It’s sad how Trader Joe’s got rolled

What does it take to drop a major American corporation to its knees?

Trader Joe’s is big but not courageous

A stupid online petition with a measly 4,275 signatures, that’s what.

Trader Joe’s annual revenue is $13 billion for its 500 U.S. stores. The chain is known for doing some things differently, often employing humor. (Fun fact: Every store has a plastic lobster hidden somewhere.)

Trader Joe’s has a loyal customer base, including (of course) a few flakes. And some precious cupcakes, such as Briones Bedell, who wrote on the confused petition, filled with gobbledygook, “The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

“The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it.”

May I say, no, it is not racist, no, it does not exoticize other cultures, and, no, it doesn’t present Joe as the “normal.”

Bedell’s petition also criticized the use of “Arabian Joe” to brand Middle Eastern foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian goods, and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese cuisine. 

Trader Joe’s said those names were intended to be playful, but shamefully acknowledged that they may have had the “opposite effect.” Shamefully because the $13 billion corporation can be so easily bullied.

“While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day,” company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said.

Based on what — fewer than 5,000 signatures? 

I ask myself, would I be offended if Trader Joe’s called itself Trader Yosef in order to sell matzoh ball soup? I would not. I would chuckle. But I am not easily triggered.

What’s worse — racism, or humorlessness?

OK, racism is worse, but it has to be the real thing, not something invented in the imagination of a 17-year-old high school student, which is Bedell, who probably now is in line for a Nobel Prize. Trader Joe’s lightheartedness has been blown up by a teenager not old enough to buy a beer.

The American funny bone has been under attack for some time.

Standups as disparate as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld refuse to play college campuses because they are stifled by Political Correctness, now with an overlay of fear of offending anyone, which is anathema on most campuses. 

Now Trader Joe’s is bending a knee.

Sad. Where have the grownups gone?

28 thoughts on “It’s sad how Trader Joe’s got rolled”

  1. I actually always thought it was kind of singling out other ethnicities with Trader JOE representing the WASP norm. But I didn’t care bc I saw the humor behind it.

    Then my daughter said that the word “trader” would prove its not racist since traders of all countries traded with each other…and wouldn’t traders of other countries have names reflecting their ethnicities?

    1. As a WASP I am offended that your reader who identifies herself as “Annette” feels she can trash talk one of the largest ethnic minorities in the country. And, when she refers to her “daughter” is she referring to her child’s “sex,” “gender” or personal identification? As you are aware one cannot be too careful these days. In fact, I am offended that I have to bring to the discussion my being offended.

  2. Remember who Trader Joe’s customer base is, too. Just go to one of their stores and look at the bumperstickers on the cars in the parking lot. TJ’s is like the budget version of Whole Foods. I’m sure in this climate of “Everything Offends Me” on the Left, that factored into their decision too.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if the little teenage twit that started this row starts to complain that the “Trader” in Trader Joe’s is in itself racist, harkening to an era in slave trading – rather than the norm of trade quoted by Annette’s daughter above.

    BTW, Stu, I had no idea that certain stand-up comics no longer do the college circuit. But now I can understand why. The “left-ing” of our college institutions and its students has been going on for at least the last 30+ years, and it’s not a good thing for the big picture. They kids have become little bots.

    While racism in its basic form should be abolished, it ridiculous extensions, to virtually most everyday items, as you have pointed out above, needs to be checked before it gets out of hand. Thank you for contributing to this noble cause.

  4. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu and readers

    I think it is pretty obvious. “Political Correctness” has now gone “main stream,” and become a chief means and method of power politics. The “PC left,” is playing ball with corporate and established political power. Trump is their common boggy man or devil image.

    I was wondering about CNN the other day. I found reports on YouTube, early on, regarding the demonstrations and rioting in Portland, OR; and at first it was videos from the local TV stations in the city. They gave a pretty even-handed account of what was going on and didn’t neglect the outbreaks of violence, setting of fires, looting and attacks on the federal court house. After a day or two, the national outlets discovered the story, and the focus changed. Now it was all about police brutality and onerous federal officers –this is where talk of “federal troops” came in though as I recall, the phrase was first used by the Mayor. The CNN reports seemed particularly one-sided. Obviously there are many people who don’t like federal police on the streets, but at first it was just the feds defending the federal court house in Portland.

