I am a sinister surprise masquerading as an average parking lot.
November 20, 2019 12:56 PM   Subscribe

 
slow clap...yes....everything in there 100% yes.....
posted by Captain_Science at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


I did not realize that ALL Trader Joe parking lots were the same nightmare. Bad mojo.
posted by dis_integration at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2019 [19 favorites]


The one exception is the Trader Joe's in Culver City, which is attached to mega downtown public parking structure that also serves the movie theater, stores, and restaurants.

The new Sprouts that opened in the newly built shopping center on La Brea and San Vicente, however, took notes, and that parking lot is a near identical hell to a typical Trader Joe's lot.
posted by linux at 1:09 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was sure she's talking about my local Trader Joe's in Queens, but they don't sell alcohol. At any rate, if you shop at the Rego Park Trader Joe's, here's a protip: avoid the madness by parking in the Dick's Sporting Goods lot.
posted by Drab_Parts at 1:12 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


What dis_integration said. I just assumed it was because my city is hipster central and all the parking lots are like that.

(Hipster central=desirable real estate=parking lots reluctantly jammed in next to huge claustrophobic buildings, and very little room for turning a car around.)
posted by Melismata at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


I recall reading that TJ purposely sizes the stores to minimize parking, with square footage right below whatever would bump up the number of required spaces. Ours has a two-part surface lot and also underground parking with a steep, awkwardly curved entrance for that extra frisson of fear, especially during winter: how hard should I hit the gas to get up this icy hill while still having a snowball's chance of stopping for anyone approaching from either side?

Also, MetaFilter: a haven for hippie wannabes on the hunt for seasonal products and cheap grocery staples
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [18 favorites]


Yeah. The Portland, Maine one is a nightmare exacerbated by the hostile neighboring landlord. So there's a giant fence making pedestrians from the busy part of town walk all the way around the building to get in, despite the fact that a walking path that goes right by. And lots of speed bumps to prevent you from escaping through the Walgreens lot.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that the boxed salads are tasty and you're going to die walking back to your office.
posted by selfnoise at 1:17 PM on November 20, 2019 [9 favorites]


All of you are indeed correct, and the author is indeed writing about your own personal TJs parking lots, because there is only one TJs parking lot. They're a superorganism-forming clonal colony, much like Armillaria or aspen.
Except, you know.
Sentient.
And malevolent.
posted by halation at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2019 [50 favorites]


Not all, no. The one in Nashua, NH is a normal parking lot. TJ's moved there a few years ago from about a mile away in Tyngsboro, MA, because they wanted to sell wine. The place they moved to is part of an existing shopping center, and TJ's has no say on parking-space configurations. That was also true in Tyngsboro. The one in Arlington Heights, MA, on the other hand, is awful. It was once an out-of-date supermarket with a small store and a small lot. TJ's somehow made it impossible to navigate, with narrow lanes confined by excessive curbing and tight-radius turns. Burlington, MA is not terrible.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Trader Joe's that I went to when I lived in Charlotte, NC had a particularly egregious parking lot - almost all the spaces were labeled "C" which I guess means for a "compact" car, but in that part of Charlotte almost nobody drove a compact car, and you'd see Suburbans and Escalades crammed in inches apart from each other, or occasionally parked across two spaces.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


The parking lot of TJ's on Masonic and Hyde in San Francisco is everything this. Traffic would back up onto the actual street of masonic as people waited to turn into the lot which then just added to traffic density on the street itself. They eventually had a full time parking attendant to mediate some of the disputes but sure as hell didn't solve the traffic problem.
posted by Karaage at 1:23 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


The TJs in my town were plopped into already-existing strip malls. Would they re-paint the lines on the lot in front of the stores? Regardless, the TJ nearest me is huddled into the far corner of the strip mall, and parking definitely is a nightmare. I just put it to the SUVs and minivans crowded into an already cramped, tiny lot. The thought that TJs might have made it worse by fucking with the slots...insane.

Oh, and TJ’s house-brand beers suuuuuuuck.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2019


I did not realize that ALL Trader Joe parking lots were the same nightmare. Bad mojo.

I'd bet my last dollar that looking for good deals on rent by purposefully going after locations with terrible parking options is officially part of their business plan.

Even the Culver City option mentioned up above is trash. Yeah, it's a big structure, but in the last 4-5 years it now also serves an ArcLight and the lunch/dinner options of 100's (if not 1000's) of new Amazon/HBO/Sony/Apple employees it didn't have to when it was built. Ok, the Sony people were already there, but they prob just walk over from the lot anyway.
posted by sideshow at 1:27 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wow. Used to go to the one in the South Loop in Chicago. Sometimes walked, but when I would drive, that parking lot was vicious. The store is inside an old public bus depot from the 1920s-30s. Tight, small lot combined with an insane hard-turning and steep ramp to a lower level. I'm closer to the one in Lakeview now. That also has a weird parking lot, with odd, diagonal shapes. But TJ's opened that particular store in an existing building, too. This one is some kind of strip-mall type building/lot from probably the '90s. Perhaps the horrible lot attracted Aldi corporate?
posted by SoberHighland at 1:27 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


parking is dumb
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:32 PM on November 20, 2019 [22 favorites]


Is that a ginger-infused pumpkin-spiced chocolate-coated mini-violin I hear playing?
posted by srboisvert at 1:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [24 favorites]


In Canada, this would be the T&T parking lot. Man they make those lanes (and spots!) tiny.

