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Why the Guys Who Work at Trader Joe's Should Train Men in the Art of Dating

My personal story of why the best dates I've ever had happen at Trader Joe's.

I have been saying for years, forget the Trader Joe's cookbook, what they really need to come out with is a How to Treat a Woman book.

The men who work at Studio City Trader Joe's are like superheroes in the area of charm. And, like any heroes, they need to protect their identities. Superman had to hide himself beneath the black-rimmed glasses of his alter ego news reporter Clark Kent ... .

Well, ladies (and gentleman, please, listen gentlemen!), my Superman hides his identity under a Hawaiian shirt while bagging gluten-free groceries. DING-DING-DING! ... Remember the saying, "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings"?

Well, next time you're marketing at Trader Joe's and hear that loud ringing of the bell notifying a Trader Joe's guy that attention needs to be paid up front ... don't question it, and for godssake, don't complain. It's a signal ... some special lady is just about to get the attention and time and eye contact she so deserves. 

OK, it's true, I'm a single mom with a full-time floundering writing career, so balancing my daughter's school work, piano lessons, playdates, feeding HER lizard, our cat, our dog and  being able to draw a Tim Burton character from Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas or Edward Scissorhands at a moment's notice, while squeezing in my ever-changing, sometimes abundant, sometimes failing, always willing to show up and say yes to anything career as a Hollywood writer ... ah, hell, what I'm trying to say is, "Mama don't get out much."

And that's when I began to notice ... my weekly trips to Trader Joe's were bringing me home with something more than a sugarless, wheat-free apple pie. No, it wasn't what was in the bags that was putting a smile on this single mom, woman in her sexual prime, dateless face ... it was the boys bagging the pie that made my heart skip.

And it got me thinking, "What is it about those granola-selling studs that has me all perky and flushed in the face when I exit the sliding doors with my eco-friendly bags of goodness?"  What wasn't it about?!

The minute you enter Trader Joe's, you feel the WHOOSH of clear eyes and sparkling smiles looking up from their registers and taking you in. In the beginning, I often went in my paint-splattered sweats and torn T-shirts, but soon I began to break out the good stuff: clean sweats and a hole-less T, sometimes bra-less (not recommended for C cups or higher), and a dab of lip gloss.  After all, it's a health food market: less is so much more.

Next, strolling, strolling up and down the aisles, one after another, and always, ALWAYS there one is, sometimes crouched down stocking the coffee, sometimes on a ladder hanging a sign, and sometimes in the wine sections stocking up the Chuck for a buck wine ... They see you, they notice you, and they speak to you: "Are you finding everything OK, miss?" MISS. Not, Ma'am or Mrs. or lady, but the symbol of neverending youth ... Miss. And you can be walking with a cane or pushing a stroller and still ... Miss. Miss. Miss. "Oh, yes, thank you."

And they smile, nod, then, "Well, let me know if you need anything." Oh, god, you have no idea what I need, babe. Starting with those smooth, tan arms holding a case of sparkling water ... I'd like you to pour that water all over my body and ... sorry, I digress.

Now everyone has their favorite point in a date. Sometimes it's the food, sometimes a joke, sometimes a kiss ... For me, it's all about the check-out. After all, it's all about you and him in that moment. Total one-on-one time. And they make every scan count.

Taking out your items and sliding them across the counter, they already know so much about you; "Oh, this meatless chicken pot pie is really good, Miss." Scan. they see you have a cat, a dog, a child, scan, scan, scan, and through it all they look up at you, right in the eye, and with all the care and kindness in the world they ask, "How's your day been?"

I have been on dates at the Four Seasons and not been asked those simple four words! My Trader Joe's Superhero doesn't just ask; he really wants to know. How do I know this? I've tested it out. One time I said, "Fine." And he nodded, then added, "Why just fine?"... Another time I answered, "Kinda crappy." And he nodded. "Sorry, you deserve much more than crappy." And then the ultimate, once I couldn't answer, because tears welled up in my eyes.

My dog had just died that day.  He had been killed by another dog at a park. I hadn't been outside the house once that day, but when I realized I needed some food for my daughter's school lunch, I walked up the street to Trader Joe's.  Still wearing the sneakers I had been in on that fateful hike, spots of dry blood on them, I entered Trader Joe's. 

I don't remember much about much that day, but there I was, at my check-out, my moment, and this young, beautiful man with the biggest brown eyes I have ever seen asked the question, "How's your day been?"

 And he was staring into my eyes, and I couldn't respond.  Couldn't speak. He saw my tears and stopped scanning.  He didn't say a word, just kept looking into my eyes with such concern and care.

