Trader Joe management/employee maltreatment of residential building tenants, customers, employees

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Oct 21, 2018
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#1
This is a complaint about Trader Joes safety and fire code violations of the shared hallway area in the building in Virginia, DC area, and managers and employees “snarky”, aggressive, and even “bully-ish” refusals to alter these dangerous actions, and Trader Joe shift managers repeated, very aggressive, and outright dismissive refusal to give customers any contact information about how to contact owners, regional managers, store manager, etcetera. This information is not available by internet, either, or at least, I cannot find it. Trader Joe shift managers and stock employees all call themselves “the manager”, and refuse to divulge any possible contact information to customers by which we could reach a higher level of authority. I do not believe I have ever actually spoken to even one “real” shift manager yet. But I cannot break through the Trader Joe “wall” to access anyone with any authority over the shift crew members.

Apartment residents, office tenants, the underground parking deck access all include the full use of the shared large back hallway to enter and exit the Lyonplace building. Except for the hours of 5-10 pm, this access area is also the ONLY permitted residential access for moving in, or out, or receiving large or bulky deliveries such as furnishings. Trader Joe customers are directed by Trader Joe signs to use this hall area to enter or exit via the parking deck. This hallway is a designated public access for customers, other businesses tenants, and all residential tenants. It is the main designated fire escape route. It is the recommended location for severe weather shelter, or any other emergencies for both tenants and the general public for all emergencies requiring immediate and sturdy sheltering.

Prior to this summer, that shared hallway was always meticulously clean, and free from pallets, stacks of full boxes, stacks of dry broken down paper boxes, and rotting produce, and stacks of Trader Joe merchandise, and never had smells and standing spills. These issues began immediately after last year’s manager left, in mid-spring of 2018. At least, that was when the problems began. He was exceptional. The managers and new employees since are absolutely not of the same calibre, in any way.

The complaints are noted as occurring since April 2018 or about thereafter. They are noted as occurring frequently, and at least three times per week and often more. The complaints note that the hall is frequently or nearly impassable, rife with serious OSHA violations, breaks every county fire code, and is the playground of giggling forklift drivers joyriding up and down the hall with no heavy equipment “spotters” watching from the floor, and exercising zero regard for human pedestrian safety. These are not normal activities for “unloading the truck”. I have lived here three years, and TJ has been unloading trucks daily the entire time. Prior to springtime 2018, the trucks were unloaded quickly, in an organized manner, with little disruption or inconvenience to customers or building tenants, and all merchandise was rapidly put into the Trader Joes leased storage room near the loading ramp, so we know this can be done.

This summer, onward, that public-access, shared large hallway has now become a de facto “storage unit” for Trader Joe merchandise. This is in the form of huge pallets, loaded with unsafe and unbalanced stacks of merchandise, often stacked well above the height of a taller adult. The pallets block or “nearly” block the entire hallway at Other in-building business employee access doors into the hall. The pallets frequently block the public access of customers who are attempting to leave the TJ store to get to the parking deck. Both the large and the small forklift are often parked or idling in front of that doorway, unattended. Sometimes this heavy equipment blocks that doorway for extended periods. If there were a fire and customers needed to safely exit via that door...,they would die in the fire. The pallets also often block the exit and entrance that is specifically intended for our keyed residential tenant indoor use. The pallets block the loading dock entrance. The loaded pallets block the entrance to the businesses near the other end of the hall. I fully believe Trader Joes would joyfully stack pallets in front of each of the apartment entrances all the way up to the 12th floor, if they knew we had doorways.

There are never-ending reams of boxes of produce strewn and stacked across the floor of the hall, at least 8 and often 12-plus hours a day, from around noon or mid afternoon, on through past midnight. Sometimes TJ employees just leave everything there through the next day. They leave the loading dock open at all times, where the dumpsters are also located, and rat-sized rodents from the open loading dock stroll unencumbered into the entrance of that hall, where they feast upon the produce and dry goods that are left on the floor. Rodents eat right through boxes, plastic wrap, containers, walls, and the center of the earth. This is a high end luxury building with a Trader Joes that these luxury rats are occupying.

TJ employees are using this public access hall as a “shortcut” storage repository so they will not have to go and put things into the approved TJ storage room and so they can more quickly/easily just restock, by going into the hall instead of across the hall into the storage area. That is slovenly, and is lazy employee management by TJ. Or whoever is their invisible nameless, voiceless manager. They keep all supervisory and owner names and contact information like these guys were mob.

