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Monday, September 7, 2009

Trader Joe's Ethnography

Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's, as I've been known to do. The line was the largest I've ever seen, wrapping around the entire store all the way to the entrance. I had a large number of items and therefore placed myself in the "any number of items" line, as opposed to the "12 and fewer" line. There was a middle-aged lady in front of me who seemed to have a curiously low number of items; I wondered why she did not place herself in the quicker-moving 12 and fewer line? I was soon to find out...

The reason was that said woman did the bulk of her shopping while moving through the line. At first this was not a problem, as the line was moving through the produce section and she picked up produce items. However, as the line continued to move, past the meat, past the cheeses, past the spreads, she would leave her cart and go and grab items in various parts of the store. At one point, after reading an article on my mobile device, I looked up to notice there was a 50-foot gap between where this lady had left her cart and where the rest of the line was. I decided this was absurd and thought it best to cut in front of this "lineshopper." People followed suit, but eventually the lady returned to her cart and maneuvered her way in front of me. She continued to leave the line every few moments to go and grab items all the way to the very end, a journey of some thousands of centimeters and upwards of 30 minutes.

Anyway, this raises all sorts of important questions:

-Was this lady just being efficient, or was this a morally incorrect action, unfair to those of us who selected our items first and then got in line?
-Should everyone at Trader Joe's lineshop?
-Should Trader Joe's encourage, discourage, forbid, or create incentives for lineshopping?
-What is the meaning of Trader Joe's?

I've decided to enroll in an anthropology ph.d. program, which will allow me to do an ethnography on Trader Joe's Manhattan lineshopping habits. I will need to embed myself in Trader Joe's and live there for atleast a year, however, so that I can become fully acclimated to this exotic culture.

Oh well - sounds good to me, as long as they don't run out of their famous artichoke dip.