Sunday Rush at Both Trader Joe’s Locations is Enormous; ‘Are We Selling Crack?’ Asks Employee

Trader Joe’s has always drawn large crowds, but the lines on the first Sunday of 2019 showed just how badly Upper West Siders need their fix. The lines stretched down the block at both the 72nd Street location and the newer spot on 93rd and Columbus.

“Most people get on line to get OUT of the supermarket,” wrote Marvin, who sent the photo above at 72nd. “Only in NY do they get on line to get INTO the supermarket.”

At both locations, an employee stood at the entrance to the store to manage the line. Only a few people could enter at a time as others left. At 93rd Street, an employee near the entrance was overheard saying “Are we selling crack here?” as people streamed in, according to our tipster Kevin, who sent the photo below.

ABSURDITY, FOOD | 88 comments | permalink
    1. Westside gene says:

      Fairway was having problems with their credit card machines sunday, and was more of a zoo than usual. Perhaps frustrated shoppers went to tj instead.

      • Bryan says:

        I feel bad for the staff–they were working really hard to keep the line moving and deal with, understandably, frustrated customers.

    2. Bill Williams says:

      Never set foot in a Trader Joe’s

    3. GMC says:

      When the first TJ opened in NYC down on 14th Street some years ago, I asked a staffer when the best time to shop was. He EMPHATICALLY stated, “DO NOT COME ON THE WEEKENDS!” I was actually at the Columbus Avenue store this past Saturday afternoon, & it wasn’t too crowded at all. Best advice: go infrequently &stock up on your non-perishables when you can.

    4. Hungry says:

      I wish Fairway would open a grocery store at 86th and Broadway!

    5. GrumpyOldMan says:

      The Upper West Side needs a real grocery store! There is no pleasure to be derived from shopping in stores requiring access to product by escalator, elevator, waiting in line and being pushed and shoved by too crowded aisles filled with rude and self-entitled New Yorkers who have forgotten two important words: excuse me.

      • Sean says:

        You took the words right out of my mouth.

      • RK says:

        Perhaps you’d find suburban supermarkets more to your liking?

        • Scott says:

          Your comment seems to be a dig, but the joke’s on you. Suburban stores are great. I drive to them at least once a week. Prices are lower, you aren’t banging into people everywhere and checkout lines are almost unheard of. We actually have it pretty bad here, grocery wise. Not that I’d move, I love pre-war buildings. So give me suburban grocery and urban living.

          • Melinda Smith says:

            What about a real supermarket? I remember fondly the days when you could get all your groceries in one store, and get a cut up chicken . The manager knew his customers and would actually order things. Not that long ago.

          • Lbb says:

            You’re driving how many miles for those low cost suburban groceries? Have you computed the added cost of having a car in the city, the fuel etc? Might want to rethink the economics of shopping suburban grocery stores.

      • BJL says:

        People don’t live in Manhattan for the grocery stores. Want big grocery stores with nice people? Move to the burbs.

      • Wendi says:

        They close because their rent becomes too high for the store to be profitable.

    6. Joe says:

      I don’t care how good people say it is, I’m not standing on line to get into a supermarket, especially when there are several other great supermarkets within a couple of blocks.

    7. lcnyc says:

      This is why I don’t go to Trader Joe’s.

    8. Juan says:

      I am a big Trader Joe’s fan but would not wait in that kind of a line. We went by the uptown one on Saturday and there was only a long checkout line, no line to get in, and we left. Clearly there is tremendous demand – are there any other empty store fronts that could support a third UWS Trader Joe’s location?

      I find it somewhat ironic that we New Yorkers think we are so sophisticated compared to the rest of the country yet they think we are crazy to wait in line to get groceries (or for many other routine things).

      • Kate says:

        Why not a TJ’s in the still empty commercial space at 110th st and Frederick Douglass circle?

        • Meatball’s wife says:

          Or at 100th and Amsterdam! (Where Food Emporium was for a hot second). They even have an escalator!

    9. soldier says:

      People obviously love their product. TJ has to become ubiquitous as Duane Reed used to be. Really.

    10. Mark Moore says:

      I was in the 93rd Street one last night around 9:00. Entire shelves were empty, picked clean.

    11. Amy cook says:

      It was also like this on Wednesday the 2nd at the 72nd one. No idea what’s going on.

