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Mark Gardiner's Comments

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The Worst Product Flops of 2013: 24/7 Wall St.

The Worst Product Flops of 2013: 24/7 Wall St.

Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 20:16:38 in Business

“Ah, Lululemon... a company whose customers can't see the irony in $139 yoga tights, but snap to attention when the founder, Chip Wilson, makes a sexist remark. Why was I not surprised by his comment? Because long before Chip Wilson was a billionaire yoga entrepreneur, I spent hundreds of hours in an airless basement room with him. I tell that story here:

DeeSevere on Dec 28, 2013 at 21:36:55

“Yup. Why anyone would want to spend a lot of money on gym clothes that are going to get sweaty and gross on a regular basis, is beyond me. This is what Target and Old Navy are for.”
50 Things Only People Over 50 Understand

50 Things Only People Over 50 Understand

Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 09:36:48 in Fifty

“So why do advertisers fail to connect with the huge boomer market, with so much evocative imagery to mine? Why, instead, are mature consumers typecast by the ad industry? Why are Viagra ads so ghastly? And what does Harry Potter know that Don Draper obviously didn't? I'm glad you ask...
Chip Wilson, Lululemon Founder: ‘Some Women's Bodies' Not Right For Our Pants

Chip Wilson, Lululemon Founder: ‘Some Women's Bodies' Not Right For Our Pants

Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 16:50:35 in Canada Business

“In the early '80s, I spent several hours a week in a dingy basement gym with Chip Wilson. That experience is why I've labeled him the world's least-likely billionaire. You can read more about Chip's early years here:

That said, with Lululemon's resolutely ill-tempered PR faux pas, it may soon be time to label him one of the world's least-liked billionaires, too. If Lululemon's doing this on purpose, its strategy is thus far pretty inscrutable.”

Ma Cy on Nov 7, 2013 at 19:36:32

“That was a very interesting read! Thanks for the link :)”
Trader Joe's To Drop Health Coverage For Part-Time Workers Under Obamacare: Memo

Trader Joe's To Drop Health Coverage For Part-Time Workers Under Obamacare: Memo

Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 14:10:42 in Business

“I haven't shopped the exchanges yet, but I doubt that $500 -- a one-time payment, presumably -- will be more than a drop in the (cleanup in aisle 2) bucket.

As I concluded in my book "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" this is more evidence that the company's current senior management *fails* to understand that those chatty, happy crew members are the foundation of the brand.

Small changes in the ways employees are evaluated, and given raises & promotions have already resulted in a visibly more disgruntled workforce. This will have a similar effect.

Now that Albrecht (long time owner) is dead, senior managers feel freed to make decisions, but like other shortsighted American executives, they're trading short term gains for long term brand erosion. The good ship is off course.”
Trader Joe's Tops Survey Of Best Grocery Chains, Walmart Lands At Bottom Of List

Trader Joe's Tops Survey Of Best Grocery Chains, Walmart Lands At Bottom Of List

Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 13:48:31 in Business

“"Thaddeus" and others across the web have noted that this survey doesn't mention Wegman's. That's because a nationwide survey of 6,600 people would not pick up enough feedback from Wegman's shoppers. Obviously, the people who *do* know Wegman's realize that it is superior, in most ways, to the 'winners' cited here.

As the author of "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" I'm not surprised that TJ's fared well in this survey, and I'm gratified that, in general, the categories in which it scored well support my premise that the store's success is based more on the in-store shopping experience, instead of on the products, as the chain's management claims.

The unique thing about TJ's brand and its incredibly loyal followers is that the brand projects values that the chain and its products don't really support. The good scores in Produce, Nutritional Information, and Sustainability may indeed reflect the shoppers' opinions, but they aren't based on any real knowledge. Those are hardly strengths of Trader Joe's, as readers of my blog will already know.”

