By David Carter
A brand new Trader Joe’s has opened on 14th & U Street, and the masses could not be more excited. It’s like a new artery grew next to your heart, now all of your vital, most likely white, blood cells want access. This new branch will not affect the long lines of every other Trader Joe’s, simply grow lines of their own. I say get in while the getting is good, and here are 12 tips on how to survive Trader Joe’s.
1) Know Your Racial Stereotypes
Trader Joe’s categorizes its groceries by type, but also by ethnicity. Would you like Mexican food? Who doesn’t! Then locate Trader Jose, he is by the biblioteca. How about Japanese food? Hai! Trader Joe-San is your iron chef. Trader Jacque will put your baguette in a bag. And Arabian Joe will wonder why he didn’t get a name, as you thinly pan down the long widescreen aisle for some Middle Eastern food. Lawrence! Damn it. That would’ve been a perfect name. Gah! It’s too late now. Alladin-ner? Whatever. My point is, knowing the most stereotypical name for each racial group is important to know in identifying what you are about to buy. Trader David sells napkins.
2) Bring Multiple Hats
Trader Joe’s offers free samples. Now these samples aren’t like Costco or Walmart samples. These samples are more expensive! … and other reasons. So you can’t simply return to the free sample stand and get another nosh of avocado guava pesto after a formidable amount of time. No. They expect that. Return after a short period of time, but wearing a different hat. The crew member will either not identify you as a repeat offender, or will, but will honor your mischievous attempts at trickery with another dollop of coconut truffle chunks, gluten free sesame squares, or all natural tofuckery bits. Congratulations, you won!
3) Know Seaworthy Nomenclature
If you ever need assistance, you must know that the staff at Trader Joe’s is very kind, but not of this land. They belong at sea, which is why they are called “crew members.” Supervisory crew members are called “Merchants” or “Mates”. Store Managers are called “Captains”. And the janitorial crew is addressed as “Bilge Rats”. ‘How bazaar is that?’ you ask? Now you get it! The downside is that periodically, Trader Joe’s will attack each other, or storm the Whole Foods around the corner. To the victor go the spoils, and everything at Trader Joe’s spoils quickly. (Organic. What are ya gonna do?)
4) Get Into Motown
For a sea shanty touting crew, you would find it odd the stores ALWAYS play Motown. But there is sanity in that odd pairing. Berry Gordy Jr., founded Motown records, helped define the sound, and brought it to the forefront of public knowledge by paying very low for local sounds, buying all their rights, and then selling them to us at a higher price, at the expense of the artists that grew the music. Just like the produce. Trader Joe’s is currently a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed by a former manufacture who claims the store conspired to monopolize the peanut butter market, so it’s exactly like Berry Gordy Jr. The difference being, Trader Joe never banged Diana Ross.
5) Romanticize Your Alcoholism
Most wine vineyards spend centuries cultivating the land, sheltering their grapes, aging their oak barrels, expertly tasting and pairing their subtle notes, in order to bring to your palate a delicious combination of fruit and blossoms, smoke and earth, effervescence and olfactory lust. Well, at Trader Joe’s you can buy Charles Shaw wine, famously nicknamed “Two Buck Chuck” for its price and glory. You can pretend you are living la vie boheme as you guzzle swill, just like crew of the Trader Joe when they are lost at sea. Seriously, this store has the widest selection of the most average to sub-par wines possible. And if you can convince yourself that just because its label is different, so is its taste, find an outdoor café, Hemmingway, because life is beautiful! Of the wine selection at Trader Joe’s, the founder Joe Coloumbe has said, “We built Trader Joe’s on wine first, then food.” Just like how Starship claims to have “Built This City” on rock and roll. A wide ambiguous foundation presents the sturdiest of business models. (I am guilty of living this way. Don’t feel alone.)
6) Warby Parker Glasses:
Wear them. You will always have something to talk about when you see the cashier wearing them too.
