Bike parking woes at Trader Joe’s

Every October the bike parking area is turned into a pumpkin patch.

Every week my family and I make at least one shopping trip to Trader Joe’s at Campbell Avenue and Limberlost Road and we always shop by bicycle.

The shopping center has one bike parking area for the entire center which houses a restaurant, coffee shop and veterinarian in addition to the Trader Joe’s.

The bike parking is in the corner nearest the grocery store. Recently the shopping center added a second rack, unfortunately they added a rack that doesn’t work for most bicycles because you can’t actually lock the frame.

Every October bicycle parking becomes even more difficult because they put their pumpkin patch where the bicycle parking is located.

I mentioned to a manager this weekend that the setup makes it difficult to park. I received a less than stellar response and decided to write to the store’s general manager and corporate office. Here’s what I’m sending:

Trader Joe’s General Manager
1899 E Limberlost Dr
Tucson, Arizona 85719
 

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to alert you to a unfortunate interaction I had with one of the managers at your store.

I am an avid bicyclist and run a blog that covers Tucson cycling. This letter will be published there as well.

I am also an avid shopper at your Trader Joe’s. My family and I visit your store several times a week for groceries and we always do it by bicycle.

We were pleased to see that you recognized the need for additional bike parking and have added more bike parking. Unfortunately the rack that was added is inadequate because it only allows the front tire to be locked rather than allowing the frame to be locked. This essentially means only the two bikes on the outsides of the rack can be securely locked.

That isn’t why I am writing however.

We’ve come to know many of your employees on a first-name basis and have always had a pleasant experience. That’s why I was so shocked by one of your managers’ reactions to a complaint I had about your pumpkin patch and how it interferes with bicycle parking.

I told this gentleman that the pumpkin patch completely blocks the new bicycle rack you installed and partially blocks the original racks.

While you can still access the racks, navigating the area with a bicycle loaded with groceries in an area full of straw and pumpkins is not easy and probably not safe.

When I pointed this out to the manager on duty I was told it’s better than last year where bikes couldn’t access the racks at all. I responded by saying that whether it was better than last year wasn’t really the point. I was then told “at least there is something for you.”

It was said in a way that made it seem like the money I and the other numerous bicyclists spend at your store is less valuable to you than the shoppers who show up in cars.

Judging from a Google Maps view of your parking area, there are more than 100 car parking spaces in your lot and only eight functional spots for bicycles. At a store that has direct access from a major bike path.

I would like to kindly suggest in the future you consider taking the two parking spots in the corner near the bike racks and converting that to your pumpkin patch. It will be near your entrance, will allow for plenty of parking spaces for your customers and your bicycling patrons will be able to access the racks without worrying about crashing into your pumpkins.

Thank you for your time,

Sincerely,

Michael McKisson

Publisher/TucsonVelo.com

Thoughts? Did I overreact? I was more perturbed about the manager’s response than anything else.

26 comments
Kjg
Kjg

Very nice letter, Mike.  We, too, often stop there on our way home.  I haven't yet been unable to lock my bike appropriately, but it's been a near thing at times.  With all the car parking spaces available, there are certainly other options.  We'll see what response they have now.  

Sharon
Sharon

 I don't cycle to that  particular Trader Joes, but I do cycle to Sunflower at Broadway and Pantano.   Although there are racks there,  I'm often stopping after a ride, without a lock, so I just walk my bike around the store with me.    Maybe patrons at the Trader Joe's should consider doing the same.  Not much different than a shopping cart.  Perhaps the manager would take notice...

Strawman106
Strawman106

Actually they did a similar thing last year. The year before was the last year the bike parking was completely blocked. That year I boycotted the store until the parking was restored. Over the years I have consistently lobbied the store managers for more and better bicycle parking. Odd that there solution is an 8 space rack that only parks 2 bikes. Sunflower had a similar problem last year. Their rack was MIA for a couple of months. The dairy guy finally fixed it. So yeah, give them heck. I know I was completely annoyed by having to navigate that stupid sidewalk with all of the overhanging parked cars only to be facing the wrong direction with no room to turn because I shop with a cargo trailer and a fixed gear. Ever year I am infuriated by the pumpkin corral. Every year I complain. I'm glad I'm not the only one this bothers.

guest
guest

how about a bike-in, say 20 cargo bikes and maybe 50 singles.  that would get their attention.

Jimg
Jimg

Next time you visit TJ, bring your bike inside and lock it to the customer service desk.

Red Star
Red Star

Probably the letter should have been addressed to the ultimo store manager by his/her actual full name rather than title.  (it only takes a couple of phone calls on different shifts to finally get the name of a store's responsible individual). Also, with these regional and national retailers,  it's a good idea to obtain the name and title of the district or regional manager and hold that in reserve. It's important to give them something readily doable at low cost like moving the pumpkin patch to a better place for all. Complaining about the bike racks themselves and managerial employee behavior in the context of interacting with customers, though valid, is complex, political, and very emotional for retailers. Suggest small bites at a time with reinforcement for good behavior along the way.