PalaceOfWisdom on Jul 24, 2013 at 17:25:03

“I don't care about the hippie Ben & Jerry's vibe they go for, I just enjoy countless items I can't get elsewhere for good prices.”
The Best Cheap Wine: Two Buck Chuck vs. Three Wishes

The Best Cheap Wine: Two Buck Chuck vs. Three Wishes

Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 13:33:38 in Taste

“As the author of "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" and the blog, here's why you should take this article with a grain of salt: Like all large-volume 'batch' wines, Chuck varies *a*lot* from case to case in any year.

The sell through rate is astonishing -- we sold several pallets of Chuck a day at the store where I worked. And while the bottles in any one case, or on any one pallet, were all the same, I noticed wild swings in the taste of the wine from week to week and month to month -- ranging from "surprisingly drinkable" to "pour straight down drain."

Are you desperate to get max value for your $2.99? In general, my advice to customers buying wine at TJ's (and I was the crew member most sought out on this topic) is to spend twice as much and drink half as much. There are several consistently decent wines in the $5-10 range.

But if you have your heart set on Chuck, buy one bottle of the varietal you want, take it to the parking lot, open it and taste it. If you like it, go straight back in and buy a couple of cases. If it's terrible, wait a couple of weeks and try again. You'll probably be getting wine from a different batch that may well taste completely different.”

jimofil on Jul 21, 2013 at 23:13:30

“You are absolutely right, the quality of Two Buck Chuck Yellow Tail and probably Three Wishes as well varies enormously, because they buy any grapes, (and sometimes juice and even sometimes bulk wine) ferment it and bottle it and send it out as quickly as they can.

If the same contest was held next month, it is likely that there would be different scores and different winners.”
Trader Joe's Lawsuit Over 'Evaporated Cane Juice' Part Of Firm's Crusade Against Mislabeled Foods

Trader Joe's Lawsuit Over 'Evaporated Cane Juice' Part Of Firm's Crusade Against Mislabeled Foods

Commented Mar 30, 2013 at 17:03:51 in Healthy Living

“Trader Joe's has, in the past, been singled out by activist consumers precisely *because* it's such a well-loved brand. But this is not one of those cases. I have to say that when I worked at TJ's while researching "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" I noticed the 'evaporated cane juice' ingredient and found it somewhat disingenuous. Unlike previous commenters, I do not think that 'anyone' should know that simply means sugar. And while I appreciate the implication that cane sugar is less likely to have GMO origins than beet sugar, it's a stretch from there to concluding that the actual sugar molecules are any different. Most importantly, this complaint underlines a fairly pervasive conflation of terms like 'organic', 'natural', and 'healthy'. While Trader Joe's trumpets its 'all-natural' credentials, the labels on prepared foods (which account for most of TJ's profit) are not any more honest than the labels on major brands. Portion sizes cited are small, and if consumers really looked at fat, sugar, and especially sodium levels in Trader Joe's prepared foods, they'd be disappointed.”
Who Really Makes Trader Joe's Food? (TASTE TEST)

Who Really Makes Trader Joe's Food? (TASTE TEST)

Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 19:43:39 in Taste

“For more insight into Trader Joe's suppliers that have been 'outed' over the years, hit the blog You'll also find information there about the 'healthy-ness' of Trader Joe's prepared foods (overrated) and the lack of oversight in terms of the presence or absence of GMOs in Trader Joe's products.

As this post makes clear, Trader Joe's is not a vertically-integrated company. Especially where prepared foods are concerned (which account for most of TJ's profit) TJ's is buying from outside suppliers who, themselves, source ingredients from other suppliers. TJ's passes along their assurances about things like GMOs, but doesn't test to confirm such claims.

As a general rule, consumers should be skeptical of any product that simultaneously claims to be value-priced and organic/GMO-free. Some Trader Joe's products are organic and (presumably) the suppliers of those products could, if pressed, show some kind of organic certification. But don't leap to the conclusion that all TJ's milk or eggs, for example, are raised without antibiotics. That is not the case.”

grandma58 on Feb 12, 2013 at 20:58:49

“Being a former farm kid, antibiotics were used for sick animals, just like sick people. The over use of antibiotics is not a good thing in either case.”

