Bad news for us Trader Joe’s loving introverts. In the August 14th episode of the popular grocer’s podcast, Trader Joe’s CEO Bryan Palbaum and President Jon Basalone sat down to discuss their roles, the store, and, perhaps most importantly, their fierce stance against self-checkout lanes.
In a quickfire round of True or False, both men answered questions about the popular store, with a seemingly shared and fervent hatred of self-checkout stands. Upon being asked, “True or false, coming soon, self-checkout,” Palbaum replied, “Oh, that’s a false. That’s a double false.”
Basalone chimed in with, “That’s as false as false can be. Because we believe in people and we’re not trying to get rid of our crew members for efficiency’s sake, I don’t know what the reasons are people put self-checkout in.”
Well, Basalone, we know the reasons. Apart from being cost-effective and convenient for the stores that use them, self-checkout stands also make for a much more peaceful experience for the more introverted among us. Those who would like to buy their cookie butter without the total exhaustion and social battery drainage that comes from needless chit-chat with an overly peppy stranger.
Look, we get it. There is something charming about the seemingly wholesome and old-fashioned hold on tradition, and there’s no doubt TJ’s intentions are pure. On paper, the idea of keeping the shopping experience personal is lovely in all the right ways — and we absolutely support stores ensuring there are jobs for people. But what’s not being said is that refusing to evolve in this way is actually pretty dismissive of Trader Joe’s’ more introverted customers. Sure, the human connection with a friendly clerk in an age when screens have taken over the world can be warm and welcoming, a touch of fresh air. But this just isn’t the case for everyone.
We know, we know. Most people are tired of hearing the more introverted among us explain this part of ourselves. We understand that the announcement of this perceived character flaw is on par with announcing one’s veganism or stance on inflation, inviting eye rolls all around the room. But we’re just trying to explain ourselves in a world of people who refuse to see our anxieties as anything but snobbery.
For many (this writer included), the forced socialization that comes with this sort of shopping experience is tremendously draining and uncomfortable. Only in the last few years have introverts even been considered in this realm, and damn, it’s been nice. But those companies (and schools and workplaces, etc.) who have refused to cater to the more socially anxious have lost out on more business than they realize. Surely there’s space for both crew member-assisted checkout lanes that keep workers working and self-checkout lanes for the introverts (or just people who want to quickly grab their chips and hummus and go).
So while Trader Joe’s’ refusal to adopt self-checkout stands in its stores will undoubtedly be mostly seen as commendable, we’ve got to say — that’s a false. A double false. It’s as false as false can be.
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