There are spills across the hall floor ranging from small to those covering up to a fifth of the length of that hall. These spills are frequent, numbering several times a week. They are not “quickly cleaned up”. They consist of milk, juice, wines, or water. There is never any use of the industry-approved absorbents by any Trader Joe employees, which is the only industry-approved way to prevent slips and fall injuries on the property. Instead, they mop. With wet mops and a bucket of old, dirty water. The mopping never removes the odors of souring milk or cheap wine. The mopping is not insurance or industry approved as a method of containment of liquids on the floor area where residents and customers and employees walk. The mopping leaves a liquid residue that remains wet for a considerable amount of time. Cones or signs warning the floor is wet are never in use. Never. Not even once. The mopping does nothing to reduce rodent attraction or to diminish and control bacterial growth.

There have been rodents continuously since spring 2018, in that hallway, no doubt attracted to the pallets of produce and dry goods continuously stacked for a dozen hours or more, on that hall floor, most days. They come in from the always-open loading dock, where the dumpsters are. The doors to the TJ store itself are always open, from this hall, so rodents and insects might more easily enjoy shopping too? Rodents are seldom deterred by heavy equipment or pallets or stacks of boxes blocking hallways. The old, sour, decaying smells of the many frequent spills of milk and juices and wines increase that pestilence attraction.

I have frequently had to physically move boxes, electric hand trucks, and tall metal tray carts out of my way because I was halfway to or from the rear entrance and was blocked by large wheeled carts, large and small diesel forklifts, stacks of boxes of goods, and merchandise-loaded pallets. I and my disabled teen child have slipped and slid on spills while employees stood and watched, while we could not even safely backtrack to any retreat path because those were quickly blocked or worse, required we slip or crawl back up the sloping hallway floor to retreat from the dangerous section. Employees and managers simply stand there and watch. There are never any warning signs or even cones to warn us BEFORE we get around the sloping hallway to the spill. Employees and managers just lounge and watch as we move boxes and items or climb over the heavy equipment or goods to either proceed OR retreat either direction in the hallway. They seldom move the items.

I take a dangerous medication, and the resulting bruises from this obstacle course and from maneuvering this highly vulnerable special needs teen child while getting through this gauntlet is no laughing matter. I am actually under medical orders to avoid slips, falls, and activities that will cause bruising, as much as possible, because these bruises do have the potential to become life threatening. The employees usually refuse to move the things, if they “believe” that there is enough space for a human of small size to squeeze through. Four times, we were blocked on one end by enormous and poorly-balanced pallets and when we turned to go BACK, we were blocked in that end by pallets being placed by the forklift, leaving us no way to get back into the residential area and no way to leave by the back area, and not even the option of accessing Bracket Room’s employee door. The TJ employee entrances to the store were also blocked.

Several times, we have been nearly hit by the large forklift as it flies down the hall and around the corner. Sometimes, when it is traveling at that unsafe speed, it is also balancing a tall, fully stacked pallet. We have no way of knowing it was coming around a corner at us. There are no employees spotting for those drivers, ever. All heavy equipment and forklift use requires a spotter who is on the ground and is always watching the forklift area at all times. TJ never has one. I am not even confident that the drivers are experienced or licensed for heavy equipment operation.

I used to take my profoundly autistic teen child out in her special needs wheelchair. The back entrance is and was often the most convenient route....to access Clarendon Blvd. and for accessing the Metro station. All through this summer, there were many, many times when I could not even use that entrance, or I was blocked in and unable to leave at either end of that hall, until such time as TJ employees felt like making space, often not wide enough for the wheelchair, nor could we even back track because of the forklift and/or pallets or boxes quickly stacked across that route or doorway, as soon as we were past. Each time my complaints to TJ were met with blank apologies, giggles, grins, and promises that we could always just go around and use the “resident lobby entrance”. If we “didn’t mind”. We mind.

Autistics take a very long time to retrain them from one routine, to a new routine. I hired therapists to train my autistic child to try to leave the building without using her special needs chair, a chair which cost me $3000, so that she would be able to use that entrance when we wanted to, rather than her riding in her special needs wheelchair, since most of the time, her chair can no longer get through that back hall, and is frequently in danger of getting slammed by the fast moving forklifts, and in danger from the frequently toppling stacked boxes and pallets of goods. I have also had my disabled child taught, at cost to me, to use that back stair and hallway exit if she hears a fire alarm, whether any carer is with her, or not. That stair and hallway is the fire code-approved FIRE ESCAPE, in case a fire should happen. The stairs are the ONLY fire-approved exit from the building if one lives above the ground floor. Which all residents here do. If there was an actual emergency requiring a rapid exit from the building via the fire escape, we would die. If I had to get my child down the stairs, and then she balked, and would only exit if she were secured in her wheelchair.....we would die, because that hall too often is not navigable by any wheelchair. Humans cannot move pallets of heavy goods or shove forklifts to the side to make a 20 inch wide opening for a wheelchair, not even to escape the building in any emergency.

If this autistic teen child had to exit during a fire, without a carer with her....she is unlikely to know how to navigate TJ’s many and changing obstacles of the fire escape route hallway. She would probably do what an autistic tends to do when alone and faced with unexpected obstacles in their path....they balk at assistance, because they can become easily confused. They then tend to retreat back to where they started. And if it were a fire, she would die.