OhioSpeaks on Feb 12, 2013 at 20:25:18

“Mark: thank you for that info. Nothing is ever as good as people think or claim.”
The Biggest Food Safety Disasters Of 2012

The Biggest Food Safety Disasters Of 2012

Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 18:38:28 in Home

“It's interesting that whenever a food recall includes a Trader Joe's product, it's immediately characterized as a "Trader Joe's" incident, even though most of the companies that supply Trader Joe's also sell similar products under the guise of other brands. Sunland Foods, the supplier of Trader Joe's recalled peanut butter, packaged over 100 products sold under dozens of other brands.

The big agriculture forces behind corporate scale food production routinely argue that their 'scientific' approach renders the food system safer. But the truth is -- and Trader Joe's is an example of this -- that the corporate approach and the increase in the role of prepared foods even for meals consumed at home makes it harder, not easier, to preserve food safety.

I've written about this in more detail on my TraderJoesSecrets blog, here:
Elderly Driving: AARP Study Looks At What Happens When Boomers Hang Up Their Car Keys?

Elderly Driving: AARP Study Looks At What Happens When Boomers Hang Up Their Car Keys?

Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 12:24:01 in Fifty

“It’s interesting that while the automotive industry is rapidly developing technology like self-parking cars, active lane assist and adaptive cruise control -- all options that have major implications for senior mobility -- the ads for these new features always show Gen X or Gen Y drivers. (Ironically, while the consensus is that older drivers will basically drive until society pries their cold, dead hands off the steering wheel, the young people shown in these ads are driving less and less!)

re: is the only ad agency in the U.S. devoted to creating ads that resonate with consumers over 50 -- a group normally shunned by marketers. There’s an interesting post, here on the subject of aging drivers.”
Marathons Safe For Aging Boomers, Study Finds

Marathons Safe For Aging Boomers, Study Finds

Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 17:06:05 in Fifty

“This is probably not news to the people actually running marathons at the age of 50+, although it may surprise some young people that anyone over 50 actually does stuff like that. Yes, ironically, the people with the out-of-date ideas about old people are *young* people. Not surprising, really, since so many of the messages they get are generated by the ad industry, which has long ignored mature consumers. (The ad industry only considers consumers over 50 when they're pitching products or services that are used exclusively by seniors, and even then the ads are actually conceived, written, and art directed by 'creatives' young enough to be those consumers' children.) There's only one ad agency in the U.S., re: based in Kansas City, that specializes in ads that will resonate with mature consumers because they are conceived by mature writers and art directors. If you visit the re: blog at, you'll learn that aging 'boomers' are redefining a lot more than the age at which it's appropriate to run marathons -- they're redefining aging. Now, if only the ad industry could catch up...”

My sources tell me no on Sep 6, 2012 at 18:53:41

“LOL, ya pretty much spot on about the young people thing. Young people who havent been around a healthy older person dont know what we are capable of if we take care of ourselves.

Im still fairly young but at 19 i worked concrete and had a foreman who was a 63 yr old nam vet. And he worked me into the ground every day, i still say he probably out sweated every other person on the job site every day as well.”

mary collins finn on Sep 5, 2012 at 17:04:38

“F&F. Well said. If you read my entry above you will see that I echo your thoughts exactly”
Occupy Monsanto Plans Protest At D.C. Trader Joe's

Occupy Monsanto Plans Protest At D.C. Trader Joe's

Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 15:30:34 in DC

“For a perspective on this issue, check out”
You've Got... Adam Lashinsky, Author Of 'Inside Apple'

You've Got... Adam Lashinsky, Author Of 'Inside Apple'

Commented May 31, 2012 at 11:02:00 in Small Business

“I just spent a year working at Trader Joe's, and writing "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's". In my book, I cite Apple as the another example of a secrecy-obsessed company with an incredibly strong cultural brand. One of the challenges such companies face is, there's a slippery slope from 'culture' to simply, 'cult'. The death of Theo Albrecht seems to have emboldened Trader Joe's current management, and the company seems to have embarked down a path that will, in the long run, decrease its brand equity. Whither Apple without Jobs? Without the leader of that personality cult, it seems to me that the company can either extract value from its group intelligence, or gradually lose momentum. Doing that will require cross-fertilization and openness. More on the Trader Joe's store at my web site, TraderJoesSecrets”

Onutz on May 31, 2012 at 14:08:28

“((Whither Apple without Jobs? Without the leader of that personality cult, it seems to me that the company can either extract value from its group intelligence, or gradually lose momentum.))