Finally, I  just looked away and nodded, "It's been a hard day." He kept looking at me, until we both could feel the people in line growing impatient.  He finished scanning my items and put them in my bag. 

"You have a daughter, right?" he asked.  I nodded. He smiled, and tore off a sheet of Trader Joe's stickers and placed them in the bag. I had only the one bag, barely containing anything, and still he said, "Hey, do you need a hand with that?" He knew, and I knew, that I absolutely didn't need a hand with this one light bag, and yet, for the first time ever, I said, "Yeah... yeah, I think I do. Thank you."

All those times I had boxes of water and plants and food and my daughter in my arms and my dog on the leash out front and sick with the flu and more bags, never had I accepted the offer of help to my car.

And yet here, this time, this day, this one single bag I knew I didn't have the strenght to carry myself. And out we walked to my car with him gently placing my one bag in the backseat. He looked at me,  "The day's going to get better. It will get better."

And as our date ended and I watched my Superhero turn around and walk back inside Trader Joe's ... off to help another woman in need ....  from outside, I could hear the bell ring.

Susan McMartin September 17, 2010 at 12:11 AM
wow, thanks, cherie! how wonderful is that?!
Luke September 19, 2010 at 03:57 PM
love this perspective - funny confessional we can all relate to, and a really touching ending. thanks : ) as a guy, it makes me wonder if there's the potential for the male half of this story ... maybe an expose on single guys who hang around joe's parking lots wearing hawaiian shirts hoping to swoop in on swooning single ladies as they exit joe's? looking forward to your next patch.
Mike Szymanski September 19, 2010 at 04:06 PM
Wait 'til you see what the STUDIO CITY MOM has in store for Monday... don't read it while drinking your latte unless you want stuff coming out of your nose...
Angela September 21, 2010 at 04:57 PM
Susan-- Another great article! So funny and touching....I love my TJ guys too. So looking forward to reading more!
Jared Rodericks September 25, 2010 at 11:46 PM
Hey Susan, as a guy working for TJ's I would like to say thank you for your kind words :) I am happy that you are able to appreciate our business and general concern for the well being of our customers, you (the customers) are the best part of working for TJ's. It warms my heart whenever I read or overhear something like this, helps me know we really do make a difference in peoples lives. Unfortunately it takes some people getting to that point to realize how much we really do care. I myself frequently get the same caring experience when I shop at TJ's myself, even though I work there. My friends and coworkers are always genuinely interested in how I am doing, and make sure I am being taken care of. I can not ever imagine working any place else, I am a lifer as we call it. I will surely share this with my store as it will brighten everyone's day.
Susan McMartin September 26, 2010 at 04:11 PM
Aww, Jared, thank you for your sweet and thoughtful comment (again, another reflection of the kind of men that work at TJ's). I'm so glad my story has hit a chord with so many!
pascal behr September 27, 2010 at 09:30 PM
Yes, I too have noticed the very appreciative Trader Joe's guys. There is one employee there - he has long, dark, curly, wavy hair worn in a pony tail. In addition, he is tall, lean and smart w/ a fabulous sense of humor. One day I made a comment about hair unguents that had a "regional tinge." He was working but also listening to my conversation and gave me the most meaningful look imaginable. We both just cracked up and couldn't stop. It was wonderful and now he is my favorite Trader Joe's guy. I just don't know his name but when I do I will mention it. He is cute too - just in case you were wondering. Pascal
Mark Evans September 29, 2010 at 05:25 AM
I too have to agree with you Susan on this one. I have been in stores where women have had hysterical outbursts either in line or at the actual counter and as a frequent shopper I can tell you how annoying it is. This man deserves a medal for getting you out of the store as fast as possible and leaving you at your car. I have a feeling they were ringing the bells in joy upon his return. That guy should have a tip jar next to his stand for that good deed. My props to the guys at trader's joes. Three cheers. Hip, Hip, Horrah
Susan McMartin September 29, 2010 at 02:21 PM
mark, i'm so happy you left a comment here because i now realize it's not my articles you have opinions about... it's just me. phew! and for a moment there i thought i needed to maybe consider your views as having some validity. thanks!
Mark Evans September 29, 2010 at 06:02 PM
No, actually I have a problem with poorly written articles from a woman who needs to keep reminding us that she is divorced while pointing out how she would like to have sex with trader joe's employees and gas station attendents all the while leaving her daughter in the car as she ran into her house to steal her child's money. I applaud you on your over use of the comma and your ablilty to string together descriptive phrases in a clear attempt to succumb to your A.D.D. Or perhaps you are just paid by the pixel. I enjoy reading your articles as much I love to watch jersey shore because of how much better it makes my life look. My points of views on the topics which you choose to discuss are no more/no less valid then your friends that post here trying to boost your ego. And on the issue of my comment, I AGREE with you. I like the guys at trader's joes. I admit, not as much as you do but again, I AGREE with you. I even said they should have tip jars, what more do you want me to do?
