about right for a single portion at a given meal. I have not been disappointed by the quality of any of the foods that I purchased there. There is a pretty decent flower selection, but it does not quite match up to that at Safeway.

Another style that struck me is the handling of fruit and produce. There are no plastic bags around the store in which you might put a half a dozen apples or 3 bananas or a couple of oranges. Everything goes in your basket and goes from the basket to your bag at the checkout counter.

Various staff members working on the floor are particularly solicitous if it appears that a customer seems the least bit uncertain about where to find a given product. Staff members at the other grocery stores are also solicitous, but I would say these folks are the most forth coming, followed by those at Whole Foods.

I was particularly taken by the checkout system. There are 13 checkout stations. The number of stations that are active at any one time seems to be determined by the number of folks waiting to checkout. There is a single line of those waiting to checkout rather than having to look around to see which line you think will move most quickly. There is a kind of hustle to the whole operation that is not as evident at the other stores.

One person directs people at the head of the line to each station as it is available. On one visit I was 55th in line and it took about 11 minutes until I was on my way out of the store.

I have yet to find the bathroom, but then I have not had occasion to really go looking.

There is something earthy about the store that is quite appealing.

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