Groceries can be considered as an interpersonal environment

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Groceries nationwide use the same layout to create a general
flow to their stores that keep the customers efficiently moving through the
aisles and spending money. Many people see grocery shopping as a burden because
they buy items that are not needed, it is uncomfortably cold, time consuming, or
boring. Trader Joe’s can be considered as an interpersonal environment
where the employees and customers both perform in the servicescape. As
explained by Bitner (1992) positive internal responses in the servicescape lead
to approach behavior for both employees and customers. For employees, it leads
to being more committed to the company, staying longer with the company,
affiliation, etc. For customers, it leads to staying longer and spending more money
at the store, being loyal to the company, etc. It is important to create a
positive, interesting, and trendy store environment not only to keep the
customers interested but also to create a good environment to work in for the
employees. After all, the employees spend about 8 hours a day at work and it is
essential to have the employees happy. If the employees are delighted to be at
work it can make the customers also happy but it means that the employees also
have emotional labor. Emotional labor is important in services because
front-line employees engage in emotional work as part of their jobs, including
greeting customers with a positive attitude. If employees express positive
emotions when interacting with customers, the customers are likely to perceive
these emotions (Cho,
Y.-N., Rutherford, B. N., & Park, J., 2013). As explained by
Rosenbaum and Massiah, servicescape represents a consumption settings built
(i.e. manufactured, physical), social (i.e. human), socially symbolic, and
natural (environments) dimensions that affect both consumers and employees in
service organizations (2011). In this essay, I will demonstrate how all of
these aspects are used at Trader Joe’s.


Trader Joe’s is a privately-owned
grocery store in the United States with more than 450 locations. Trader Joe’s
is known for carrying organic, fresh, and healthy products with budget-friendly
prices. The first store opened in 1967 located Pasadena, California. Trader Joe’s has a big advantage from
their competitions because they package innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting
foods under the “Trader Joe’s” name. This way they keep the prices as
affordable as possible for the customers. The way they are able to achieve this
is by buying directly from the suppliers whenever possible, they bargain hard
to get the best price, and then pass the savings on to the customers (,
2017). Interaction with
customers and employees is a big part of the Trader Joe’s company culture. People
come to Trader Joe’s versus other grocery stores because of the knowledge that
the employees have about the products they sell. It is also easy to find the
employees and to communicate with them because of how open everyone is. For example;
the employees can tell the customer why not all Alaskan salmon comes from
Alaska or the difference between a Shiraz and a Syrah wine. The advantage of
the Trader Joe’s employees is the product knowledge that they all have from the
trainings the company provides.


Trader Joe’s is known for their themed stores because
they want their customers to feel like they are vacationing on an island. They
want to create this enjoyable and positive atmosphere that is completely
different than any other grocery store. Differentiating themselves leads to customers
wanting to try new foods, stay in the store longer, and buy more than what is
on their grocery store list because it is attention-grabbing. Also, they use the dramaturgical approach to create a
differentiated retail environment that would be expected to tap into hedonic
shopping motivations. It is more of experiential shopping occasion where
positive emotions are triggered and shoppers are more likely to be immersed in
the experience (Foster and McLelland, 2015). As an active shopper at Trader
Joe’s, I am extremely aware that I come there for my utilitarian shopping needs
such as produce to keep me alive; eggs, chicken, fruits, and vegetables. But in
the end, it is more of a hedonic shopping because I am enjoying the process and
I am buying products that I did not think that I need. But coming to Trader Joe’s
it is an experience because there are so many things to try on the sample table
or you see products that are new. Customers and employees are always talking
about their recommendations and then you end up purchasing something that you did
not know that you need or want.

