I have what is known in the biz as the bookstore curse. The bookstore curse is the inability to walk out of a bookstore emptyhanded. As proof, I offer the fact that there are a dozen or so mainstream bookstores within walking distance of my apartment here in Seattle, and I’ve made purchases in all of them…within the past four months.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a voracious reader. In doing this website, it’s giving me the opportunity to purchase books on a whim. Before I’d walk into a bookstore, invariably make a purchase, and then feel great guilt as the book sat upon the shelf collecting dust as it waited its turn to be read. Some books never even make it to the front of the queue, as more recent purchases demanded my attention.
Now I can walk into a bookstore and make two to three purchases and rationalize the money spent with “It’s for research for the website”. Only now, the books all have something to do with food. It doesn’t matter. I’m still as happy as before.
As much as I complain about the PR flackies trying to influence opinion, I have to admit that getting free books has been a pleasant thing. Of course the people sending me the books want me to talk about the book itself, while I’d rather talk about whatever the book is talking about.
Take the latest book I’ve received in the mail: “The Trader Joe’s Adventure“. I got an e-mail from the person who sent me the book, asking me if and when I was going to make a post about it, which in turn made me feel a bit guilty. Guilty, because there’s not much to say about the book itself. In trying to come up with a phrase that best exemplifies my sentiment, the only one I can come up with is the following:
The book is as good as any other book about an individual supermarket chain. This is not a compliment. The reality is that, although the writing is okay, and the book is obviously well researched, it’s simply one big, fat, sloppy, wet kiss to Trader Joe’s…The kind of kiss that makes you feel embarrassed for the recipient of said kiss, because you’re unsure if the recipient is comfortable receiving this amount of slovenly affection.
There…I’ve talked about the book. I will, however, talk about Trader Joe’s a bit further.
For some reason, I haven’t talked about Trader Joe’s as I have about the other supermarket chain that’s been making the big guys tremble…Whole Foods. I just don’t shop at Trader Joe’s all that often. I write this, acknowledging that Trader Joe’s is a mere 6 blocks from where I reside.
Part of it has to do with local politics…they plopped themselves right next to a local food co-op, which gave the appearance that Trader Joe’s wished to put the co-op out of business. But then Safeway also moved into the area, which is a much larger target of my animosity. So, while Safeway gets a double barrel shot of my disdain, the new Trader Joe’s location only gets a glancing shot of annoyance.
On a national level though, I do like what Trader Joe’s is doing. They offer an alternative to the mega-grocery stores, and I’m all about variety and choice. Their selection of products is based off of customer demand and quality of the products. This leads to some very interesting items upon their shelves. They also do not participate in slotting fees, which, as regular readers here can attest, I believe to be the biggest problem in supermarkets today.
The biggest reason I suppose I haven’t talked about Trader Joe’s is the fact that they keep a low profile, so they’re rarely on my radar. There’s no colorful flyer wasting space in my mailbox every week, nor are they added as an annoying insert to newspapers. From what I’ve learned from the book, this is exactly what they want. Word of mouth is a far more effective advertising tool than people on Madison Ave give it credit.
They do have faults as well…Their produce section is seemingly intentionally lacking, and the stores are often so small that they can’t provide products that allow you to make Trader Joe’s a one-stop shop (for example, there’s no butcher counter, nor pet section). This makes it a destination market. With the ultimate destination market located a mile away from my front door (Pike Place), getting out to Trader Joe’s is simply not a priority. If I lived back in Washington DC, it probably would be.
Now that I’ve given Trader Joe’s my own sloppy wet kiss, I think I can move on with my life.
And remember kids, slotting fees are bad.