It's instructive to see that when winter comes and people can't see the lines, the space between cars increases significantly.
posted by bonehead at 1:36 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


The TJs near my house has a normal parking lot, and I was so shook by this when I visited it for the first time I texted to let people know where I was in case it was a trap. To balance out the universe though the nearest Target parking lot was designed by someone who heard of cars from an anthropology textbook and has never seen traffic patterns in action.
posted by lepus at 1:37 PM on November 20, 2019 [14 favorites]


I've only ever been to a Trader Joe's once in my life (they are not geographically convenient for where I currently live). That being said, the one in Virginia that I parked at, can confirm the parking was a fucking nightmare and it felt like everyone in that lot was angry and at peak rage.
posted by Fizz at 1:41 PM on November 20, 2019


was designed by someone who heard of cars from an anthropology textbook and has never seen traffic patterns in action.

Ah, so a corporation.
posted by Fizz at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2019 [9 favorites]


The Trader Joes I've been to all have normal parking lots but I too have heard they size their stores so their parking lots are a bit smaller for marketing purposes- the store always seems busy. Going to the store with a huge parking lot with no cars in it is creepy. I think it is genius, and I like that they give me, a grown up, a lolly for finding the store mascot.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:47 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


See, this is why I ride my bike to Trader Joe's. The only extra obstacles are occasional dogs of uncertain temperament tied to the bike racks. Plus I get to be extra smug as I say "oh no, I don't need a bag, thanks" and overload my ostentatiously large bicycle panniers with groceries. Though I can't bring home that $3.99 boquet without turning it into flower puree.
posted by esoterrica at 1:48 PM on November 20, 2019 [15 favorites]


The anti-IKEA.
posted by Melismata at 1:48 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


For some reason I heard the title of the article read in the voice of Andre the Giant from The Princess Bride. (You know the exact scene, the one with the holocaust cloak and the wheelbarrow.)
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


Our local TJ's all moved into existing strip malls and had no say in the design or sizing of parking, aside from taking over a couple spaces for shopping cart corrals. The closest has a perfectly acceptable parking lot, which is good as the plaza also has the best sushi joint this side of town. The next-closest has oddly twisting lanes but is otherwise not demonic. The one in the foothills, OTOH, is crazy-making, for all the stores.
posted by Quasirandom at 1:51 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I've only ever been to two Trader Joe's. One of them was somewhere in Los Angeles and the other was in Buffalo, NY. Both had totally normal and not-at-all-frightening parking lots that were maybe half full at best. I have no idea what this article is about and I never want to find out.
posted by chrominance at 1:56 PM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of the time I went to three separate Trader Joes locations in one day because I was thwarted by each lot in turn and dammit, I wanted my Thai chili cashews.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:56 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


The Trader Joe's parking lot in Bloomfield Hills, MI is pretty good.

Its mojo remains poor, however -- it's the parking lot where Jimmy Hoffa was snatched from.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:00 PM on November 20, 2019 [8 favorites]


I just wish my closest Trader Joe's could have found more space for decent bicycle parking. It exists, but it's terrible, especially when I'm trying to load groceries onto my bike. One vehicle parking space could have provided enough room for 10-20 people to lock their bicycles.

If you're stymied by a full or confusing parking lot at a business, please take a moment to look around for bicycle parking and access options. If they don't exist or are some kind of horrible wheelbender barricade rack or are in some weird out-of-the-way place, ask the managers or your city if there's a way they can improve it. You don't have to bicycle to buy groceries, but every other person who does frees a parking space. Which is what you want, right?
posted by asperity at 2:02 PM on November 20, 2019 [8 favorites]


Going to the store with a huge parking lot with no cars in it is creepy.

What? No, it's heavenly! I try to plan my trips to the Market Basket for 7:30 AM, because then I can get one of the 4 pull-through parking spaces, and can mosey up and down the store aisles without being crowded from behind by impatient power-shoppers or blocked by oblivious cart-abandoners. All the shelves are stocked, and checkout is swift. If you only shop when the store is crowded, you're missing out on a whole other experience.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:08 PM on November 20, 2019 [12 favorites]


Can we talk about the Fearless Flyer? What is the point of that thing? I will famously read anything available in print, including real estate guides, the Beer Collector, Coffee News and any local freebie rag. But the Fearless Flyer is the only thing I actually feel dumber after reading. It has the look of something with content, but at the end of each item, I realize I have just read 350 words that did not contain an idea, a recipe, a serving suggestion, any information, any history, or any characters, or any special deals. I have read 350 words’ worth of empty copy that someone was paid to write, doing nothing but padding out the cutesy product name that is supposed to convince me that’s TJ’s is authentic and quirky. It actually makes me angry. When i finish reading something I want something in my head that wasn’t there before. The Fearless Flyer seems designed to do the opposite of that - to occupy your eyes and the sense-making parts of your brain for a few minutes only to create sort of an anti-content vacuum that sucks all meaning from the surroundings.
posted by Miko at 2:08 PM on November 20, 2019 [47 favorites]


The Trader Joe's at 4th and Market in San Francisco has no parking lot at all and therefore is perfect.
posted by larrybob at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2019 [10 favorites]


I always motorcycle to our TJ's, and get a smug satisfaction when I can squeeze into a spot between two other parked-right-on-the-line cars that no car would dare attempt. Darn shame about the flower puree though. I always figure if something can't survive the trip home on the bike it wasn't work eating anyway. Baguettes are also a challenge.
posted by Wulfhere at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Somehow, even though the Trader Joe's in Brentwood, MO is part of a larger complex with shared and uniform parking in the middle of all of the stores there, the part of that parking lot that's directly adjacent to the Trader Joe's has all of the qualities of a dedicated TJ's lot. I'm not sure what dark magic is involved there.
posted by invitapriore at 2:10 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


I thought it was just my TJ's with the comically under-provisioned parking lot! Mine shares a suburban south bay parking lot with a Starbucks, a handful of restaurants and a game stop and parking for about 80% of the given shoppers there on any given day. I don't know who Joe slept with in city planning to get it approved.
posted by GuyZero at 2:11 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


A little late, but to resoond to Linux I wouldn't be surprised if that Sprouts parking lot was embracing the high walkability of the neighborhood, much like the Trader Joe's before it.