There was no bigger cult of personality than Walt Disney. Yet Disneyworld wasn't completed until "after" he passed. And the company will surely flourish long after we're gone.”
8 Reasons Trader Joe's Rules

8 Reasons Trader Joe's Rules

Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 17:00:12 in Parents

“If this post had been up a few years ago when I was writing my book "Build a Brand LIke Trader Joe's", I would have cited it as evidence for my basic premise: kid's carts, stickers, wacky signage, right down to the staffer that let your kid cut in, in the washroom line; you may love the cookie butter, but yourr taste is heavily influenced by friendly, personalized shopping experience. As much as TJ's has succeeded in creating a unique(-seeming, really) atmosphere, the brand they built is replicable by any company that will remember that people prefer dealing with people over dealing with "brands" or companies.”
Chip Wilson Can Kiss My Fat Yoga Ass: A Lululemon Ambassador Speaks Out

Chip Wilson Can Kiss My Fat Yoga Ass: A Lululemon Ambassador Speaks Out

Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 13:32:50 in Women

“About thirty years ago, I spent hundreds of hours in a small basement room with Chip Wilson. That sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it's the truth. I've written about it here...

Not many 50-something guys Chip's size can get their foot into their mouth. I guess yoga's good for something.”
Surviving Whole Foods

Surviving Whole Foods

Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 16:50:56 in Comedy

“Don't get me started on food intolerances. Like, why are they so much more common in electoral districts that vote Democratic?”

Zawbanjito on Sep 17, 2013 at 22:12:06

“Maybe because they read more there?”

rachzach on Sep 17, 2013 at 21:33:13

“Would you like to look my 8 year old granddaughter (and her sister and aunt) when she has been "glutened"? She cramps and vomits within minutes of contamination. You have no idea what you're talking about.”

LisaCormanRoberts on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:32:28

“they are just more common now because we have altered our food supplies and sprayed everything with pesticides. wheat strands were altered to better withstand drought and to increase yield.... well, that messed with people's ability to eat wheat without issue.”

AlonzoQuijana on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:25:22

“I live in a very blue congressional district. Try planning a dinner party here. No GM foods! No farm raised salmon! No peanuts! No gluten! No MSG! No meat! Free range chicken only! No dairy! No salt! No sugar! You need a spread sheet or some elaborate, ten ring Venn diagram to figure out who can eat with whom.”

jlfenton on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:20:59

“Intelligence level?”

mainezen on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:19:48

“People in BLUE distrits are SMART; like educated people !”

news360 on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:18:38

“food intolerance has a high correlation to high disposable income which has a high correlation to higher education which has a high correlation to city living which has a high correlation to voting democratic”

BlueKansas on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:15:39

“Generalize much?”

Heather Ferris Vaughan on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:14:24

“Because electoral districts that vote Democratic have higher income brackets.”

Rubyfoo on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:08:49

“We leave the other intolerances to red districts.”

greyseal on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:05:53

“Because the Republican districts are too busy with every other type of intolerance to have time for gluten intolerance.”

Dont B LCD on Sep 17, 2013 at 18:04:53

“Higher instances of self-awareness and general conscientiousness?”

gingerwings on Sep 17, 2013 at 17:44:31

“because the republicans just let the food intolerant folks die from no insurance”

jk6537 on Sep 17, 2013 at 17:18:01

“Maybe the folks in Red districts don't have the brains to know what they have ARE food intolerances.”

Peter Deffet on Sep 17, 2013 at 17:16:43

“You just showed all of your cards, friend.”