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Although they are many reasons why customers choose to shop at
Trader Joe’s versus a competitors store. One of the restorative stimuli’s
of natural dimension which is used at Trader Joe’s is being away. It gives
people a break from day-after-day concerns by helping them feel, albeit
temporarily, as if they are escaping to a different place such as an island (Rosenbaum
and Massiah, 2011). Grocery shopping plays a big part in our lives because
without food we would not be alive. But many people despise it because it is
time consuming because of the decisions you have to make within different
brands, crowds, not being able to find the product that you need, and buying
products that you do not need. At Trader Joe’s you do not have to think about
other brands because they only have one brand; Trader Joe’s products. They cut
down your time in deciding what brand to buy so you can spend time on enjoying
the experience. They give you samples of new products or featured products so
you know what you are buying. Customers also do not have to spend time on
finding employees to answer their questions; you will always find one in an arm
reach. Everyone is excited to be at Trader Joe’s whether they are shoppers or


Unlike most grocery stores that have the bakery, produce and
flower departments at the front of the store. Trader Joe’s places these
departments differently. These departments are known to make customers hungry through
sight, smell and taste, which persuades them to spend money on things that were
not necessarily on their list. However, Trader Joe’s store layout is different
because their bakery section is in the back of the store. Produce is placed
starting from the front of the store to the back of the store. Flower
department starts from outside of the store and takes a little bit of space in
the front corner of the store. Trader Joe’s follows the traditional
grocery store layout but with few differences. For example, instead of seven to
nine isles, most of Trader Joe’s stores have three to four isles maximum.

Instead, they incorporate small stands all over the grocery store with stands
such as banana stand, fresh baked goods, bread, etc. This helps to reduce the
traffic of the store because multiple customers can reach the items off the
stand because of the circular shape of the stand. The shelves usually create
traffic in the store because only one or two customers can get to the items and
others must wait behind them. Another way Trader Joe’s differs from a
traditional grocery store is because of the height of their stands and isles.

Most of the items are easily reached because they are placed on the eyelevel or
below. According to Bitner (1992), spatial layout and functionality of the
environment are highly salient to customer in self-service environments where
they must perform on their own and cannot rely on employees to assist them. Self-service
environment in grocery stores comes when you are picking out your products. If
the products are placed extremely high, the customer would have to wait for an
employee to get them that item. This creates traffic in the store, frustration
to the customer and employee, and is extremely inefficient. Therefore, it is
helpful that Trader Joe’s considered the height of their isles and stands while
creating the layout of their stores.


Store layout is an extremely
important aspect of a grocery store because it can help the traffic flow of the
store. As noted by Rosenbaum and Massiah, “high densities of customers (i.e.

crowding) negatively affect approach decisions (Harrell et al., 1980) because
of the loss of perceived control (Tombs and McColl-Kennedy, 2003)” (2011). The
layout of the store not only benefits the employees but the customers because
grocery store being too packed can be seen as a negative aspect of the
consumption experience. Considering some people have limited time in their day
to do their grocery shopping, it could be inconvenient for them to shop in a
crowded grocery store. Also, it can cause problems such as empty shelves
because everyone is buying products and the employees can not get to the
shelves to replace the items because it is too crowded in the store. Trader Joe’s
does a well job of regulating the traffic of the store, however, I think the different
grocery store layout can be tricky for new customers. Considering if this
customer doesn’t have enough free time and the items aren’t placed in the usual
places it could be frustrating. Also, it could negatively affect their
experience and this customer wouldn’t want to return to the store.