    12. Karen Korman says:

      We were there – still no clue why… we thought it was either an impending zombie apocalypse or an imminent snow storm – never saw a line like that before

      • Rodger Lodger says:

        In the good old Soviet Union days people would get into a line without knowing exactly why, their assumption being that something was available to buy.

        • B Bensa says:

          I do that sometimes!!

          Seriously, though, TJ’s is a great place to shop – their employees are so helpful.
          Agree with others that the weekends are a nightmare and right after New Year’s so many shelves were Empty!

    13. chrissy says:

      I have witnessed lines outside the store before. Every Sunday it is a crazy house at the TJ on 93rd street.
      I love TJ’s since it opened. It saves me tons of money and their products are fresh! Not like the other places in the neighborhood where it just sits.

    14. JLW says:

      Had no issues at TJ’s yesterday at 9am. It was a breeze!! But I second that there needs to be a better supermarket on the UWS. I typically avoid Fairway as the layout is not conducive to shopping, and the lines are in the other aisles so you can’t even shop them.

    15. nycityny says:

      I’ve given up on Trader Joe’s in New York because of the lines. I’d rather pay a little more and go to Fairway where I can get checked out relatively quickly.

      I spend a lot of time in my native Los Angeles and enjoy shopping at TJs there. There is an abundance of TJ stores in LA so I get my “fix” when I’m on the left coast.

      • Steph says:

        Me too! I loved going to TJ’s when I lived in LA. The ones in NYC are so crazy crowded and out of stock so quickly, I stopped trying. Getting out can be as bad as getting in!

    16. CJ says:

      Does people know that Trader Joe’s was owned by a Nazi soldier? And now ownership has passed to his German family? No one ever mentions this…

      • C. Kerr Of_Truth says:

        BEFORE you spread FAKE NEWS (Hmmm…where have we heard that before?) you should do some FACT-CHECKING to discover the TRUTH.

        According to Wikipedia, Theodor Albrecht (he and his brother made a fortune from starting the ALDI (ALbrecht DIscount) chain of supermarkets had been CONSCRIPTED into the German Army in WWII but was captured early in Tunisia and spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W.

        The Wikipedia article portrays him as exceptionally wealthy but a recluse; there are NO ALLEGATIONS of his ever being a NAZI.

        So TRUTH STILL MATTERS, despite what the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave (whose “lease”, hopefully runs out in 2020) says or ‘thinks’.

      • Nani says:

        Please do Research before you set rumors into this world. Trader Joe’s founder is Joe Coulombe, Who was born in 1930 in California and went to Stanford university. He would’ve been too young to serve in the war anyway.

        At Trader Joe’s is known to treat their employees with humanity and give them good salaries and medical benefits.

        • CJ says:

          The grocery chain is owned by Albrecht’s german family.

          • ScooterStan says:

            Re: “…owned by Albrecht’s german family.”

            So NOW it’s a mark of shame to be of German descent????

            Say, d’ya know WHO ELSE IS OF GERMAN DESCENT?
            Hint #1: He’s been called “an orange orangutan”;
            Hint #2: He thinks he’s the Supreme Ruler;
            Hint #3: His closest inner-circle hates him, fears him, and laughs behind his back.

            Yup, it’s Herr Trump…family name long ago was changed from “Drumph”!
            L.I.U. (Look It Up)

            • UWSHebrew says:

              Americans of German descent make up the largest European derived group in this country, at over 25%. What you are saying is very childish.

            • Donna says:

              Theodor Paul Albrech is not of “german decent” , he is German and lived in Germany. Here is the info from wiki: “during World War II, Theodor was conscripted into the Wehrmacht where Theodor served with Rommel’s Afrika Korps in an army division.[4] During World War II (1943?) Theodor was captured by the Americans in Tunisia as a prisoner of war, but in 1946 he returned to Germany.[3]”. So yes, he did serve in the Nazi army.

    17. West88 says:

      People are getting back from winter/holiday breaks as Monday is when most people start back up to work. Hence they arrive to an empty fridge after a week or two of vacation and need to restock.

    18. chris says:

      omg, yeah, most of their offerings are worth the trip to a local TJ’S, but to wait on line to get IN???………….fugettaboutit!!!

    19. Gloria Jean Gery says:

      I recommend Navy SEAL training to get into Trader Joe’s in the Upper West Side. It’s that dangerous. Try and cross the lines of people who are in the checkout line to get another item. You need to people. Want to stand in line at 1 to fetch

    20. Steph says:

      Last winter they gave out hot chocolate to the people on line!