Blanka Lawruszonis on Sep 17, 2013 at 17:12:42

“Because Republicans have such good digestion? Meat and potatoes? ;0)”

GrimboCrimby on Sep 17, 2013 at 17:10:12

“they're not.”
Trader Joe's Seafood Promise to Greenpeace Still Murky

Trader Joe's Seafood Promise to Greenpeace Still Murky

Commented May 13, 2013 at 16:24:41 in Taste

“Evelyn, I've got news for you: You write, "But until that happens, I will need to ask my friendly sales clerk whether that frozen yellowfin tuna from Fiji was caught using a long-line or purse seine equipped with a "fish aggregating device, or FAD."" There is *absolutely*no*chance* that anyone you meet working at your local Trader Joe's can answer that question.

The company is not vertically integrated; fish caught be independent fisherman are sold to middlemen, packers and processors. The best you can hope for is that Trader Joe's extracts a sustainability promise from those middlemen who in turn extract it from the actual fishermen.

There are a number of reasons why Trader Joe's is so famously secretive, but the truth is that the company's management is so lean -- there are only a few dozen head office employees -- that even if it wanted to do so, Trader Joe's *could*not* police its suppliers.

For a more detailed perspective on this, visit the Trader Joe's Secrets blog, here:
Are Baby Boomers Still Pushing Up the Divorce Rate?

Are Baby Boomers Still Pushing Up the Divorce Rate?

Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 16:14:15 in Divorce

“At re: we think that boomer's divorce rates are interesting, but we read something very different into these stats.

First, while it may be true that older 'singles' have worse health problems, it's not fair to compare the health of singles, as a group, to married couples, as a group. The health implications of divorce could only be determined by comparing the health of divorced people with the health of couples in unhappy and unsatisfying relationships. The statistics cited are not evidence that divorce, per se, is unhealthy.

Second and more important, we believe higher divorce rates among boomers, compared to previous generations at the same age, actually reflect positive trends. Boomers refuse to 'settle in' to their decisions. Where as previous generations (for example) "stayed together for the kids" and then decided once the kids had left their lives were functionally over anyway, the boomers feel that they can redefine themselves and reinvent their lives at any age.

We don't think that's a negative. We think it reflects an overall approach to aging that is beneficial both to their satisfaction and health.

On our blog, we profile one of these divorcing boomers in an inspiring video. If you want to get a very different picture of what these statistics mean, in the lives of real people, go here:
Presidential Candidates Miss the Mark

Presidential Candidates Miss the Mark

Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 16:49:51 in Fifty


It doesn't surprise me at all that the Presidential candidates are largely ignoring the 50+ crowd, because a run for office is essentially a sales job -- and marketers of all stripes are blind to mature consumers! I suspect that (notwithstanding Romney's infamous 47% comment) both parties agree with most marketers, that consumers over 50 have habits that will never break.

I bet you know from direct experience that that's BS. The truth is, the boomers are aging differently than any previous generation. I'm not saying this out of selfish exceptionalism, I'm saying it because they're the first generation to age while consciously (and in many cases actively) refusing to accept the notion that they're "getting old".

It's a market that is ignored at peril. While the number of consumers 18-34 will barely increase over the next 15 years, the number of people over 65 will double. Obviously, the people who want to sell us our next President don't care what we think, either!

There's only one ad agency, re: ( that expressly states they specialize in creating messages that will resonate with consumers over 50. I wonder if, come 2016, any political operatives will come knocking on their door having finally realized that the boomers -- a generation steeped in protest movements -- are still perfectly willing to throw over the orthodoxy?..”
Trader Joe's Receives Boulder Planning Board Approval

Trader Joe's Receives Boulder Planning Board Approval

Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 17:55:22 in Denver

“The photo series of Trader Joe's favorites doesn't really convey how loaded with salt and calories most Trader Joe's prepared foods are -- notwithstanding their 'all-natural, no preservatives claim', those prepared foods may be tasty but are usually pretty unhealthy.

Nonetheless, it's always exciting when Trader Joe's comes to a new market. But what fascinated me was how Trader Joe's built one of America's most valuable brands while spending almost nothing on advertising. One thing's for sure, they won't tell you... It's also one of America's most secretive companies. That's why after 20 years in the ad business, I had to take a $12/hour job there to research my book, "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" (available on Amazon).