WeHo isn't perfect, but they try their best to encourage non-car based transit - see the high walkscores and free city bus. If we could manage to accelerate connecting to the LA Metro we'd be in an amazing spot.
posted by cidthesquid at 2:12 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


What is the point of that thing?

Oh man, you didn't shop at Banana Republic in the 80's, huh?
posted by GuyZero at 2:12 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


I did almost murder myself coming out of a TJs garage on the bike once. The combination of brake, clutch, parking ticket, and 50 extra lbs of groceries on a 45 degree incline took some... negotiating. Glad no cars were behind me to see the shame.
posted by Wulfhere at 2:13 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh man, you didn't shop at Banana Republic in the 80's, huh?

You know I did, and I actually found that more rewarding reading! There were characters, and places. The anti-content of the Fearless Flyer is what’s so curious about it - it looks like J Peterman or BR content, but it contains even less. It is even less worth reading. How do you accomplish that?!
posted by Miko at 2:15 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


Just adding another data point in support of this notion.

Seattle's Capitol Hill TJ's parking is definitely a death trap. You go up and down this narrow, steep-ass ramp to get into a tiny shoebox where it's already backed up because there's only like 12 spots to begin with and people have their carts in the lane. When you leave you generally almost mow down a pedestrian because the sight lines are non-existent, then you die when you're hit by cross traffic. If you manage to escape, it's a long wait on the light to turn onto Madison.

The one in the U district isn't so bad, though. They must have made a decimal mistake or something.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


The Trader Joes I've been to all have normal parking lots but I too have heard they size their stores so their parking lots are a bit smaller for marketing purposes- the store always seems busy.

I made a comment a few years ago in a post about TJ parking lots, and I kind of wonder if people are referencing that with comments like this. But, Quasirandom is more correct: Trader Joes just moves into buildings that are already built or have already been planned and had their parking approved by whatever jurisdiction has the power to do so, and the store itself has basically no say in how much parking they have or how it's laid out. My theory on the problem is that the spaces they typically occupy are undersized compared to a normal grocery store, but generally contain the same amount of people at any one time, which makes them problematic. Most parking regulations for retail uses are based on a required number of spaces per 1000 square feet of floor area, so a smaller store means less required parking.
posted by LionIndex at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


> I realize I have just read 350 words that did not contain an idea, a recipe, a serving suggestion, any information, any history, or any characters, or any special deals. I have read 350 words’ worth of empty copy that someone was paid to write, doing nothing but padding out the cutesy product name that is supposed to convince me that’s TJ’s is authentic and quirky. It actually makes me angry.

i recall a long time ago reading a novel by like murakami or whoever where one of the characters wrote copy for an in-flight magazine that literally no one ever read, with that character's articles mostly being about what it's like to visit places that she had never visited.

the narrator of the novel was horrified by all of this, but she herself enjoyed her job. she likened the act of writing meaningless articles that no one would ever read to shoveling snow, and said that she greatly enjoyed the act of shoveling cultural snow.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [20 favorites]


The Trader Joe's near me has a nightmarish lot right in front of it, but it's also within a bigger shopping center. I always park in one of the other regular sized spots rather than fight the SNAFU that is the TJ's lot that's 100 feet closer.

Also, I never understood the whole Trader Joe's is cheap thing. I've found their staples to even be rather expensive.

Though they do carry some good beers. Never expected to see some limited releases of Bell's beers out here in North Carolina!
posted by astapasta24 at 2:17 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wait, shoot, I'm thinking of the Sprouts on Santa Monica and LA Cienega that just opened.

Which makes me wonder if it's a corporate decision to mimic the Trader Joe's tiny parking lot strategy.
posted by cidthesquid at 2:18 PM on November 20, 2019


Isn't this also a description of every urban Whole Foods parking lot? Or just the one in Pittsburgh, PA?
posted by muddgirl at 2:19 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


The Asheville TJ's parking lot, if I recall correctly, is designed so once you've gone all the way through it waiting for a space to open and failed, you can't simply circle the lot again, but have to exit it, and circle halfway around the block (3 left turns naturally) to re-enter it. Of course this means all surrounding streets are saturated and also nobody wants to move forward an inch in the parking lot until a space opens.

Interesting thing: Aldi parking lots, while also generally smallish and just as busy, do not have this problem at all.
posted by joeyh at 2:20 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


I've never really noticed anything exceptional about the TJs parking lot near us. It's a small store in a city strip mall so it's going to be crowded but it doesn't seem any different than a CVS parking lot.
posted by octothorpe at 2:23 PM on November 20, 2019


Yes, muddgirl.
posted by Melismata at 2:24 PM on November 20, 2019


it contains even less. It is even less worth reading. How do you accomplish that?!

I think the copy is kind of evocative for suburbanites, but evocative of nothing in particular except some sort of idealized past (viz . the old-timey illustrations) and somewhere where there's snappy banter (about nothing in particular). It's an idealized representation of life for American suburbanites, whose ultimate goal is a sort of existential nothingness of their kitchen and an otherwise literally empty world.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


Fearless Flyer = J Peterman catalog
posted by Cris E at 2:33 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


I recognize the song of my people. It's now that time of year that I meander in a vaguely Hilbert Curve-manner through busy parking aisles, my head held high and my car keys on prominent display. I'm not going to my car, which isn't even here: I'm just meandering in a vaguely Hilbert Curve-manner through busy parking aisles.

