Aside from my minor distaste for Trader Joe's after I was ruthlessly attacked by one of their biodegradable balloons, I have always found the place a bit disconcerting.
Avocados must be purchased four at a time, not yet ripe, in a plastic scrubber bag. Generally when I want an avocado, I want one, and I want to use it that day. The one time I brought Avocados there, I ended up going to Bell to get a ripe one and the four from TJ's ended up in the compost bin. TJ's frozen food section sort of feels like they raided Costco and put hippie labels on the bags. Products of dubious unknown origin. Cheap, yes, but I don't get how they've managed to build this brand as if they were, well, Holier than Whole Foods.
All of their veggies are packaged on a styrofoam bedding and wrapped in copious layers of plastic. The organic dairy is just as likely to be from Vermont as Sonoma County. Yet somehow TJ's is universally seen as a pretty responsible place and Whole Foods is the land of the overprivileged yuppie who goes there to spend their Whole Paycheck. The only actual super green thing about TJ's is that they have a raffle for $25 if you bring your own bags. This isn't even as much of a pinch as DeLano's probably eats up giving 5 cent credits to bring your own baggers.
I really like Whole Foods. I don't necessarily like my wife going there, where she focuses on prepared foods that are certainly tasty but definitely the high margin items in the store. I prefer to stick to the damn good produce then spend a lot of time in the very reasonable bulk sections. I'll pay for good produce and I can put it in my own bags instead of piling on the styrofoam. I can get Clover-Stornetta Organic Milk instead of TJ's random milk. Does TJ's share a "dubious origins factory" which Kirkland?
Apparently I'm not alone. The Thin Green Line blog in the Chronicle takes on TJ's this week, and echoes some of my disbelief.
They have an interesting link about Whole Foods trying to educate consumers how to shop there for less money. The money quote?
"They need to reorient people to the center of the store, where there are things like ingredients. But ingredients are foreign objects to shoppers and ingredients have not been where Whole Foods have made their money. - Pam Murtaugh"
It is after all "Whole Foods" - not McDonalds. Sounds like Pam Murtaugh knows my wife.
What do you think? Whole Foods or TJ's?