The physical dimension of Trader
Joe’s is a big part of creating the island atmosphere because it changes
customers attitude towards grocery shopping. First, the ambient conditions such
as temperature is pleasant unlike other grocery stores it is not freezing but it
is not too warm because of all the fresh produce/meats/dairy. Which benefits
not only the customers but also the employees, considering that they are at the
store for the whole day. Per Bitner, environmental design and related
physiological responses affect whether a person can perform his or her job
function (e.g., Riley and Cochran 1984). Moreover, the smell is wonderful at
Trader Joe’s stores because of the quality of their products, when you walk in
to the store they have seasonal fruits and flowers placed in the beginning of
the store. Also, they always have delicious samples in the back corner,
therefore, when you get to this part of the store it smells incredible. Based
on a season, the smells also change because of the products they are sampling
for example in autumn it is usually something like gingerbread cookies or
spiced chai drinks. Trader Joe’s is extremely cautious with strong smelling
foods such as fish or seafood because it might be uncomfortable for some
customers. All of their furniture is made out light color wood to resemble the island
markets or the color of the boats on the island. Trader Joe’s uses blended
approach for their stores because although the designscape is similar throughout
all stores; the music differs. Each store manager is in charge of the music
each day. Most traditional grocery stores play music that is selected in the
corporate and is played repeatedly on the daily basis which can be frustrating.

“In studies of restaurants and supermarkets, it has been illustrated that music
tempo can affect pace of shopping, length of stay, and amount of money spent (Milliman
1982, 1986)” (Bitner, 1992). This gives the freedom to the managers to pick out
popular and new music based on their location. The customers feel comfortable
and enjoy the tunes while shopping because they are familiar to it. Also, it
helps the employees to enjoy their long hours at work because they are
listening to music that they like and not a repeat of the same songs.


As noted by Rosenbaum, generic signs, such as those displaying
departments, directions, rest rooms, caution, and rules of behavior, facilitate
a customers movement through a servicescape. Trader Joe’s creates signs that
are hung up high to see where significant items such as dairy or meats are placed.

This way the customer does not have to walk around the store to find the item.

Also, the signs such as “10 Items or Less Express” help the customers with less
items use them which helps with the flow of the traffic in the grocery store.

Since most Trader Joe’s stores are always extremely busy, signs play a big part
of keeping their customers happy and help to better facilitate around the
store. Most of Trader Joe’s decorations are their signs which are hand-drawn by
their local employees. The blended approach is used with the signs at Trader
Joe’s. According to Turley and Chebat, this approach tries to combine the
advantages of both the prototype and distribute the designs while minimizing
their disadvantages. At Trader Joe’s the Hawaiian/island theme is shown all
over their store with flowers and bright colors. However, they do differ their
signs depending on the store location. For example; in the San Francisco store
next to the Golden Gate Bridge they have a sign that says “Welcome to the Golden
Gate Bridge Trader Joe’s!”, and in Manhattan they have a display that says,
“Welcome to Manhattan Trader Joe’s”. Another way they differ is because of the variety
artists that draw the signs.  Trader
Joe’s employee explains how the blended approach is used, “If you were
assigned to write the order for wine, then all the decisions about your section
were made by you: how you wanted to re-organize the shelves, what you wanted
for a display, the creative signage you needed, or even if you felt like you
needed new shelves entirely because yours seem to empty out too quickly
Saturday evenings, or have one too many Charles Shaw stains”(Gillett,
2017). This clearly shows the way they use the blended approach in their stores
which gives a certain structure they have to follow but freedom to make it


Trader Joe’s social dimension has
also a big effect on the way they do business. Social servicescape as
comprising customer and employee elements that are encapsulated in a
consumption setting, and Edvardsson et al. (2010) suggest that three social
elements – customer placement, customer involvement, and interaction with
employees – each represent a social dimension that influences a customers
experience in a service setting. As mentioned before, it is important for Trader
Joe’s employees try to build relationships with their customers, therefore,
there is a great amount of customer involvement and interaction with employees.


