Happy Trails, Trader Joe

A typical Trader Joe's parking lot

Joe Coulombe, who founded Trader Joe's, died on Friday. He was 89. Perhaps he was a son of a bitch in his personal life; maybe he voted Republican and tossed cats. We can only know him by his fruits: founding a chain of stores meant to feed "overeducated, underpaid" creative and academic peoples; insisting his employees be extra nice; insisting they be well-paid.

And this is the story I thought of on Saturday when I was dicking around the Internet and saw he'd died. Maybe you've got one like it too:

My sister, my beloved big sister, my brave big sister whom nothing gets down. It is 2008. Her husband, who sells construction equipment, is laid off. She has two tiny babies at home. And every time she goes to the store and hands the cashier her SNAP/EBT card to feed those babies, the checker sneers and rolls her eyes. And my sister, my beloved sister, makes it out to the parking lot before she cries, angry and ashamed. Angry at herself for letting them shame her. Angry at them, for being terrible.

Everywhere except Trader Joe's. She tells me this on the phone, angry, crying, anger-crying. "THEY'RE TOO BUSY BEING HAPPY AND ROCKING OUT TO GOOD MUSIC TO BE DICKS!" she cry-yells. She is grateful. Trader Joe's checkers never make her feel small for being poor. Not once. She gets her babies some organic whatevers. They are happy babies. They are beautiful girls.

What she didn't know, and I CRY-YELLED back to her, is that Trader Joe's employees are also too busy being paid a living wage to think her SNAP card is zero-sum for them. Their rising tide lifted her fishing boat, of kindness. (This is a tortured metaphor.)

In a smaller but similar vein, it is 2008. I have just quit my job as editor-in-chief of a newspaper making fancy lady money. My first stop is at the Trader Joe's. I kidnap the wine guy. "I JUST QUIT MY JOB," I tell him. "I HAVE BEEN BUYING $12 WINE. WHAT DO YOU HAVE THAT IS DELICIOUS IN THE FOUR DOLLAR RANGE." His eyes light up. He could have no greater pleasure than showing me $4 wines. We are compadres in cheap delicious wine.

It is 2020. My husband Shy drives several hours to Spokane once a monthish for ... errands. He brings with him insulated bags to stop at Trader Joe's to provision his war bride. He brings me frozen dishes and jarred treats. He picks up several kinds of chocolate. Once a month, he gets me a new potted kitchen herb to replace the last one. He is a hero when he walks in the door.

I don't know enough about the global supply chain to know if Trader Joe's hurts or helps the small farmer, the developing agricultural communities, the foreign folks. But I know we all need a treat.

And some good music. And some kindness too.

Now be nice, it's your OPEN THREAD.


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Rebecca Schoenkopf

Rebecca Schoenkopf is the owner, publisher, and editrix of Wonkette. She is a nice lady, SHUT UP YUH HUH. She is very tired with this fucking nonsense all of the time, and it would be terrific if you sent money to keep this bitch afloat. She is on maternity leave until 2033.


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