Trader Joe’s express line woes, worries and other ramblings…

Like many others, I just dropped in at Trader Joe’s on my way home this evening to–what else?–pick up an easy-to-prepare dinner. ‘Cause I hadn’t planned anything for tonight, and we just flew back from our nation’s capital last night. Yeah, yeah. Excuses, excuses for falling down on the Mom-meal-preparation job.

Anyway, picked up a package of cheese tortellini, a jar of tomato-basil marinara sauce, and some salad fixings. The tortellini would make a perfect carbo-loading Monday night dinner, especially for Soccer Son, who had his first morning of–yes, Soccer Camp–where they ran him pretty hard, and where they will run him pretty hard tomorrow. Or, so he has complained, which is one of the reasons, he says, that he wants to quit. But that’s another new controversy in my turbulent life, and if anyone has any thoughts/advice for navigating through this camp issue with my son, let me know…

Back to Trader Joe’s: I had placed six, seven dinner items in my basket and decided to try the “Swift Passage” line. This is for people with “15 items or fewer.”

(Oh, and bravo to Trader Joe’s for passing the English-language-style-book test, which says in this instance, you cannot say “15 items or less.” Proper style use says it needs to be “15 items or fewer.” So, Trader Joe’s corporate must have some serious copyeditors on retainer to oversee their store signage.)

Unfortunately, this Swift Passage line wasn’t necessarily going to guarantee me “swift passage.” This line had about seven or eight people in it, as did all the other lines at the Trader Joe’s check-out this Monday evening.

I overheard one of the clerks tell one of the customers that, indeed, late Monday afternoon/early evenings is one of Trader Joe’s busiest shopping times. These shoppers are all people, presumably like me, returning to work from the weekend, or from a holiday weekend, suddenly remembering–damn!–I have no food in the house to make Monday night dinner for my family!

So, I’m in the Swift Passage line, behind about seven others, and I noticed a woman a couple people ahead of me with what looked like a rather full shopping cart.

Surely, her cart was loaded WITH MORE THAN 15 ITEMS!!!!

As I’m stand there waiting, I have this moral debate going on in my head. What should Trader Joe’s employees do about this Swift Passage/Express Line violator?!? What should I do, as an ordinary citizen/customer, who followed the signs, got into the proper line, followed the rules???

Should I complain? Should I, at that moment, shout out to this woman that she is breaking the Swift Passage rules?!?!?

I took a deep breath and decided to wait and watch … And to gather my evidence as to whether this woman–50ish, blond hair, bright pink, button-down shirt–was indeed, a true express line/Swift Passage violator.

This means that I decided to watch as the cashier unloaded her cart. Item by item. And to see and count whether she was, indeed, going above the “15 items or fewer” limit.

As it turns out, her cartload, indeed, exceeded the magic 15 limit.

What done her in?

What ruins many of us: Her purchase Two Buck Chuck wine.

Her 15th through 25th items were varietals of Two Buck Chuck: Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. …

Well, I was rather heartened to see (and eavesdrop on) the Swift Passage cashier sweetly notifying the woman that she had too many items in her cart to rightfully use this line. The cashier did this while unloading her cart and scanning it through her register. So, the cashier decided to let her pass through the Swift Passage line and to give her a gentle reminder.

Which turned out to be the right strategy in this case. The woman was mortified that she had violated the Swift Passage rules. She glanced up at the sign, and almost slapped herself on the forehead, and told the cashier, “I didn’t even notice. I’m so sorry.” The cashier told the woman it wasn’t that big of deal but that other customers might think it’s unfair.

The woman seemed to blush, and she also looked very embarassed by her unintentional trangression. She continued to apologize as she ran her credit or ATM card through the machine.

Poor thing. If I had been just behind her in line, I would have said, “Don’t sweat it. We all make these mistakes.”

And, I would have happily said this to her … after seeing Trader Joe’s employees making an effort to enforce store rules and to remind customers of them … and after seeing that the woman wasn’t arrogantly flouting the rules, but had just made a silly little mistake…

I can’t say that’s been my experience in other times of my life in the express lines of supermarkets. Often, those express line violators, who try to pass through with carts loaded with 20, 30 items, display a WTF attitude that is infuriating. And the cashiers just let it go, ’cause they don’t want the hassle of any potential confrontation with a customer.

6 thoughts on “Trader Joe’s express line woes, worries and other ramblings…

  1. We downloaded a lot of great produce from farmers makets & roadside stands on our staycation as well. Great to have so much good food grown here. I like collards, okra, peas, nectarines & peaches right now.
    Thanks Anna for your good work and welcome home Soccer Mom, Son & Dad


  2. In addition, the customer should have voluntarily offered to remove the wine from her cart, so as to be under the limit. That would be the polite way to appease others in line behind her.


  3. In the good old days when Walnut Creek had a Co-op supermarket, the checkers in these cases would count the items and then ask the customer which ones they wanted. It worked great but then maybe people were embarassed back then instead of just rude.


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