My record's having 15 cars following me, before you ask. Thank you.
posted by scruss at 2:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [23 favorites]


I assume its all an homage to the original Trader Joe's in Pasadena, which I used to frequent several decades ago and has the prototype horrible parking lot on display (it's comically small). On the other hand, it was next to one of my favorite restaurants when I was in college, so it was convenient aside from the actual attempts at parking.

We have 2 Trader Joe's near our house now, one has the usual TJ parking lot but the new one has an actual parking structure (because its part of one of those mixed-use retail/apartment things) which is much nicer.
posted by thefoxgod at 2:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


When the TJs opened in North Beach (SF) it was almost always surprisingly easy to find a space. This was, granted, back in the late 2000s. The Whole Foods on Franklin and California, on the other hand, was like a 15-40 minute wait.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2019


Both of my deep-suburban San Fernando Valley TJs are in shopping centers, and both have their own section of tiny hell parking in front of the store and then normal parking lot elsewhere. But neither of them have the microscopic space between rows like the Westchester store near LAX. Jesus Christ you have to do a 4-point back-out to actually free yourself from a spot without hitting at least two other cars.

There's a Trader Joe's in Simi Valley that has normal parking but it shares the lot with a damn Target so there's plenty of other reasons to just scream incoherently the entire time you're trying to park.

My husband is generally willing to take this hit for me, which I appreciate. I only buy like 6 very specific things there, and the place is so cramped and so full of vaguely stunned people probably still recovering from parking lot trauma that it gives me the worst claustrophobia.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:37 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


The original Trader Joe's is in my regular rotation and unsurprisingly has a tiny nightmarish lot. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:38 PM on November 20, 2019


Can we talk about the Fearless Flyer? What is the point of that thing?

So those of us who only go to TJs for Dark Chocolate Covered Candy Cane Joe Joe's know when they come in?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 2:39 PM on November 20, 2019 [10 favorites]


Trader Joes just moves into buildings that are already built or have already been planned and had their parking approved by whatever jurisdiction has the power to do so, and the store itself has basically no say in how much parking they have or how it's laid out.
The Trader Joe's in downtown Boise, Idaho was built about five years ago, has never been anything but a Trader Joe's, and has a terrible parking lot exactly like the one described in this article.
posted by Hatashran at 2:40 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


My theory on the problem is that the spaces they typically occupy are undersized compared to a normal grocery store, but generally contain the same amount of people at any one time, which makes them problematic. Most parking regulations for retail uses are based on a required number of spaces per 1000 square feet of floor area, so a smaller store means less required parking.

Can confirm. Turns out you can fit a lot more grocery store into a lot less space if you're just carrying one brand. Less gross floor area devoted to retail means a smaller vehicle parking requirement.
posted by asperity at 2:41 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


Madness reigns: Werner Herzog* reviews the TJ's on Hyperion.

I don't drive right now, but even if I did, I would avoid the local TJ's parking lot. I have a love-hate relationship with going there at all. Good prices, cheerful staff, but so, so crowded. You cannot browse; you cannot stand in front of two products and consider them; it causes a slow-motion pileup. You have to know what you want and make a surgical strike. And you have to keep your eyes cast downward for the many small, gently raised children who wander around discovering life at their own pace.
____
* actually Paul F. Tompkins, originally on Andy Daly's Podcast Pilot Project
posted by Countess Elena at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2019 [14 favorites]


Part of the appeal of Trader Joe's is the low prices. One reason they can consistently have lower prices than other stores is they don't spend a fortune buying and paving tons of excess land for easier vehicle storage. This estimate from the Canadian Parking Association is $15,000 for the construction of a surface parking stall; including financing and maintenance, that's $1350 per year. Per stall. Just a stall on the ground; if it was in a garage, the cost would be $3275 above ground and $4450 below ground.

This is a good interview with parking guru Donald Shoup about TJ's parking. Basically, they have to abide by local regulations for minimum amounts of parking. These regulations are usually based on the square footage of the store and are often remarkably arbitrary; the exact same restaurant would be required to have 8 stalls in Miami, 13 in Orlando, 23 in Tampa and 29 in Jacksonville, for example. Trader Joe's generally seems to choose to build the minimum amount of parking required. The second factor is that Trader Joe's has remarkably high sales per square foot - twice as high as Whole Foods, even though they generally sell stuff cheaper. That means they have more customers than a typical grocery store of similar square footage, which is what the parking minimums are based on.

Trader Joe's doesn't have comically small lots, other stores have comically large lots; except that we live in a time where our cities are rapidly becoming unaffordable to live in and our planet is being destroyed by our carbon emissions, so maybe it's the opposite of comic, if there was a word for that.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2019 [31 favorites]


Hatashran: Right, but it was already planned before TJs moved in, and TJs had nothing to do with the design of anything having to do with the building outside the layer of gypsum board on its interior walls.
posted by LionIndex at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


There's a new one in Alston, Ma that has an underground lot, so basically everything above IN A CAVE.
posted by sammyo at 2:54 PM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


I spent years wishing and hoping for a TJ to open a store near me and was so excited last year to hear that they would finally do so! When I found out where it would be, my first thought was "Ugh, it's in that the place with the nightmare parking lot!" I now understand that they purposefully chose that location because of the Machiavellian parking lot.
posted by Plafield at 3:00 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


The one exception is the Trader Joe's in Culver City, which is attached to mega downtown public parking structure that also serves the movie theater, stores, and restaurants.

There's actually a handful of TJs in the LA/SoCal area without malevolently terrible parking lots, and the thing they have in common is that they're part of or adjacent to other retail centers. So being hosted in the same plaza as REI and Old Navy and B&N off of Rosecrans in Manhattan Beach means it can take advantage of an entire lot. Same with the TJs in the Westfield Culver City lot.

