Trader Joe’s or Trashy Joe’s?

For many people, walking through the sliding doors of Trader Joe’s is like walking through the gates of heaven. For me, it’s more like the gates of hell.  

Since my freshman year, I’ve noticed that Trader Joe’s has attracted a cult-like following not only among Lowell students but nearly all San Francisco natives. But unlike my classmates, I think it’s overrated. Despite numerous gripes I have with the establishment, a few in particular stand out to me. 

First of all, I used to be annoyed by the stereotypical names Trader Joe’s gives its food. Take “Trader Mings,” for example. While such names can be seen as a harmless attempt at embracing the culture behind certain ethnic foods, many people (myself included) saw these aliases as unnecessary and distasteful cultural appropriation. But honestly, nitpicks about exterior labels and names aren’t the main reason I avoid Trader Joe’s nowadays. 

Lauren Kim

The real culprit of my distaste? Trader Joe’s branded food is often inferior to the brand-name item it is trying to emulate. Yes, I am fully aware that this is its niche; Trader Joe’s entire identity as a grocery store is about selling food that is exclusive to its quirky and idiosyncratic brand. But to put it simply, these items just do not have the same quality as their counterparts. If I want Oreo’s, I have to settle for “Joe Joe’s.” If I’m craving Cheetos, I’m stuck with “Baked Cheese Crunchies.” The Trader Joe’s “substitute” for a popular food or snack is nothing more than a substandard knock-off. And these food items aren’t even healthier; they often contain identical amounts of sugar and preservatives as their counterparts. While I’ll admit that they make a great kale salad kit, I remain unconvinced that Trader Joe’s is worth the hype it has been given. 


The Trader Joe’s “substitute” for a popular food or snack is nothing more than a substandard knock-off.