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11 Topics_Working File 1

11 Topics_Working File 1

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Published by: owenshill on Jan 31, 2012
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 Working File: Trader Joe’s Site VisitDavid Owens-HillQueens University of CharlotteOctober 9, 2011
Three Levels of Culture
 To understand the culture of Trader Joe’s as a corporate entity, we must lookthrough three levels of their being (borrowed from Schien):
artifacts, values, and assumptions
. This working file will be divided into those categories.On October 5, 2011 Mark Grumbach, Store Captain at Trader Joe’s Metropolitanin Charlotte, North Carolina gave us a tour of his store and addressed the items that hethought best represented the culture of the organization. His tour was part merchandisingand part “org-chat”—that is he discussed both the traditional aspects of running a grocerystore and discussed the workings of the organization. Being a regular customer of hisstore, I understood most of what he addressed on a personal level; there are few ways tobe more intimately involved with an organization than to be a member of it’s core groupof stakeholders—as a shopper, my dollars reinforce Trader Joe’s raison d’être.
Mark was wearing a floral Hawaiian shirt. His job title is “Captain.” He refers tohis employees as “crew members.” He addressed the customer service bell and justifiedits use over a traditional public address system. Each of these artifacts encourages a ship-like metaphor within the store. As a regular Trader Joe’s customer, I know that thismetaphor is not specific to the Metropolitan location; these are not gimmicks specific to aparticular subgroup of the total Trader Joe’s organization. Ship metaphors tie back to along-held assumption of the vessel as efficient, tidy, a place that encourages teamwork,an entity with forward momentum. Ships, in the modern age (e.g. the age of Trader Joeproper noun versus the age of historical ocean faring exploration) also have an element of 
casual fun. While they are necessarily “ship-shape” they are also vessels that encourageexploration, a bit of fun, and a laid back lifestyle. The Trader Joe’s lifestyle clings tothese notions of modernity: the staff (through recommendations, samplings, etc.)encourage you to explore new foods with which you may not be familiar, the packagingand signage are whimsical and fun (to offset the uncertainty that accompanies purchasingfoods with which you are not familiar by virtue of ingredients or packaging), and foodshould be about more than sustenance—making and eating food is a very personal andintimate affair that should be fun.The store’s signage further reinforces the notion of food as experience. The signsare hand-lettered, a tradition that has its roots in the very dawn of signage. These rootsreach back to an era when signage was ostensibly about marketing a product but, becauseof the human act of crafting the message, also implied a human connection to theproducts marketed. I was especially struck by the signage that accompanied staff recommendations—did you notice the pictures of the staff who made therecommendation? Trader Joe’s is telling you in no uncertain terms that the food is good,but that message isn’t coming top-down, rather it is coming from people just like you andme. People who eat. The definition of “everyman.”I’d like to propose that the prices at Trader Joe’s are also artifacts. Surely theirlow prices are a marketer’s dream to get foot traffic in the door, but they become morethan that when you look at the culture as a whole. The low prices on private-label foods(over 85% of the items in Trader Joe’s are private label) become a part of the culture forstakeholders. We’ve become accustomed to never seeing a sale, but we still look for thatcrazy price on a box of lentils or on a package of frozen edamame. The shelf-talkers that

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