pascal behr September 29, 2010 at 10:24 PM
Pascal Behr I agree w/ Franck about the casual clothing creating a more relaxed congenial atmosphere . It really does work and people do look so much better and more receptive to each other. Trader Joe's and cute clothes w/ cute boys and it's all good. Thanks!
pascal behr September 29, 2010 at 10:28 PM
Pascal Behr: I feel fine and agree w/ Franck's assessment about jeans and T-shirts creating a relaxed atmosphere for a flirtatious exchange w/ guys at Trader Joe's. That's how I feel - didn't that come through the first time or am I not responding correctly? Thanks!
Yvette Kaplan June 09, 2011 at 08:45 AM
I'm an impartial reader here and this seems way out of line to me. It's one thing to disagree with an article but to use the comment board-- which is a courtesy, a gift, actually-- to personally attack a writer is just not cool. Some sites only post comments after they are moderated and approved. This site clearly doesn't, but maybe it's not a bad idea.
Iron Lady March 04, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Susan, the highlight of my day, heck the year, was when I got carded when buying a 6-pack!!
Miki Henderson March 05, 2013 at 08:20 PM
I just want to say that I never read this column and I am so glad that you are bringing back some of the oldies because I can't figure out how to read anything on this Patch unless it's right there for me to click on, but what a delight, I think the guys are trained to flirt with great grand moms like me, too. Or maybe it's just me
Louise Cannon October 16, 2013 at 08:58 AM
You walked to TJs but the guy carried your bag out to your car and put it in the back seat? Did he carry it all the way back to your house? You had me up to that point but now I have to wonder how much of the rest of the story is embellished. And yes, all the employees at TJs treat the customers really well. That's what employees at customer driven businesses do.
Katie Ryan O'Connor October 16, 2013 at 01:19 PM
Somewhat on topic, I recently learned from my Trader Joe's that they hide a stuffed monkey somewhere in the store and if your kid finds it, they get a prize. Mine are desperate to catch the monkey! Very cute.
Susan McMartin October 16, 2013 at 04:01 PM
thank you all for the comments! i no longer write for patch but please visit my new website susanmcmartin.com where you can find my weekly studio city mom column along with other news and info. again, thank you for reading and commenting!
Barry Price October 16, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Susan, that brought tears to MY eyes as I read it, especially the ending. Wow, I identify with that guy putting the single bag in that backseat. Maybe because I had a single Mom. Or maybe because I can tell when someone is lonely. Or hurting. Or just needs a little help. A little human touch, whether physical or just an emotional touch... someone reaching out to them. It was a beautiful, inspiring article because you shared so honestly. And I think I'll share it with some of my clients, who need to feel some masculine care and attention too.... Thanks. Barry Paul Price
Barry Price October 16, 2013 at 09:00 PM
How can I follow your future blog writing, or projects, Susan? (in case I don't get a notification when you reply here, my email addy is barry@barrypaulprice.com) Thanks
Dwayne Walker October 17, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Now let's just reverse this with a 40 year old man talking about how real women work at Trader Joe's and he just got back from a hot date while picking up some veggies. Somehow I don't think it'll sound too wholesome!
Corinna Guenther October 17, 2013 at 11:32 AM
As a woman who worked at Tjs for 12 years, I have learned to recognize women like you I heard the boys talking about you in the back room.
Steven James Rader October 17, 2013 at 07:52 PM
You have an amazing, and elegant way with words. You make me want to quit my high paying job and start working at Trader Joes so that I might be apart of making shoppers days, or possible maybe it's just the chance of meeting the woman responsible for the talented writing I just read ha ha. Thank you =]
Susan McMartin October 18, 2013 at 12:12 AM
thank you all for your comments and insights! check out my new website, susanmcmartin.com, since i'm no longer writing for patch.
Jeremy Evans October 18, 2013 at 01:41 AM
