BY Lorri Wickenhauser, The Western JournalJune 4, 2023
4 months ago

Grocery Chain Trader Joe's Responds to 'Conspiratorial Theories' About Its Stores' Parking Lots

If Benjamin Franklin lived in the 21st century, he'd likely say there are three certain things in life: death, taxes, and inadequate parking at Trader Joe's.

The quirky little grocery store chain is known and loved by millions of Americans for its wide array of house-branded specialty foods, like its chopstick-worthy Mandarin orange chicken, irresistible peanut butter-filled pretzel nuggets and exotic-sounding cheeses, like blueberry & vanilla chèvre.

Fans flock there for things that are either far more expensive or completely unavailable anywhere else -- like their wide range of organic, vegan and gluten-free items, imported chocolates and popular wines.

But the chain is equally known -- and far less loved -- for its dreadful parking lots.

So much so that "parking lots" was the topic of a recent episode of the company's "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast.

That's right -- the company has something of a cult following and is popular enough to have its own podcast to share behind-the-scenes stories about the company's history, products and staff (known as "crew members").

On this particular episode, two Trader Joe's insiders, Tara Miller and Matt Sloan, responded to messages regarding customer questions and comments -- one might even call them "gripes" -- regarding the stores' parking lots.

"If you spend any time on social media, looking at things about Trader Joe's, you will find there are lots of conspiratorial theories about our parking lots," Miller said.

"People out there in the world really seem to think -- not all people, but a number of people -- that we are purposefully making horrible parking lots."

Sloan chimed in, insisting, "We don't open stores with the world's most ridiculous parking lot on purpose."

The problem, in a nutshell, he said, is relative size: Trader Joe's stores tend to be a fraction of the size of a regular grocery store -- around 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, as opposed to 70,000 square feet.

Smaller retail spaces, they said, are allotted fewer parking spaces.

Adding to the problem -- good for retailers, but bad for customers -- is that Trader Joe's stores often have far more people inside, per square foot, than a regular supermarket.

"Let's say that 12,000 square foot store has 500 people visiting and the giant store has a hundred people visiting," Sloan said. "The parking lots are going to feel very different."

Miller pointed out the obvious: "The argument could be made, 'Hey, Trader Joe's just make your stores bigger,'" she said.

"But that kind of changes who we are. We have small stores, so they come with small parking lots.

"If we had bigger stores, sure we'd have bigger parking lots, but we'd feel like a different store."

As it turns out, those who suffer with only cramped, crowded parking lots at their Trader Joe's stores should be thankful: Miller said some stores have zero parking.

As in Zip. Zilch. Nada.

"We try to get as much parking as possible," Miller said. However, she added, "In some municipalities, we can't get any parking at all. We do have a number of stores throughout the country that don't have any parking."

"It's true," Sloan agreed, adding a positive spin. "Parking can be an energized experience, maybe even of a stressful variety, lots of places.

"So hats off to our crew for taking good care of the parking lots at your neighborhood Trader Joe's, collecting carts and keeping things moving.

"And thanks to you [the customer] for taking up the challenge to find that spot when you do your shopping."

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Lorri Wickenhauser, The Western Journal



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