    So who owns CNN? The first answer is “Turner Broadcasting.” But who owns Turner Broadcasting? Not Ted Turner, of course. Its owned by a national communications firm, “Warner Media” –originally called “Time-Warner Communications.” And who owns Warner Media? Surprise ! its “Verizon” –which originated from “Bell Telephone of New York.” It is also now the chief telephone company in the Northeast. So while one might first think that CNN has something to do with Atlanta and Georgia, if you trace back the ownership what you find is a national communications corporation with headquarters in NYC. I take it that CNN’s editorial policies must pass muster –attracting sufficient attention by its partisanship and pandering to political correctness?

    Here’s the hypothesis: The corporate media are generally sponsoring or pandering to political correctness, chiefly to control the outcome of the next elections? All the while, of course, they would be closely following every Wall Street whim. Its one thing hiding behind another; and it functions to distract the country from our growing economic inequalities and the gigantic concentrations of wealth and power accumulated during the heyday of globalization. Highlighting the PC-left inhibits the emergence of liberal coalitions (across races and ethnicity) which might do more to reign in economic concentrations and excesses. Notice which firms lead the rallies on Wall Street.

    By the way, you might be interested to know who owns Trader Joe’s. You may be surprised.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. Tony ruined the TJ ownership surprise. As for editorial control of CNN, I do not KNOW who makes the editorial decisions, but I doubt Verizon approves what tape CNN airs.
      Generally speaking, corporate owners hire people they trust and let them run their divisions. As long as the profits or ratings are good — no problem.

      1. Philadelphia, PA

        Dear Stu,
        —you wrote–
        Generally speaking, corporate owners hire people they trust and let them run their divisions. As long as the profits or ratings are good — no problem.
        —End quotation

        I take it that CNN’s editorial policies must pass muster –attracting sufficient attention by its partisanship and pandering to political correctness?

        There is a generalization involved here, call it the “rule of bureaucratic assimilation.” Whenever institution A pays the bills or manages the finances (or human resources) of institution B, then B becomes slowly more and more like A –comes to share its interests and values. (That’s how the folks in B get ahead.)

        Verizon manages (or can manage) the administrative control of its sub-corporations?

        H.G. Callaway

    Quick ! Hide ! Here comes the P.C. police ! We go to T.J.s for certain items, as well as whole foods. Both are “specialty” stores that feature organic. Both stores have their own brands that insist on quality. As you stated, T.J.s is more friendly. I can’t figure that out, since the chain started in southern Cal.. I didn’t think humor was the selling item of San Diego, Santa Monica or L.A. when I was out that way. Now, the chain is owned by Aldi. I never figured the Germans to be fun loving folks either.
    About this time, a Klaxon Horn should be sounding ( not T.J.s bell ) to warn people that I am offending somebody, if not everybody ! The last time that I spoke to Dom Giordano, he was laughing his head off as the horn was sounding. Must of been something ( everything ) that I said .
    Briones Bedell had better not shop in a Walmart

  6. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Clark and readers,

    I hope that Briones Bedell has been given due notice and warning!

    But why Trader Joe’s? I first encountered the firm on the West coast and was pleased to see it here in the city. The long lines down at the store near 30th Street Station did prove something of an impediment. But the place was always full of the young people, resident in Center City; just the people most likely to be following the next trendy things and buying non-Madison Ave labeled products with apparent foreign origins? Very multi-culty, you would think.

    Obviously, pressure has been placed on this firm and presumably on its German owners –who have a distinct interest in international, globalized business and commerce. What is important is not so much the original complaint, but the way it has been taken up and spread. I think you have to observe a contrast in this connection, between the interests of domestic manufacturing (and those often lost factory jobs Philadelphia used to depend on) and the interests of big finance and international commerce. The point is that this foreign owned firm is being brought into domestic politics –to favor the “PC” line, that is, to favor the Clinonite Democrats and the big Business commitment to globalization.

    Its wouldn’t really matter what TJ’s had done before. The attribution of “offense” by the advocates of political correctness is essentially arbitrary. What counts as offensive depends only on what can be gained by making the accusation.

    H.G. Callaway

  7. Hey, let’s rename it ‘TRAITOR JOE’S’ because the company surrendered to a snot-nosed teen-ager. The new rallying cry of today’s male: “Do what you want to the woman, but please don’t hurt me!”