I am sorry to be a Debbie Downer here but this article has been bothering me since I read it yesterday and I think I understand why now. If these Trader Joe employees are superheroes in your mind, why have you not asked any of them out? Why didn't you give that particularly caring gentleman your phone number? I'm sure he would have taken it if he was single. But you did not. What bothers me even more about that is you didn't even feel the need to say that you did not which gives the impression that it is assumed that you wouldn't REALLY DATE A GROCER and that furthermore you assume that we share that assumption. This makes the whole article sound like a figure of speech. So yes guys of your class (who you would actually date) should take dating lessons from TJ folks (but presumably not career advice even though your career choice factors more heavily in your romantic success than any other single quality). So here is how this whole thing sounds to me: "Hey you know I get SO fed up with the way men of my class treat me that sometimes....SOMETIMES I EVEN DAYDREAM ABOUT GROCERS!! And you know something? They can ACTUALLY BE PRETTY CHARMING." I know this whole story because I'm the kind and wise cab driver that middle class hipster women will feel comfortable spilling their guts to because I am so far beneath them in occupational prestige that there is no chance of their secrets ever making it back to the office. "And boy aren't you sweet (nice figurative pat on the head). You are going to make some lucky girl real happy one day!" I would also invite you to consider this: how on earth do any of these people know enough about you to be confident that you "deserve better?" I'm not saying that you don't. But how do THEY know? They don't. But they know you are pretty. And all men have a hard time resisting the temptation to believe that pretty girls deserve better because they are pretty. FUrthermore, they have an even harder time admitting to themselves that it's a woman's physical beauty that causes them to infer beautiful things about their character. I am sorry to doubt the sincerity of TJ employees who are nice to you but I am afraid I have doubts about the sincerity of this whole article. The funny thing is, I honestly don't believe you meant anything bad about any of the things you wrote. I am absolutely positive that your intention was not to insult anyone. That almost makes it more troubling. If you talk to feminist scholars about male privilege, they will tell you that the most troubling sexist remarks are the unintentional ones because they reveal to what extent the assumptions behind male privilege govern their basic pretense of thought. In your case, it is assumptions about class. I only risk your wrath and that of everybody else in this comment thread by bringing this up because I have done some reading up on you and I have hope that you might give my words some serious consideration and honest reflection. We are all guilty of being blinded by our own reality and our own privilege to some extent. I am no exception. And I've had some unpleasant moments when I had to take a look at my own assumptions. So apologies in advance for the troubling effect my words might have. And if I am completely wrong then I'd be happy to know that. I prefer to believe that certain negative realities are less common than I might have suspected.
Susan McMartin October 18, 2013 at 09:27 AM
jeremy, thank you for your thoughts but you are off base on your assumptions about me. i actually have gone out out with a man who worked at trader joe's. he was a guy i dated when i was newly divorced. the reason i didn't give this particular man my number on this particular day was because i had just witnessed my dog being killed and wasn't thinking about dating... i was simply aware of the kindness. i have dated struggling artists, writers, musicians. my ex husband was a struggling actor. in fact, there is only one man i've dated who had a solid income and career. i have never been attracted to class, cars, or the size of a man's income. i've also never been shy about giving my number to someone if i was interested. i certainly am careful since i have a child and her well being is always the priority. i do understand your comments but i can honestly tell you that you couldn't be more off about me. if i were drawn to money and status i wouldn't have the two years worth of columns about being unemployed and making it on my own. not even getting child support. so, i thank you for your time, your insights, your experiences, and your opinions but if you knew me (or anyone i've dated!) you would know how wrong you are in your conclusions about my soul.
RT October 21, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Lol, this lady is THIRSTY.
Barbara Krause October 27, 2013 at 05:12 AM
TJ in Studio City have the nicest and most helpful employees; although I am not on The Hunt for a date I do find this a possibly good idea for others; just do a background check as should be done with any date.
Maria Garcia-Eggly October 27, 2013 at 01:33 PM
@ Mark Evans- You are a douche bag. My son works at a TJ's and I can tell you he is EXACTLY this kind of guy. I have met his friends, and as far as I have discerned they are all of this character. I think there is positive change happening with some of our young men. With all the ugly things men are capable of at VERY young ages (Steubenville rape as example) I appreciate your sharing your story. As for Mark, her dog (friend, family member beloved pet) was murdered before her eyes that day! Why would she have the mind to ask him for his number? You are a despicable human being. Talk about egotistical! Why do you even read her stuff? Don't answer, I am done with you!
Susan McMartin October 27, 2013 at 07:00 PM
thanks, marcia, for your comment! for every one of your son's there's a mark evans, right? please know that i no longer write for patch but would love you to follow me and my column on my website - susanmcmartin.com i could use a feisty fan like you in my corner! ;-)

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