I suspect this will be an increasingly tenable strategy as Brick & Mortar retail is generally struggling.

But the best TJs setup I ever had was living a 3 minute walk from one, which made the parking irrelevant. And it made me wonder if maybe the right thing is more small/minimal-parking markets spread throughout urban/suburban areas, not less.
posted by wildblueyonder at 3:01 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm closer to the one in Lakeview now. That also has a weird parking lot, with odd, diagonal shapes.

And a hidden median. A! Hidden! Median! TJs parking lot and a pothole somewhere in Garfield Park cost us $4000. That's a lot of ice cream sandwiches.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 3:10 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is this something you'd need to own a car to appreciate?
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Ironically the city where TJ's was founded has the original location with the single worst parking lot in the whole chain. It also has at least 2 other locations that have much better parking lots. Both of those because they're are part of existing retail locations.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2019


The TJs in Brooklyn, on Atlantic and Court, has no parking whatsoever, but does feature a checkout line that goes twice around the building, and has specialist flag-waving crowd control. It’s terrifying.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 3:29 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


I walk or take transit 98% of the time and I will smug about that all day, every day when I see these laments.

but honestly, the traffic inside that Trader Joe's is a heck of a hell, too. Like a Costco at 2:5 scale. Is that normal?

(Yesterday: a smiling woman, leading her cheery twin daughters, each with a mini-cart and I, not even a twin, had to admit to myself that if ever a set of children deserve to inconvenience the rest of us for their own individuation, it is this pair of seven-or-eight-year-old identical twin girls at a Trader Joe's, but - still. whyyy. I don't want this to be the day I break a femur. or a mini-cart.)
posted by Tess of the d'Urkelvilles at 3:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


There is entirely too much parking in the world. Seems like a good thing, IMO. Even better if they didn’t have any parking at all.
posted by Automocar at 3:48 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


my favorite are the trader joe's where there's so many people getting processed through them that the entire store becomes one gigantic line wending its way through every aisle.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:50 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


The parking lot of TJ's on Masonic and Hyde in San Francisco is everything this. Traffic would back up onto the actual street of masonic as people waited to turn into the lot which then just added to traffic density on the street itself. They eventually had a full time parking attendant to mediate some of the disputes but sure as hell didn't solve the traffic problem.

I think Karaage means the individual TJ's on Masonic and on Hyde. There is no intersection of Masonic and Hyde.

I've been to the SF Masonic TJs one time only. I was driving an out of town friend around and I was kind of out of town myself, living in Oakland. We drove up and turned left into the lot following the GPS, wondering too late why there was a guy jumping around in the lot shaking his fist at us, not realizing there was a giant line of cars coming the other way, waiting to turn RIGHT into the lot when he let them in one-by-one. I'd never seen a TJs with that system before, and by the time we worked out what we had done, we were laughing at how dumb we were and committed to being assholes of the year, parked at the back and ran into TJs. I kind of expected my car to be towed and crushed into a small cube while we were in the store but it was OK. Can't go there again.
posted by w0mbat at 3:52 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


The only TJs I've been to in recent memory are Spokane WA, West Hartford CT, and Millbrae CA. Nothing memorable about parking at the first two and didn't use a car for the third. Maybe if I had to visit these places every day instead of as a visitor I'd notice something off about them...
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:53 PM on November 20, 2019


The Trader Joe's that I went to when I lived in Charlotte, NC had a particularly egregious parking lot - almost all the spaces were labeled "C" which I guess means for a "compact" car, but in that part of Charlotte almost nobody drove a compact car, and you'd see Suburbans and Escalades crammed in inches apart from each other, or occasionally parked across two spaces.

Perhaps it was not the Trader Joe's parking lot, but rather that part of Charlotte, that was particularly egregious.
posted by escabeche at 3:56 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


TJ's are only crowded when you, yes you in particular, want to go.
posted by muddgirl at 3:59 PM on November 20, 2019 [8 favorites]


The secret to going shopping at TJ's and not dealing with the crowd that induces rage - 9-10am on a Saturday or Sunday
posted by drewbage1847 at 4:07 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Is this something you'd need to own a car to appreciate?

Well, I’m not sure “appreciate” is the right word there.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:09 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


It may be a nightmare in the TJ parking lot, but it's gettin' REAL in the Whole Foods parking lot.
posted by mikeand1 at 4:10 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


Do people buy more (and more expensive?) food when they're stressed?
posted by clawsoon at 4:11 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


Is this something you'd need to own a car to appreciate?

Alas, no. The TJs that I walk to (~1.5mi) has a deathtrap parking lot that I believe has been specifically designed to kill pedestrians. Just try crossing any lane in prime shopping time -- you'll almost certainly be killed or maimed by an errant SUV.
posted by aramaic at 4:12 PM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


scruss: It's now that time of year that I meander in a vaguely Hilbert Curve-manner through busy parking aisles

Hilbert curve... hmm... that rings a bell... oh yeaaaaah, that's the one that approaches infinite length while remaining in a fixed area. Well played, parking lot demon.
posted by clawsoon at 4:23 PM on November 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


Is this the sequel to the Infinite IKEA SCP?
posted by Freeze Peach at 4:26 PM on November 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


It may be a nightmare in the TJ parking lot, but it's gettin' REAL in the Whole Foods parking lot.

Came here to see if someone had posted this yet, was not disappointed!
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:29 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was just atTJs in Portland, Maine today (waves at selfnoise) and the spaces are skinny. As I walked to my car, I watched a customer randomly leave their cart behind a car, then watched the cart roll into another car. I glared, and took both carts to a corral.

Wasn't there just a parking post? The best parking space is against the fence, not too close. I need the exercise. Until it's really cold; at 10F or below, I need to be inside.
posted by theora55 at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Isn't this also a description of every urban Whole Foods parking lot? Or just the one in Pittsburgh, PA?

