Service of If You Can Breathe, You’re Hired, No Training Necessary–Except at Trader Joe’s New NYC Store

December 6th, 2021

Categories: Employees, Food, Restaurant, Training

Image by Jessica Latorre from Pixabay 

We read and hear daily about the shortage of workers and with few exceptions almost everyone has experienced repercussions when out and about.

I dropped into a well known high end supermarket looking for an item. Customer Service wasn’t sure of its location, [a laptop was in front of the staffer but I guess this information wasn’t available there.] He suggested I check out the produce department. Once there a well-meaning man stacking vegetables had no clue and I suspect didn’t understand what I wanted–snack size guacamole. I found a second person in the vicinity standing in an aisle focusing on what was happening on his phone, not the store. He barely looked up while directing me; his sneer indicated that he was annoyed to be interrupted. They didn’t have it–or I didn’t see it–and he didn’t care.

A Chelsea branch of a favorite bakery sells sandwiches, salads, sweets, breads and warm drinks and has tables and chairs for those who want to eat there. They hired two very young, well-meaning, inexperienced men to fend for themselves. There were almost no sandwiches on display at the counter and we asked what was on trays full of food stacked behind their work area. Answer: [Lots more] sandwiches. However it looked to customers as though they’d run out of all but a few stragglers. The cappuccino and latte were delicious but took a dog’s age to prepare. The two juggled all jobs–warming and packing sandwiches and bakery items as well as charging customers. In other branches the drinks are made by a dedicated crew.

Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

An excellent restaurant that handled a full house with ease before was about a quarter full the other day. It maintained the quality of its food but the kitchen must have been understaffed or working with newbies as it took an unusually long time to produce dinner.

The exception is at Trader Joe’s in its newest Manhattan location in 20,000 square feet of well-lit space on First Avenue and 59th Street. Opened on December 2, the company welcomed New Yorkers long anticipating its addition to the neighborhood. [A man waiting with me at a nearby bus stop, seeing the TJ shopping bag, asked me what I thought of the store which he and his wife were looking forward to visiting.] The line on Saturday was breathtaking and the short wait to pay even more incredible. Over 20 well trained cashiers charged, packed and sent customers on their way.

The store is located in a landmark–Bridgemarket–built underneath the Queensboro Bridge which was completed in 1909. In a section called “The Cathedral,” and originally an open green market until 1946, according to a February 1998 press release on, the architects used Guastavino tile vaults for the ceiling. If you’ve been to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, you’ll recognize them. Once it was closed to commerce, the city used The Cathedral to store vehicles and as a sign shop.

In 1999 David W. Dunlap wrote in The New York Times about its opening as “a market-style Food Emporium, two restaurants operated by Sir Terence Conran, a high-end Conran home-furnishings store reached through a swoop-roofed pavilion on 59th Street and a landscaped plaza with a fountain.” The complex cost $24 million according to Dunlap. Food Emporium closed in 2015 and Trader Joe’s is the first tenant in The Cathedral since then. Where Conran’s shop was is a TJ Maxx.

I wonder where Trader Joe’s found all those trained employees who quietly refilled refrigerators and shelves, expertly directed the line that wandered up and down aisles leaving plenty of room for shoppers, with an efficient team of cashiers to top off the seamless shopping experience.

How long will it take for new, untrained employees to catch on to their jobs? Have you noticed blips in service recently?

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

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6 Responses to “Service of If You Can Breathe, You’re Hired, No Training Necessary–Except at Trader Joe’s New NYC Store”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    No problems with staff so far. The restaurants visited show no signs of attrition, possibly because of decent pay and good tips. Supermarkets have automatic check outs, so waits are no worse than usual, unless one chooses “crowded” hours. Trouble finding a parking spot near the store is often a bad sign!

  2. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: Did a quick walk thru Sunday after seeing the $10 11AM screening of House of Gucci (too long but great performances) So happy Trader Joe’s is now only 10 blocks from home 😊🙏👏

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Maybe the problem exists in big cities where minimum wage salaries don’t stretch far. Glad you haven’t encountered slowdowns.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have the same number of blocks to the nearest Trader Joe’s and Morton Williams. Trader Joe’s wins almost every time.

  5. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I go out very little because of concerns about the ever-present Covids-19. wishing it away does not make it non-existent. I don’t understand why service is terrible everywhere. Although I wish I did, I don’t have any positive experiences to recount.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I am mesmerized by some friends who join crowds of people both indoors and out in NYC as though the threat of Covid-19 is behind them. Some report not wearing masks on these occasions. I spoke with a man who told me he sees masks worn all over NYC, where he works, but not in the suburbs where he goes on weekends.

    Fascinating how aligned to Covid the stock market seems to be. Once doctors said they THOUGHT the new Omicron wasn’t as deadly as other mutations, up went the market having plummeted only a few days before when the variant was discovered. Yet attempts to get people vaccinated or forced to be protected by insisting they wear masks are vehemently scorned by some. I don’t get it.

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