Employees play a big part of the
atmosphere that is created in the store which shows that Trader Joe’s uses the
dramaturgical approach. As stated before, they have to play a role of being the
workers of the island on a boat. They put a big amount of emotional labor in
their work. But, it is what shapes and excites people to return to Trader Joe’s
for their grocery shopping. As mentioned by Rosenbaum and Massiah, employees
should be considered part of environmental stimuli that influence a customer’s
approach/avoidance decision and social interaction in a servicescape (Baker et
al., 1994). This extremely important because unlike retail shopping where the
employees job is to sell you an item so they can get their commission but also
not shop at the competitors store; grocery shopping is different. If you have
noticed, when shopping at traditional grocery store, there are not many
employees out on the floor. Usually you have to search for them throughout the
store if you have a question or you can not find something. At Trader Joe’s, the
employees for some reason are always there, close by. It does not feel like a
retail environment where the employee is breathing down your neck but it helps
the experience. It is convenient because they are not just standing around but
they are working like making sure the fruit is all laid out nicely, stocking up
on sold out items, etc. Not only can you ask the employee for an item that you
need (if you can not find it on your own) but many also, ask suggestions on
foods to buy.


As explained by Rosenbaum and
Massiah (2011), customers often enjoy patronizing farmers markets not only to
purchase fresh produce but also to engage in spontaneous conversations at these
markets (McGrath et al., 1993). Although, Trader Joe’s is not a farmers market
but this is the dramaturgical approach where they make you feel like you are on
an island shopping for fruits versus in a traditional grocery store. It’s
important especially in American culture that the store has to offer more than
just their products but also employees who are open to conversations. Many
times, I find myself in a conversation with a Trader Joe’s employee because of
the new products. I like to ask them if they like it or have tried the product.

At one time, the employee was honest and told me that this product was not his
favorite but there is another new product that he absolutely enjoys. Sometimes,
the customer likes to spend time at the sample table talking to the employee
about recipes and get tips from them on cooking.


However, working in a
place such as Trader Joe’s can lead to emotional exhaustion because of how much
emotional labor the employees put in. As mentioned before, the environment that
the employees create in the stores is extremely important because that’s part
of the experience of shopping at Trader Joe’s. The employees always should be
happy and excited as most people feel on an island. Understanding how emotional
exhaustion affects emotional display is important because expression of
emotions can stimulate customers’
perceptions of service quality, satisfaction, and loyalty (Tsai & Huang,
2002), (Cho, Y.-N., Rutherford, B. N., & Park,
J., 2013). Even though, most Trader Joe’s employees enjoy their jobs and are
naturally happy, it does affect people and can lead to emotional exhaustion.

Life happens and sometimes there are events that can affect your mood and its
quite impossible to mask it. But Trader Joe’s acknowledges that and that is why
they circulate work tasks. Trader Joe’s employees states, “Oversight of opening
and closing shifts are distributed evenly, and tasks and assignments are
rotated throughout the week, which means no one is stuck taking in the frozen
truck at 4 a.m. every single morning, or closing out our computers every night
until midnight. Maybe that is why managers are able to stay so nice to us”
(Gillett, 2017). By changing work tasks weekly I think it benefits the
employees because some of the tasks aren’t customer oriented therefore, that is
their time to relax from the emotional labor.

In conclusion, there are many different
aspects that shape and create the retail environment at Trader Joe’s. These are
just a few and the ones that stood out to me as a frequent shopper at this
store. The dramaturgical island theme that the store uses is a big benefit and
the main aspect how they different from other grocery stores. In the end, the
customers are loyal to Trader Joe’s because of the experience they get from the
store. Whether it is the employees who are always happy and want to help, the
free samples that you can try because you are interested in the new product or simply
are just hungry and need a little fuel while you shop, or the unique products
that can not be found at any other grocery stores. There could be hundreds of
different reasons why people love to shop at Trader Joe’s but for each person
it is slightly different because of their own experience. After looking at the physical, social, symbolic,
and natural stimuli of shopper and employee benefits and disadvantages at
Trader Joe’s, I hope it demonstrates the way Trader Joe’s is different from
other grocery stores. A small discloser; there were essay limitations in
the research I could find because Trader Joe’s is a private company and they do
not disclose a lot of information. All of my knowledge about the company came
from Trader Joe’s website, personal experience as a frequent shopper, or Trader
Joe’s employee interviews.

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