The Pittsburgh Whole Foods parking lot makes the TJs parking lot a quarter mile away look like a Zen garden. (Actually the TJs is totally fine. It's in a preexisting shopping center and while the building it's in was renovated just to house a TJs, there's plenty of other parking if you can walk an extra 30 yards.)

We do most of our shopping at TJs because it's small, the parking lot is smallish, I can just get in, get what I need and get out swiftly. I hate it when I have to go into a regular grocery warehouse/airplane hangar because it takes five minutes just to hike from my car into the store and all the way back to the dairy aisle to grab my single pint of coffee cream or whatever.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Forget about the parking lot, I want to live in this mythical world where "Trader Joe's" and "cheap" belong in the same sentence!
posted by madajb at 4:51 PM on November 20, 2019


The TJ's in Madison WI also has this parking lot, underground. Hate it dearly, buuuuuuuuut... for extra added fun, the bike parking is also awful -- there's just barely enough of it, at least, but it's sandwiched between brick walls in a way that makes it amazingly hard to get a bike with loaded panniers out.

Equal-opportunity parking crappiness, I guess?
posted by humbug at 4:55 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


People laugh at me and my tiny Fiat until it comes time to park.

My superpower is being little.
posted by sonascope at 5:32 PM on November 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


The number of spots isn't the problem, it's that they're all so skinny. I'm positive every TJs parker has scuffs of someone else's paint on their side-view mirror.
posted by bendy at 6:01 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I love going to TJ's, the Bakersfield shop has at least 50 parking spaces, with blooming plants and trees in the medians. The little red carts look awful planted on the orchid-like flowers, but not my doing. It is pleasant and crowded, and I make a point of enjoying my visit, and talking with other old or young loners out shopping, especially way old ladies, they are nice. The staff is nice, the flowers are wonderful, the apples expensive, the cheeses abundant, try the Organic (white) Goat Gouda, yum. I love their organic baguette, their seasonal ginger brew, yup, I like it all. Their tartar sauce is amazing, yet I cannot afford to belove another source of fat. The parking is OK, and Bako drivers, in fact, So Cal drivers are a fearless and fast bunch. If I can get out of my car, then anyone can. Not a hell, with free mini coffees! The lost old hippies, I love seeing them, after 50 years in Utah. Hey Boomer!
posted by Oyéah at 6:16 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Cambridge, MA one has a decent parking lot, but maybe because it shares it with a Micro Center, which is kind of like a Trader Joe's for computer nerds.
posted by adamg at 6:17 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Seattle's Capitol Hill TJ's parking is definitely a death trap. You go up and down this narrow, steep-ass ramp to get into a tiny shoebox where it's already backed up because there's only like 12 spots to begin with and people have their carts in the lane. When you leave you generally almost mow down a pedestrian because the sight lines are non-existent, then you die when you're hit by cross traffic. If you manage to escape, it's a long wait on the light to turn onto Madison.

An old friend of mine once had a weekday lunchtime tryst with a Craigslist rando in the backseat of her car in that parking lot. Same friend also once got 86'd from a dive bar on Halloween for committing lewd acts while dressed as a nun, but that's an entirely different story.
posted by palomar at 6:20 PM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Read Flannery Culp’s comment way at the top here, says to myself “sounds like the store on Randolph”, checked the profile and sure enough it’s St Paul.

But the two-level parking there is still better than the atrociously tiny lot on the store by Bde Maka Ska.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:53 PM on November 20, 2019


People laugh at me and my tiny Fiat until it comes time to park.

My superpower is being little.


My husband and I decided, minutes after we moved to LA, that one of our next cars would be another big Prius or similar for going camping and to the hardware store and taking the dogs to the vet, and the other would be whatever the smallest car on the market is at the time, for going everywhere else, so we can park.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:08 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Cambridge, MA one

It’s Cambridge, so of course there are two!

Maybe it’s because Im a smug Prius driver, but I don’t find TJ’s parking lots specially problematical, not even the Allston underground one — there are much worse parking lots in Boston (I recall one in Chinatown where I drove into a space with pillars situated so that the car doors couldn’t open).

As people have noted above, many of their stores are in existing malls and share parking with the other businesses, for good or ill. The Foxborough store has massive amounts of parking both because it’s a big mall, and because it’s next to Gillette Stadium and they use some of the lot for game parking. Finding the right way in to get to TJ’s without getting funneled into game parking pay lines the first time I had the misfortune to go there on a game day was confusing. Plus because of stadium rules it’s the only TJ’s where I have ever been carded when buying alcohol.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:11 PM on November 20, 2019


Thirding the Portland Maine lot. The TJs there took the place of a "Wild Oats" store in the mid-2000s (they got bought out by Whole Foods, I think) so I wonder if TJs restriped the lot or reconfigured it. I rarely go there -- there are bigger, better grocery stores within a quarter mile radius -- but when I do, I inevitably get those candied almonds coated in coconut flakes. Difficult to stop eating those....

Anyway, I came here to repeat what someone else said in a local rag many years ago about amusing themselves in Portland: "Doing the Trader Joes 500" (like the Indy 500)
posted by Jubal Kessler at 8:57 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's not the parking spaces themselves that are the problem at my TJ's (they're bigger than the spaces at the local BART station, though that's not saying much). The big problem is that there aren't enough parking spaces (it doesn't help that it shares the lot with a Pet Food Express). May your deity help you if you need to go there on a Sunday or a Monday.
posted by gtrwolf at 9:43 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


You arrive at the exit and see that there are signs indicating that neither a left or right turn is permitted.