During my training, we were coached that, if asked about high sodium levels in prepared foods, we should say that salt was there as a natural preservative. (Um, we're talking about frozen or canned items, so... preserving? I don't think so.) For more info about this fascinating company, hit my blog,”

FirstGenRandR on Oct 19, 2012 at 22:41:36

“Flagged for plugging your book and blog in 5 of the 6 comments you have made.”
The 2012 Wine Olympic Games: We Try Every Variety of Trader Joe's Two-Buck-Chuck!

The 2012 Wine Olympic Games: We Try Every Variety of Trader Joe's Two-Buck-Chuck!

Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 14:10:09 in Home

“This video may be as much tongue-in-cheek as it is wine-in-mouth, but it actually exemplifies one of the key points I made in my book, "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" and that is that Trader Joe's brand halo effect dramatically influences the way the brand's fans approach its products. The result is that the perceived quality of the product is as influenced by the sliding scale the product is scored on, as it is by the intrinsic qualities of the product itself. Can you imagine anyone creating, posting, or watching a video comparing all the 'Barefoot' wines? Nevergonnahappen.

On a semi-serious note, the best advice I can give to Two-buck Chuck buyers is, beware that no wine produced in the millions of bottles is consistent. I suggest going into TJ's and buying one bottle of the varietal you're considering, and opening and tasting it in the parking lot. If it's decent (and it sometimes is) go right back in and buy a case. It's probable that all bottles of any one varietal in any one store at any one time are similar. If it is awful (a very real possibility) wait a few weeks and try again.

For more insights into Trader Joe's, and the way it built it's incredible cultural brand virtually without advertising, read "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" (search the title on Amazon) or visit my web site,


garystartswithg on Aug 10, 2012 at 21:14:05

“Believe it or not Charles Shaw has vat information on the bottle and box. If you pick up an odd bottle that is really good then you can get a box or two from the same vat if they still have some.

One of the appeals of Charles Shaw is the price, though the quality is on par with things twice its price at other grocery stores. Locally its difficult to anything close in price except for Walmart and Aldi. I think TJ's has a certain urban chic on a budget appeal, similar to Ikea. I live in Atlanta, where the closest TJ's is one of their busiest stores -- mostly because its surrounded by colleges and hip young thangs. It also gets ridiculous amounts of tourists. Most people that know what a two buck chuck is also know what a billy and a malm are too.
Ironically we are inundated with Barefoot here -- they show up at every arts festival and pride parade. Its a Gallo product (so is Aldi's winky owl) but they are pushing it hard for young urban markets apparently. As you are interested in marketing i am within 2 miles of an Urban Outfitters, CB2, H&M, Banana Republic, Guess, Ikea, W Elm, Z Gallerie -- you can tell the trendy niche marketers are moving in like vultures. I lost count of all the Starbucks -- I think I counted 11 within 2 miles of me. Thats past crazy.”
Sweet Finds And Major Disappointments At Trader Joe's

Sweet Finds And Major Disappointments At Trader Joe's

Commented Aug 6, 2012 at 14:18:47 in Home

“Trader Joe's has lots of great products, for sure. And its share of mediocre ones. According to Trader Joe's, "We're a product-driven company." But anyone who's been exposed to Trader Joe's fanatical fans knows that the people who love Trader Joe's love it way out of proportion to the chain's (impressive-but-not-THAT-impressive) products. Nor can its amazing brand be explained by a great advertising campaign. So how did they do it? They'll never tell you; Trader Joe's is one of the most secretive companies in America. After 20 years in the ad business, I worked undercover at Trader Joe's for a year before writing, "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's". I've just added a 'Community' page to my blog, and would love to hear why you love (or hate) shopping at Trader Joe's.”

mettarose on Aug 6, 2012 at 19:42:50

“I never really thought there was any big secret- it's the most affordable way to eat healthy. Eating well is, of course, at the consumer's own discretion, but trader joe's makes it easier. You pay more for similar items at normal grocery stores, and while whole foods might have a bigger selection of healthier foods, the price increase is hardly proportional.”