Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reading the February 2011 Edition of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer"

For some reason, today, for the first time, I sat down and read the monthly flyer from Trader Joe's, the "Fearless Flyer." It really is an incredible document. Now I know where all the English and lit majors go: they go to work for Trader Joe's, writing and editing the monthly flyers.

I found something disturbing and off-putting about the obnoxious, pretentious, and smug tone of the flyer. The thing reads as if it were written by a particularly self-satisfied junior at Dartmouth.

Here are some choice excerpts from this month's flyer: "Though nominally credited to the Danes, it is generally assumed in culinary circles that this particular pastry originated in Vienna, alongside its sister flaky pastry, the croissant." (p. 6) This is the only grocery-store flyer on earth in which you will find the word "nominally."

Continuing in that vein: "What's different about Trader Joe's Strawberry Cream Cheese? . . . . [W]e eschew artificial colors and flavors, instead choosing to use copious amounts of strawberries to achieve our ideal strawberry-to-cream ratio . . . ." (p. 6)

"First there were Joe's O's. Grammatical inconsistencies aside, Joe's O's = great product, excellent value, only at Trader Joe's." (p. 1) Yes, a sentence in the Trader Joe's flyer starts with "[g]rammatical inconsistencies aside," and mocks the grammatical errors appearing on other Trader Joe's products.

Who the hell are the writers of this flyer writing for? Oh, that's right: the judgmental yuppies (like myself) who shop there. Besides not recycling or eating caged-bird eggs, there is no greater sin for this class (viz., us yuppies) than grammatical error. Or misuse or abuse of punctuation: "Though we aim for judiciousness in all things, an argument could be made that we tend to overuse exclamation points. In this case, however, we will argue that the exclamatory punctuation is more than warranted: it's necessary." (p. 7 (Vintage Reserve Cheddar $3.99!))

Because we, the elect Trader Joe's customers, are so fucking smart. We so obviously know what "eschew" and "nominally" and "copious" mean, and we so clearly enjoy coming across these words in our grocery-store flyer because, when we do, it massages that special secret part of us that likes to be reminded that we are the type of people that shop at a grocery store that uses words like "eschew" and "nominally" and "copious" in its flyer, the kind of place that notes "grammatical inconsistencies" in the names of its products, etc.

Perhaps that's why these flyers are written like they are campus magazines from the fancy-ass colleges we, the anointed Trader Joe's customers, attended. Because that makes us feel at home. The message one is meant to take away: smart people shop here, not dumb people -- those people shop at Vons.

Again: "A recent trip to France revealed, quite as we'd hoped and expected, some great foods that we've been really excited to bring in to our stores. . . . Each makes a hearty meal for lunch or dinner, and is bursting with vivid flavors you won't find in the frozen entrees in most supermarket freezers. Our freezers are different, though, so these flavorful finds fit right in among our featured frozen foods." (p. 11) Read: Our freezers are different, just as our customers, like you, are different. You're not like the customers one finds in most supermarkets. You're by no means a fat, ugly American who drinks milk from cows treated with growth hormones or who has no idea what naan is. Because you shop here, you're basically almost French.

Okay. I know there are people being shot on the street in Manama right now and this post is a ridiculous waste of energy, but I had to share.