The writer clearly is referring to the Ballard, Seattle TJ where I now only park on the street.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:49 PM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


It may be a nightmare in the TJ parking lot, but it's gettin' REAL in the Whole Foods parking lot.

I love that reel and I hope it gets shared a lot.
It's quite a find, homey, it's on my mind, homey.
And when it comes up I feel it's like you people know me.
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


"new Amazon/HBO/Sony/Apple employees [in culver city]"

And the big new office buildings for HBO and Amazon haven't even opened yet!

I'm actually bummed my office is moving out of the area before whatever else in those complexes is there as lunch options, though
posted by flaterik at 1:48 AM on November 21, 2019


Everything the Trader Joe's parking lot knows it learned from The Wedge parking lot in Minneapolis, where parking is a vicious blood sport where only the strong and nimble survive and none escape unscathed. If you've been there, YOU KNOW.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:19 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Trader Joe's that I went to when I lived in Charlotte, NC had a particularly egregious parking lot - almost all the spaces were labeled "C" which I guess means for a "compact" car, but in that part of Charlotte almost nobody drove a compact car, and you'd see Suburbans and Escalades crammed in inches apart from each other, or occasionally parked across two spaces.
...
Perhaps it was not the Trader Joe's parking lot, but rather that part of Charlotte, that was particularly egregious.


Well. I suppose I can't dispute that, and it was never any fun manipulating my Civic through the forest of SUVs even in normal parking lots, but it takes a certain amount of perversity to look at that landscape and choose to make a parking lot full of "C" spaces when you know almost nobody will be able to fit in them, just so you can wedge the required number of spaces into your tiny parking lot.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:49 AM on November 21, 2019


I'm never so happy to be a lame suburbanite as I am when I read stuff like this. My TJ's has adequate parking, while my Whole Foods has a huge lot. They both get busy at times and sometimes I have to park far-ish away, but I've never had to "circle" and I can use the exercise anyway.

Truth be told, I don't really much care for Trader Joe's. I always get confused at the checkout, if it's busy I can't figure out where I'm supposed to stand and where my cart is supposed to go and it makes me anxious and irritable. Anyway, the only thing I really ever go there for is the Triple Ginger Snaps, which my doctor informs me are not really supposed to be eaten by the half-barrelful on the way home in the car, so what is even the point?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:20 AM on November 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


I feel like 80% of the Trader Joe’s parking lot problems at my location (St Louis Park, MN) are due to there being a single entrance/exit. Once you make that decision to enter the circular parking lot route of doom, you must see that horrible decision through to the end, no matter how long that takes or how many slow-motion crashes you witness.

It’s been a decade since I last parked at the Wedge, but I remember being able to escape out the alley around some sketchy posts with random chains if you needed to abandon the lot due to Lyndale Ave carnage. Though I have gotten stuck by giant cars in the tiny lot south of the building because there was no escape route...
posted by Maarika at 7:00 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


If eating Triple Ginger Snaps by the barrel is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Our local TJs here in Lincoln is in a strip mall-ish area that was redeveloped soon after the grocery went in. Now it's next to an enormous Scheels (sporting goods) store that also has things like a giant aquarium, Ferris wheel, weird statues of various presidents and also people doing sports, an animatronic or two, and a baby bowling alley. Needless to say, that parking lot is constantly a flaming dumpster fire.
posted by PussKillian at 7:12 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Asheville TJ's parking lot, if I recall correctly, is designed so once you've gone all the way through it waiting for a space to open and failed, you can't simply circle the lot again, but have to exit it, and circle halfway around the block (3 left turns naturally) to re-enter it. Of course this means all surrounding streets are saturated and also nobody wants to move forward an inch in the parking lot until a space opens.

What? No! You make a right turn into the Whole Foods overflow lot, and then you walk (or cut your losses and just shop at Whole Foods, formerly Greenlife, RIP). Another awesome thing about the Asheville store is that it's in the middle of a row: Harris-Teeter, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods. All within walking distance of each other. So you get your Step 4 free-range skirt steak at Whole Foods, pop in to TJ's and get Gerolsteiner for $1.50, cheapest anywhere in town, and finish your trip at Harris-Teeter, the sweet spot where produce is both appealing and inexpensive. It rules. I feel so lucky to live within driving distance of such a site.
posted by witchen at 9:28 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I google mapped all the TJ's locations in the Phoenix Metro, and apparently there are 10?!

Well, I've only been to the 4 in the Eastern Cities, and the parking at all of them is a nightmare. The thing is, they all would be OK on their own, as Arizona is notorious for an overabundance of parking. But having a Trader Joe's in your complex is a prestige thing, and it means that before long the other retail spaces are filled with stores that also inspire SUV-armored soccer moms to take day trips, like Sprouts grocery, Changing Hands Bookstore, an organic bread store and restaurant, A DANCE ACADEMY, and so forth.

Thankfully, my household doesn't buy much at TJ's that isn't shelf or freezer stable, so we can limit our interactions with the parking lots from hell to a couple times a year. Not so thankfully, it's holiday time, which means I'm facing down another trip shortly, and this time with a toddler in tow.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2019


I chose the TJ's I go to because it shares parking with a big box type strip mall, and thus the spaces are normal sized with sufficient maneuvering space.
posted by tavella at 9:54 AM on November 21, 2019


