Monday, August 20, 2012

Don't mess with Texas (parking lot traffic)

Trader Joe's recently opened in Fort Worth, and the Star-Telegram newspaper reports that the flood of new customers has angered tenants at the Stonegate Crossing Shopping Center next door. Now, a busy parking lot is to be expected at any Trader Joe's Grand Opening -- and in fact after the Grand Opening at my store (#720, Kansas City) the other merchants at Ward Parkway Shopping Mall were thrilled by the added Trader Joe's traffic.

But Trader Joe's has definitely messed with Texans' parking priorities in Fort Worth. As the Star-Telegram reports...
Roger Chieffalo, a Fort Worth real estate broker who has worked with Stonegate, is convinced that the German-owned chain knew it had insufficient parking before it opened. And judging from visits to Trader Joe's stores in other cities, Chieffalo believes it's a corporatewide strategy to get by with scant parking at the expense of neighboring retailers.
"Anybody who knows anything about this business realized they didn't have enough spaces," he told us. "How did they get a permit to open with the amount of parking they had?"
That disgruntled real estate broker is right to assume that Trader Joe's chronically insufficient parking provisions have touched a nerve with even devoted Trader Joe's fans. Cartoonist Mimi Pond has pondered the existence of a medical condition she's dubbed TJPLMS -- Trader Joe's Parking Lot Moron Syndrome.

A popular Los Angeles blog posted Google Earth images of "The five worst Trader Joe's parking lots in L.A." And a Sacramento Blogger admitted that Trader Joe's parking lot frustrations almost made her "lose her shit". Percussionist Martin Diller even composed a pretty cool jazz piece inspired by (and titled) Trader Joe's Parking Lot.
I have to admit that when I lived in California, I avoided my local (Encinitas) Trader Joe's parking lot on weekends or during weekday afternoon peaks from 5-6 pm.

Now, that Texan real estate broker seems genuinely pissed at Trader Joe's. But the thing that interests me about most of these customers' parking lot gripes is that they're basically conveying a sense of "Yeah isn't it terrible, but it's what we all have to put up with to shop here." Most people wouldn't stand for this at any other grocery store. That really gets to one of the key points in "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" which is that customers who genuinely like your brand -- who think of your brand as one of their friends -- will cut you a tremendous amount of slack.

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