There are several TJ employees who have pretty much indicated that that hall area is ONLY for TJ foods and merchandise storage and for private employee use. This not in any way true, nor is it even remotely possible, since the hall is public, customer, and building residential use. TJ and other building tenants leases expressly state this.

These are serious OSHA violations. These are serious health and safety issues. These are serious fire code violations. Employees and management there are very unconcerned. Will they be more concerned when an insurance or fire code issue occurs?

And what kind of management and staff stand there grinning and seeming to enjoy the daily and weekly watching of a nearly 60 year old woman who had THREE major catastrophic medical issues and three major lifesaving surgical procedures two months ago, who is also very arthritic, AND who is the primary carer for her nonverbal, developmentally delayed and severely autistic teen child (with whom the elderly woman must accomplish this obstacle course), as this elderly mom tries to navigate and even clamber over boxes, small heavy equipment, slippery floors, squeezing past closely stacked and overloaded tall, wobbling pallets, dodging the racing forklifts......coercing and assisting the profoundly disabled and easily confused autistic teen out of this and on to a safer part of the hallway.....while this mom also has to “politely” ignore the smirking and giggling employees and managers who stand there to enjoy this spectacle?

Today, we were blocked in by a forklift, and three pallets stacked at least 7-8 feet high. At the other end, was a larger forklift, and more pallets stacked across the hallway entrance there. I yelled and cursed. I no longer care. Go ahead and get me for yelling, cursing, and finally expressing verbal anger. I survived death twice in the hospital, in August, so I guess if you want to take a moral swing at me, whatever. I. Do. Not. Care. Anymore. This TJ fiasco has been going on since spring, when the very good manager left. My politeness has reached its end.







What's your desired resolution? We want the corporation that owns this building and the owner of this Trader Joe store (whever it is) to reign this Trader Joes in, force them to comply with the lease, with all fire codes, comply with OSHA regulations, and fully protect customer safety, employee safety, and building residents’ safety, as well as comply with disabled persons safety and full access, and those ADA requirements, and force this TJ to train all employees, at least a little. it would be nice, too, if there was oversight concerning the huge unstable stacks of boxes of goods lately being left inside the trader joe store aisles, too. We can no longer bother to take the disabled teens wheelchair into the store because the surly employees just grunt and refuse to keep even a wheelchair-wide path open on multiple aisles. The trader joes in this building was a huge selling point when we moved here. After this spring, I stopped shopping there at all. I mostly only shop now at Whole Foods down the street because its no longer a pleasant thing to shop at TJ here. Not that I matter, I know I am a nobody, but still.



What's the value of your claim (in US $)? 0
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
Are you the superintendent of your building? If not, what has your super and landlord done about this? They should be the ones who are dealing with this. You could actually report this to the local Fire Dept. and I would think they would take action quickly.

We have company contacts for Trader Joes: https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/trader-joes/

Read this on how to write:
https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/

You absolutely must cut 2/3 out of the letter though - they will never read it as is. Send a letter telling them in a bullet format of the violations. No need to go into all the details about your autistic son or anything else - plain and simply it is a fire hazard and tell them you will call the Fire Department and report it.

If you want something resolved quickly - call your Fire Dept. to inspect the building.
 
Oct 21, 2018
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#3
I am a residential tenant. The last time i reported a serious violation, the building oroperty management became very angry with me. They do not want trouble with the company that actually owns the building. Not sure how i am supposed to go up against “everyone”, because they do have more “clout” than me. They can make my tenancy and rental references an utter nightmare later. I am the old woman with the disabled teen daughter. I am “nobody”. Never encountered this kind of thing before, where just speaking to someone at the leasing office or in a retailer did not resolve the problem amicably for all. .
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
19,654
18,297
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#4
LAA, try using our company contacts and writing to the corporate offices. Trader Joe's prides itself on customer service, you might be able to get assistance by contacting the Corporate Offices. Use the information in my post above.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
Have you contacted the various agencies that enforce building codes, especially for fire egress? If the landlord starts getting fines that may make them change things.
 
Likes: jsn55
Apr 3, 2016
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#6
Take pictures of all the violations. Contact Trader Joe's Corporate Offices. If this does not work, contact the city/town (maybe the health department, the fire department, the housing department).
 
Likes: Neil Maley

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
8,642
8,934
113
San Francisco
#7
This is a horrible situation, LAA, and I agree with my colleagues. You have many avenues to pursue here and I urge you to do so. I was unable to read your entire letter, but the message is clear. It appears that dealing with the safety issues in your building are much more important than worrying about the property managers being angry with you. In addition to all the other good suggestions, you might try your local TV or radio ombudsman; this seems like a perfect situation for them to bring forth into the light of public scrutiny.