My goodness but this is a timely post. Our favored TJ’s is in Hillsboro (OR) and Honey Bunny has a handicapped placard, so we always feel lucky to score one of the coveted handicapped parking places (there are only 3), and the rest of TJ’s lot is shared with a score of stores comprising a strip mall. When we went to park there this week, a woman pulled up right behind us and gave us death glares as we apparently “stole” what she had considered to be “her spot.” Honey Bunny has difficulty walking, thanks to childhood polio that has returned as post-polio syndrome, on top of his diabetic neuropathy, so I usually do the running into stores to pick up our goods, even though I still am recovering from hip replacement surgery. The woman in question accosted Honey Bunny in our car while I was in the store, and then, came into TJ’s, found me in the checkout line, and chewed me out for being able to walk well enough to shop at TJ’s while Honey Bunny stayed in the car, parked in a handicapped spot. I was so taken aback that I was rendered speechless. Yep, shit gets real in the TJ’s parking lot. And now to read that they plan them that way on purpose!?!?!?!?
posted by Lynsey at 12:22 PM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I just thought this was a Denver thing where Trader Joe's looked at our tradition of poor parking and uttered the prophetic "Hold my beer."
posted by evilDoug at 12:40 PM on November 21, 2019


the Trader Joe's in Culver City

This location also has its issues these days, but at least the store itself is adequately sized. You know the Wells Fargo at Washington/Clarington? Yeah, that postage stamp used to be the Culver City Trader Joe's. The building was originally a bank, and to bankhood it has rightfully returned.

I have been to one TJ's that had both an adequate parking lot, and easily maneuverable aisles. It was somewhere in Texas, of course. I want to say a suburb of Houston?
posted by desert outpost at 1:06 PM on November 21, 2019


The TJs parking lot in Westfield, NJ is so tiny that if you have to circle the lot to find a space, you have to go out into the street and then back into the lot. If it's delivery day, you are sunk. But it has a big municipal lot directly adjacent and it is worth the quarter to park there to not have to worry about a tiny space becoming available or backing into one of the many cars circling the lot.
posted by ceejaytee at 2:01 PM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I see the infamous St Louis Park MN location has been brought up and that one is indeed a fiendish trap designed to break hearts and induce madness. But cross town to the Randolph Ave location in St Paul and there's another Hellmouth. This one does have underground parking with slots barely large enough to fit a decent-size sedan. And yet fools will drive in with SUVs and full-size pickups. There is only one real entrance and you have to go off of Randolph to get in it, which is another huge headache. It's been a while since I've been there (we left the Cities in 2010) but I am certain polite fistfights have been waged in that lot.
posted by Ber at 2:03 PM on November 21, 2019


oh god this is so real to life. I don't even go to Trader Joe's, I regularly go to a Starbucks that is 3 stores down from the Trader Joe's and I have to put up with the parking problems spill over from it.

my favorite Trader Joe's is actually one that is in DC and on a busy street, it's great to just pop in there while I'm walking around the area, buy one of their delicious snacks, and get on with my evening.

It only has street parking.
posted by numaner at 4:59 PM on November 21, 2019


I thought the writer was talking about my Trader Joe's, also! OMG, it's a coast-to-coast TJ parking lot rage machine. It makes me want to laugh & cry at the same time. My TJ has death pillars next to the parking space stripes so they are "protected" by metal boxes to ensure you scrape the side of your car, either on the way in or out (why not both?)

I thought this thread would turn into a recitation of everyone's favorite TJ staples. Mine is the pitted, extra-large Kalamata olives. And my guilty (seasonal) pleasure is the Almond Kringle.

Hey Everybody: After negotiating that parking lot, don't forget to pick up a Mystery Pack for fun.

Just yesterday someone gifted me with one of these Mystery Packs, which are a multi-pack of 3 reusable TJ shopping bags, from OTHER REGIONS of the country. I live in California, and received Atlanta, New Jersey, and Indiana. So much fun!
posted by honey badger at 8:10 PM on November 21, 2019


My only issue with our Trader Joe's is just that I get a half-broken sense of deja-vu in there sometimes. Thirty years ago that same building was a paint store in a run-down neighborhood and I was a struggling painting contractor who was there fairly often. So occasionally when I'm in the same spot inside the store, I'll get flashes of my much younger and skinnier self in work-whites standing at the counter waiting for them to mix cans of paint for me. I'm now a fat software engineer and the neighborhood is full of coffee shops and trendy restaurants, a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Life is a weird journey sometimes.
posted by octothorpe at 8:21 PM on November 21, 2019 [9 favorites]


...it's a coast-to-coast TJ parking lot rage machine.

Nono, it's "parking calming."


I get a half-broken sense of deja-vu in there sometimes.

I used to shop at an early example of a warehouse food store. Later, the building was used by a high-tech startup, and I got a job in their machine shop, which was in what used to be the meat locker, complete with those big stainless sinks with the suspended shower-faucets. Still later, the space was a RMV (DMV) office. Getting my license renewed there always felt weird. IDK what's in there now, since they moved the RMV.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:59 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


Accurate for Nashville too.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:39 PM on November 22, 2019


Flannery Culp, I immediately recognized your description of the St Paul TJs! It is also a great example that St Paul planning/zoning staff must never drive through any intersection prior to approving new high traffic retail or apartments. It certainly doesn't consider the impact of the development on the neighborhoods. See the Selby/Snelling intersection with the new Whole Foods + apartments & now the O'Gara's development across the street with a (not O'Gara's) restaurant + apartments. Whole Foods does have a parking lot. Traffic is a nightmare. Plus the drive thru Starbucks, aka #carbucks, a block north that requires a cop to manage morning traffic. Also the new soccer stadium is about 6 blocks away; it has only 400 parking spots so every neighborhood for several miles around is parked up on game day. I work in that neighborhood. It's crazy traffic.

Then there is the Maple Grove shopping district that seems designed to be a nightmare of narrow streets in one of those fake downtown shopping malls (with street parking) that is surrounded by big box stores, including a parking lot that is shared by a TJs, Whole Foods, Kirkland, & World Market and some other stores. Definitely not worth it on a Saturday or really any day.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:55 AM on November 23, 2019


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