7) Throw Out Your Perception of Personal Space
TJ’s, we call it TJ’s now, is incredibly popular. And like things that are incredibly popular, it will be populated by populous populations of pretentious people. Please pretend your personal peripherals are not persistently penetrated. This is where claustrophobia physically manifests into a thick haze. While this specific U Street TJ’s, we call it TJ’s now, offers you wider aisles, this only allows for even more foreign cheese crested chariots to champion charging the corridors. Be wary, young gladiator. Steel yourself for the onslaught. I AM MARCUS AURELIUS. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?
8) You Will be Pavlov’s Dog
Paired with their ocean fairing mercantile ways, TJ’s, we call it TJ’s now, rings bells. That’s right. Bells. When a new cashier is ready for, I don’t know, more shipmates?, to come to their counter, they will ring a bell. This bell will cause an immediate and visceral reaction in you, as you will come to be taught what it means through repetition and classical conditioning. Unlike Pavlov’s Dog who was taught to salivate when a bell was rung, you will push a cart. So it’s totally not the same thing and shouldn’t feel demeaning at all.
9) Nasal Congestion is a Good Thing
Here is one thing you didn’t know you had to deal with outside of an outdoor music festival: Combative Smells. TJ’s, we call –you get it, Tj’s has the most well endowed perfumed cheeses this side of a distinctive geological feature which houses a comparable source of diverse cheeses on the other side. Wow. There has to be an easier way to say that. It also has the most poisonous perfumed people outside of an outdoor music festival. You will smell things you wish were cheeses, because that way, you could avoid them. No. These scents are mobile, littered with patchouli oil, deodorized with crystals, and make you hate other liberals/millennials. “This is why they hate us!” you will scream in your mind, as you bang your cart into theirs because you heard a bell. Get congested. It’s a good thing.
10) Let Your Guard Down
The crew is INSANELY nice. If you find a rude or course crew member, you’re probably in a CVS. Learn to trust again. Learn to love again. Try new things. Get to know your body. And I mean that in a nonsexual way, for once. (They have killer frozen Indian food.) The kindness manifests itself in their products. The mini cookies are stars, the dark-chocolate-and-sea-salt-covered butterscotch caramels are the heavens, and their truffle brownie mix will make you wish your significant other would dump you so you could have an excuse to gorge. Pessimism about humanity is meant for outside the ship walls of Trader Joe’s. Inside, you’re safe from the storm. It will be surprising at first. Hug the staff. They will probably let you. They might even let you ring the bell.
11) Mental Breadcrumbs
The sets and subsets of the families and types of food presented in Trader Joe’s, is enough to turn what was the food pyramid in the actual Giza Pyramids. If you know you want something, be very specific, and know how to exit that food forest when you discover there are 10 different versions of it. Anything labeled ‘Trader Joe’s’ has “no artificial flavors or preservatives,” and no “synthetic colors, MSG, trans fats, or genetically modified ingredients” if you wish. They also peddle vegan, kosher, gluten-free, low-sodium, and fat-free alternatives. “Yes. Do you know where I can find organic, grass-feed, non-homogenized, steamed kale roots?” Are you making a potion? It doesn’t matter. They have it. THEY HAVE A WHOLE AISLE OF IT! So bring mental breadcrumbs to escape when you need to, just make sure those bread crumbs are gluten-free, if you could, okay? Because I asked my dietician and blah blah blah blah blaaah…
12) Have Fun
Everyone there is just as excited as you. As adults, we can’t go to Six Flags, Busch Gardens, or King’s Dominion on a whim. We have jobs. Jobs we may care about. But you know who is always there to entice your day with new experiences, new tastes, and new culinary rides? Trader Joe’s. So while there may not be a rollercoaster at TJ’s, if you go with a friend, you can take turns pushing each other in the cart. And put your hands up. You’ve got a handful of free cheese and a gullet full of two buck chuck. Take extra joy in knowing that when you Instagram that picture we all know you are going to, in that filter you swear makes you look good but doesn’t, you won’t have to pay $25 for that memory at the end of the ride. And this theme park is open late. Have fun and I’ll see you there!