    1. Wow – that’s a good one Vincent (“Traitor Joe’s)! And I’m not being sarcastic. Great throwback to the company.

  8. Okay you two ! Vince and Randy, you both earned a “time out”. I’m thinking that Gordon is also heading into the corner.
    H.G.: we don’t stand on formalities here. Military minded or teachers would prefer the surname usage.
    Somehow, I think that you enjoy a debate on principle alone. Forget the real issue, just debate. If you keep this up, we’ll have to get you a guess spot on FOX News. You get the center “hot seat”.
    Not knowing for sure, but I have to think that Ms Bedell is just another “woke” person, emulating mum and papa. If you walk into “Traitor Joe’s”, and actually have your eyes open. You will notice the small town ( or neighborhood ) flavor of the store and the employees. If you actually ask a question of any employee, you will get an intelligent response. Naturally, if you’re looking for perfection, you have to look in the mirror. The rest of us are just mere mortals.

    1. Yo, Anthony (no, I’m not from South Philly, but I like to use “Yo” anyway). Just to understand, I happen to like Trader Joe’s, and most everything that surrounds their business. But I thought Vincent’s “renaming” was rather apropos, given the circumstance. As Stu has pointed out above, TJ’s is a great place, but they stubbed their toe, err, mouth, on this one. They gave up too easily. The only time-outs that are needed here is in deciding which crazily named item to purchase when TJ’s opens up their new Cherry Hill (NJ) store next week.

    1. Candace,
      Tetonia, Idaho. If you like country living, and you want to be surrounded by retired law enforcement, head west. Of course, you have to like winter. They have two seasons. Winter and almost winter.

  9. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Clark & readers,

    You might think of it this way: arguing on principle is quite the opposite of playing “multicultural musical chairs” –of which “identity politics” is the current, trendy exaggeration. The idea is to create coalition across our differences, on the basis of ideas, and not on the basis of background.

    It is rare that I can even stand to watch Fox News, so I doubt they will invite me.

    I quite liked Trader Joe’s, though I don’t go there often since we moved across town. I don’t much like CNN. Its the excess of partisanship–as with Fox News.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. (Mr.) Callaway,
      I don’t care to argue. You may be thinking of a far left dimocrat who comes here from time to time. I would much rather have a conversation and discussion.
      Fox news is similar to KYW news radio. You get the same story, show after show. True, there is some very little individualism, but I jump channels from Newsmax to AOL to newsy to off. I only can take minutes of cnn or the other left wing news stations. Usually, I’m too tired to pick through the bull and find the well hidden truth .
      If there is a creator in your kitchen, then you need the specialty stores and shops. You certainly wont get your weekly order at T.J.s.

      1. Philadelphia, PA

        Dear Clark,

        “H.G.” is quite o.k. by me, if you prefer. I’m not fussy.

        We found another place to get the specialty items we had been getting at T.J.’s. Equally inexpensive.

        I wasn’t presuming anything about your general political views. Tell it like you see it!

        H.G. Callaway

      2. Tony, if you would much rather have a conversation and discussion why do you continue to use words such as “dimocrat”?

        You chided me for how I had been spelling Trump and I thought we had an understanding but it is obvious to me we don’t. I will revert back to how I spelled his name, (tRUMP), and as long as I see misspellings of Democrat I will respond in kind, (Republikkklan).

        1. HAPPY SATURDAY !!!
          Long time no hear. Of course, since all you offer is sarcasm, name calling and ridicule, you are not missed. It’s well documented how the dimocrat party has corrupted and crippled. From partnering with the KKK, to supporting slavery, to imprisoning the Japanese – Americans during WW II to corrupting Washington D.C., and falsely impeaching OUR President, along with the attempt to destroy this administration and everyone associated with President Trump. These are some of the many reasons why I hate politics. !
          When I speak with you, I reframe from using special synonyms. You, on the other hand, do not contribute to the conversation.
          BTW. I’m still looking for quality help out here on my Chester County campaign. Qualifications: ease of communicating – especially with the opposition, politeness and manners, most definitely patriotism and loyalty to your ( our ) principles, to name a few.
          stay well,

          1. Tony, you fabricate things almost as well as lying Donnie tRUMP.

            BTW…Chester County is going to be a big lost cause for you. The people there are now starting to see very clearly that tRUMP is an uncaring SOB!

  10. I would be interested in whether a seventeen year old could use the word exoticizing in a sentence in some context other than trader Joes. They have products that utilize Italian names, Egyptian names and various other ones similar to Jose. In order to conform to the political correct crowd every new product to be marketed would have to pass a test of cultural diversity. The only way for us to succeed in the future is live and let live without continually trying to find something that could divide us. Our species began using the community aspect to have positive interplay and make decisions that benefit the entire community but today we witness the tearing down of history because those who want perfection over human frailty have tunnel vision relative to the human psyche. Humor is now under attack by those who assume the majority want bland, culturally neutral stand-up while being subjected to review by the new Orwellian1984 Partisans.

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