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I’m having a love affair – with Trader Joe’s.

 

We have a secret rendezvous at least twice a week. Well, not that secret since I usually have to bring my toddler and sometimes my 5-year-old twins, too.

 

But my children are supportive. They love Trader Joe’s as much as I do. The clerks there are trained to give them stickers and free samples.

 

Furthermore, my kids have figured out that the place has not just one but two kinds of cinnamon rolls: the raw-dough-and-frosting-in-a-cardboard-tube kind and the ones ready-made to pop right in the microwave. (I’d recommend 15 seconds on high.)

 

I'm addicted to Trader Joe's wasabi-flavored almonds. The edamame hummus pairs perfectly with the “Reduced Guilt” pita chips. And I find it so hard to resist a barnacle-covered pumpkin this time of year.

 

True, Trader Joe’s bread goes stale within about two days. But that’s only because, as the “Trader Joe’s Promise” outlines, none of its eponymous products use artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or “GMOs.” The store clearly has my back if it’s protecting me from genetically modified organisms I didn’t even know existed.

 

But I love Trader Joe’s for more than just its organic delights. I also admire how the store poses questions that were on my mind and then answers them with signs.

 

“Trader Joe’s bells: Why do we ring them?” queries one such posting. Enamored as I am, even I will admit that all the clanging was getting to me. However, reading that three bells meant “captain or mates ahoy” – i.e. “manager come running” – soothed my jangled nerves.

 

In fact, I generally find the store’s atmosphere to be courteous, and this is no accident. I noticed a hiring sign this week instructing that applicants “must be nice and tell funny jokes.” One of my favorite cashiers even recently cried out, “go girl,” before joining me in the chorus of “I Second That Emotion” while expertly scanning my groceries.

 

However, I must confide that my romance with Trader Joe’s may be on the wane. I blame a recent, tragic event that started as an innocent game.

 

“Try guessing how much your bill will be,” a clerk coyly propositioned the other day.

 

I guessed $168.37. The total came to $168.13.

 

“That’s the closest anyone’s ever gotten!” he exclaimed, genuinely impressed.

“Really?” I gushed. “What do I win?”

“Just my undying admiration – and some stickers,” he said, extending a sheet to my 2-year-old.

 

Well, sweetheart. That may no longer be sufficient. You may have to toss in a free box of vanilla Joe-Joe’s to keep me coming back.

 

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