    21. Richard says:

      To paraphrase the old joke. Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded

    22. Kenneth says:

      Prepared, frozen food.
      Apparently people like it.

    23. MF says:

      Is there snow in the forecast?

    24. Ricki L says:

      Are food stamps effected by the government shut down? Is this like shopping before a storm?

    25. Ashley says:

      I honestly shop there because the prices can’t be beat. Usually eggs are $1.69/ dozen. It can be frustrating and I wish there were a way to expedite or shop for products online because I an’t afford to shop solely at Whole Foods or Fairway. Play a podcast and try to go during quieter times.

    26. momofone says:

      The 2nd was the day before public school started back from the Christmas/New Year break, and yesterday was the day before all the private schools started back before their break. Seems like just a rush of families getting back into the neighborhood and needing groceries all at the same time. More of a fluke instead of a trend.

    27. Jane W says:

      I love TJs but what I can’t understand is why they don’t do delivery. When I asked a staffer he said “It’s because we like the customer experience.” Except maybe your customers would prefer to avoid the standing-in-line-forever experience. 😟

    28. Lois says:

      The Upper West Side has become woefully short of grocery and specialty food stores, which is an unwelcome change. This is a huge problem and will only get worse with all the development. Why? Rising rents? Popularity of online grocers? Cost of running a store? Just go to other neighborhoods and you will find a very different environment. On University Place, for example, the street is lined with food stores. A sorry state of affairs for the UWS. Time for most stores please!

      • Eliza says:

        I believe they do deliver. When the only Tis was at 72nd streets, and a long distance from me. I had them deliver. Not cheap, but worth it.

    29. Linda G says:

      Fairway at 72nd St. has been extremely crowded too! The obvious reason is the lack of grocery stores in general in the UWS. Food emporium on 68th St was never replaced, ditto the A&P on West End/70th and most recently Westside Market. I shop at Pioneer on Columbus/74th, never too crowded and they’ve upgraded their stock to include organics.

      • Jan says:

        And, to make matters worse local supermarkets are
        aware of our desperation and are charging unreasonable
        prices – take it or leave it.
        At least TJ’s prices are low, and so fair. Much appreciated.
        Go early in the AM, late nite run the risk of out of stock.

    30. Melanie says:

      I used to live on 72nd St. and braved the lines. Now a New Yorker in exile in south Florida, my Trader Joe’s near me are relatively empty, with no more than 2-3 people on line to check out. No crowds, wine, liquor, etc. It’s quite pleasant!

    31. Ellie says:

      We were at the 93 Street TJ’s yesterday in the morning. Not at all crowded. We shop there because it’s the best store in the neighborhood and most of their products are really good!! Much easier to navigate than Fairway.

    32. Ronald says:

      Years ago I saw similar lines, but not as long, at Zabar’s. I wonder if there are such lines at Zabar’s every year.


      5 items or less

    34. Nicole says:

      It was pretty bad at the Columbus Avenue location on the Wednesday after new year’s day too. It didn’t help that employees were blocking the aisles with the grocery carts they were using to restock the shelves and produce bins during rush hour. I couldn’t even get to the end of the line which was snaking up and down five aisles.

      • Ralph says:

        Don’t blame those people lining up at 93rd st location of tj’s. They are avoiding the rude staff at the 97th st.location of whole foods.what a sorry bunch!

    35. Shirley says:

      This magnifies why I’m NOT a customer or fan! Don’t ‘get’ the Tr Joe fixation ABSURD is correct!

    36. debn says:

      Was in Fairway today (Monday) at 11:00 am and the express line was around the block. What is going on?

    37. Dave O. says:

      People sticking up to watch the games on TV, maybe?

    38. Gerald Jonas says:

      On Columbus within two blocks of the 93rd st tj’s are two neighborhood stores with lots of good stuff and very pleasant local people. Columbus Natural Foods between 96 and 95, and Mani Market between 94 and 93.Some good bargains but mostly a shopping experience on a human scale.

    39. Mikes says:

      Yeah. I did something about which I am deeply embarrassed. Sunday, one of those bad, busy days. I need two or three small things and went to TJs, with my head down, picked up the things and headed to what looked like the line. No, that was not the end. I went around to the aisle. No that was not the end. A voice shouted out from the far side of the store, this is the line. I responded. No it’s not. Put my basket down and walked away while a worker commented “oh, really.” And another one said “Have a nice day.” I feel bad but I also think there’s gotta be a better way and I know TJ has a system but I went up the street to Manis and got my things. Then, for bread, I went to Whole Foods, and there was no line.