Shadmtn
Shadmtn

Good for you Mike.    I don't believe you overracted, it appears the manager got defensive and overreacted.   You give the cycling community and our community a strong voice and you have made a positive difference. Perhaps approaching the Plaza Antigua management company would be beneficial.  With the south river path opening up soon, it will bring significant bicycle traffic to the businesses, especially TJ, CaffeLuce and Choices. Keep up the good work.

TwosawnBycur
TwosawnBycur

I agree with your letter, Mike.  The more concise and to the point, the better the chance that they won't just skim it for actionable items. I also bike-shop there all the time and I remember last year, how I rode up and thought, "What?  I need to bring my bike THROUGH the pumpkin patch to lock it up?"  I remember there being very little room to walk with the bike.  It seemed to be arranged with minimal though to bicyclists. Considering this store's location next to a multi-use path that is actively GROWING, two things stand out: 1. Very little bike parking. 2. No ramps to transition from the parking lot to the bike path.

colby
colby

The @GM twitter feed is dominated by apologies for their 'Stop pedaling' ads - looks like they got hammered pretty good.    Maybe that's what is necessary for the Trader Joe's bike parking issue. 

zz
zz

Excellent! Only by speaking out consistently in these areas and situations can we shift that attitude. Maybe some old-fashioned data collection is needed to see what percentage of their business they're willing to write off...in these tough economic times.

Ian Johnson
Ian Johnson

Go Mike! Let us all know what kind of response you get -- and if writing more letters seems like a good idea. I bet you could get 20-30 people to write something in short order. "At least you have something." Maybe you should bring your extracycle into the store next time.

Tabot
Tabot

I have been frustrated with Trader Joe's Halloween setup for years. I have never understood why they don't use car spots. Thanks for representing us cyclists! I am pretty tired of being treated so poorly in this town. Last week I was treated like a criminal at Woods library by the security guard. It really upset me. I'm not sure how to change this attitude because I don't fully understand it but it needs to change.

PK
PK

Well said.  I totally agree that they would be better using parking spaces and I always go by car.  I know for a fact that virtually all of my many  friends and acquaintances who shop there may go by car but we are pro-bike and they would also be surprised by the manager's response.  It doesn't represent the shoppers that I know frequent that particular TJ's.

Jay Rochlin
Jay Rochlin

An important letter.  Every time I've brought up bicycle parking at that Trader Joe's I get politely blown off.  I'd stop by to purchase things way more often if they accommodated bicycles better.  Thanks for taking action.

Carolyn
Carolyn

Well written. Thank you for representing us!

guest
guest

i'm with you mike.  too many of tucson's business establishments don't really care about the cyclist's business.  if there isn't good bike parking i won't shop there.

Kimberly Terpe
Kimberly Terpe

I'm disappointed with the manager at this particular Trader Joe's. He cares very little for what happens outside the front doors of his store. This summer I found two dogs in a car, windows cracked, and the owner was obviously inside the store. I wanted him to make an announcement as it was nearing 95 degrees outside. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "We don't have a loudspeaker."  It frustrated me beyond belief.  I think your reaction was just! Way to go.  

colby
colby

I like the  letter Mike - I also wonder if this might be a parking code violation? Not sure if the requirement for bike racks actually applies to them and if it means they have to be usable.

3wheeler
3wheeler

You are right, Colby.  I don't know the exact requirements but each type of business (retail, professional, manufacturing, etc.) must provide a certain # of car parking spaces and bicycle spaces based on the square footage of the building.  Getting all the car parking on the site can be a challenge at times.  Having any room left for bike racks can be a massive challenge.  I'd like to see the zoning ordinance changed to reduce the need for car parking by one spot in all instances and replace it w/ a bike corral located near the door.  The handicap spaces still get first priority tho.  The bike corral would be in addition to the current bike parking requirement. 

Mike McC.
Mike McC.

Well done... two or three years ago I lived in the apartment complex immediately north of the Mtn Ave bridge and went to that TJ's many times.  The bike parking was completely obstructed on more than one occasion.

Rach Stevenson
Rach Stevenson

You did it right.  When the East Hollywood Trader Joes opened without any bike racks, several LA cyclists arranged a boycott, social media campaign and loads of people made phone calls to request racks.  And we got decent racks after TJs got really quite annoyed with every phone call being related to bike parking. http://soapboxla.blogspot.com/2010/06/trader-joes-sets-tod-standard-bike.html Trader Joes seems to routinely overlook cycling parking.  I suppose lots of places do.  It's annoying.

Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

Mike - looks good to me.  The TJ's at Grant/Swan has racks also, but they are compromised 50% by the encroachment from the Chipotle patio area fence.   Kind of like at Target in El Con where the racks for 8 bikes becomes 2 bikes because they installed them 2 feet from the wall.  Let us know the response, I would think TJ's would try to be more helpful than the average corporate entity.   Steve

guest
guest

I'm thankful that the Trader Joes there has the two bike racks.  Are there any other TJ's with bike racks?  The one at Campbell and Limberlost is the only one that I know of.  Ive been told that TJ's has been very anti bicycle rack in the past as it doesn't attract the customer base that they want.

Tabot
Tabot

I spend 4k/year at Trader Joes...what kind of customer base are they looking for?

3wheeler
3wheeler

Tabot, I haven't tallied my TJ reciepts, but I bet I've spent a couple thou there myself each year.