    40. OMM says:

      I was in that line yesterday at 2pm at the 72nd St. location. I was a few stores behind Duane Reade and got in after only about a 5 min wait. I appreciate the line because it kept the inside of the store manageable. It was crowded, but not so much that I couldn’t get anything done thanks to the line outside. My only gripe would be the fact that they were stocking many many things at the same time (which I understand) as they were trying to keep up with the crowd.

    41. David says:

      I’ll take Foodkick any time.

    42. D. Dougherty says:

      Maybe there’ll be less lines at Trader Joe’s supermarkets from now on because THEY STOPPED HAVING PLASTIC BAGS for customers to carry their groceries!!!!! They’re only giving paper bags from now on…….. Lots of shoppers can’t live without plastic bag!!

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Canvas. Tote. Bags. The New Yorker is giving one away with their logo on it as a gift with a 6 week subscription right now. Land’s End sells them in all kinds of sizes.

        • D. Dougherty says:

          I have tons of canvas and tote bags, but they’re not sanitary like plastic bags. That’s not the problem. Supermarkets deal with foods some of which leak like milk bottles and some break like eggs. Had these accidents many times.

          The point is: let drug stores, department stores and other non-food stores stop using plastic bags because they can be replaced with paper bags without leakage issues. But let supermarkets and other food outlets keep using plastic and paper bags. Also, the plastic bags from supermarkets are re-used to wrap garbage and throw it away. So, you’re really saving by using them 2 times: to carry groceries and as trash bags!

      • Oh Gee says:

        What a petty gripe. Just carry a couple reusable bags when you shop.

    43. Barbara Michalak says:

      TJ’s does such a great job of speeding the line that I never hesitate to get on even a very long line. Staff is uniformly helpful and pleasant. I especially appreciate the produce selection.

    44. Susan Levit says:

      I shop occasionally at the 72nd Street Trader Joe’s, but there isn’t anything I need that badly that would make me stand in that line.
      In addition, since the one on 92nd opened, the small stores like Mani’s are really hurting.For fruits, vegetables and even pre-cooked food they are very reasonable and sometimes even cheaper than Trader Joe’s.
      It is a crime to watch these big superstores take over and make our neighborhoods look like a mall.
      Very discouraging.

      • Mark Moore says:

        Do you know for a fact that Mani is hurting? I’ve lived across the street from Mani for 15+ years and it seems busier than ever.

    45. B.B. says:

      Thing to remember about all TJ locations on UWS is that there isn’t a store on UES. Thus not all those in lines or whatever are locals.

      UES residents must either go down to Union Square or the new smaller TJ’s in Kips Bay.

      If you take cross town buses you’ll notice more than a few TJ shopping bags with those heading towards UES.

    46. Sandra Horton Gleich says:

      Well, are they?

    47. Marc Luxemburg says:

      stand on line for Trader Joes?
      I don’t shop there in any event.
      Get a life!

    48. Denton says:

      When I lived in Brooklyn, never got it. Mostly house branded prepared crap. Then I moved to the UWS and got a flyer in the mail touting how good their olive oil was. Bought some. What bitter crap (Costco has good olive oil). Went back again one day with a recipe for fishcakes. Found some burned up frozen cod. Nasty. TJ’s is the most over-rated store in NYC, have no idea why people shop there. Frankly I’d rather go to Western Beef. Better prices.

    49. MGTV says:

      Yes … The Grapefruit soda is just like crack

    50. BOP says:

      Anyone who has ever circled the parking lot of a suburban TJ’s parking lot will realize this is not unique to NYC.

    51. Nancy says:

      Please come to the upper east side

    52. Ann-Marie says:

      Have any of you been in KeyFood? Amsterdam betweeen 86 & 87 St? It’s small but the meat is good & fresh. The prices aren’t bad.

    53. M.L. says:

      Trader Joe’s on 93rd street gets crowded because Whole Foods on 97th street is too expensive $$ I stopped shopping at Whole Foods as soon as Trader Joe’s opened. Trader Joe’s is ok, but I wish UWS had a large affordable market like a Krogers or Publix.