Harassed by a Trader Joe’s Employee

posted in: Foggy Bottom | 16
Photo by brownpa via flickr

I just moved to D.C. about a month ago and work as an intern with a law enforcement agency. I grew up in a small town and attend college in an equally small town, and trust me, I have run into my fair share of street harassment incidents in both of those places. However, this is the first time in my life I have experienced it to such a great extent.

Today, I went to the local Trader Joe’s to buy groceries for a picnic that my friends and I will have tomorrow. A man who worked at the grocery store followed me discreetly (but not discreetly enough) and asked me several times if I needed help. I dismissed it as “his job” but felt angry that he seemed to think that I needed his help picking out my own groceries. When I got to the check out line, my cashier was the same man who had been following me. He proceeded to stare at my chest for the first minute of scanning my items and then struck up a conversation. He asked me how old I was and if I would ever consider going out with him. All I wanted was for him to finish scanning my groceries and allow me to pay, but he held off on completing the scanning to bug me. I tried to ignore him and he told me that I was beautiful and should smile. As I finally checked out and quickly hurried away, he laughed to himself. Can I just go about my normal day-to-day activities witho ut getting unwanted attention/harassment? I should have reported him, or said something and do not know why I didn’t at the time.

I can honestly say that I experience at least one incident of street harassment and/or inappropriate and unwanted attention every, single day. As a result, I am afraid every, single day when I leave my apartment to go to work. I try and dress “uglier”, I try to avoid eye-contact with people, and I try not to stand near men, but nothing works. I hate having to feel like I should look over my shoulder every other minute and I hate having to feel scared. I am a strong, confident young woman, yet I feel there is nothing I can do to prevent the endless cat-calling and degradation that I experience on a daily basis.

Submitted by J on 6/5/2011

Location: Trader Joe’s 1101 25th Street NW

Time of Harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

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16 Responses

  1. mahajohn

    You’d be doing a great courtesy to all D.C. residents if you went back to this store and spoke to a manager and filed a complaint. This fella does NOT deserve a job at Trader Joe’s if he treats his patrons with such a level of disrespect.

  2. B.

    I’m so sorry this keeps happening to you. I experience it several times a day, every day in DC as well, and it is exhausting. Like you, I am a strong, confident young woman who has taken to living in fear, changing my clothing so as to attract less attention, always looking over my shoulder, taking the walking routes where I know I’ll pass by fewer men, and always feeling mildly nervous when out in public. And like you, nothing works for me.

    I am moving back to DC, where I’m originally from, and I’m taking some solace in knowing that it’s not nearly as extreme there as it is in DC. The level and type of street harassment in DC is truly strange and outrageous.

    I DEFINTELY encourage you to return to that Trader Joes and file a complaint. If they don’t take you seriously, or actually, even if they do, I’d encourage you to contact their corporate offices. I worked for Trader Joes in college, and they take their employee/customer relations VERY seriously. It is NOT too late for you to go back and complain!

    I also have a friend who works there, so let me know if you’d like me to reach out to her.

    Try your best to stay strong, and to develop tools to combat this (this site and the “stop street harassment” site offer numerous suggestions.) I say that because I can promise you it’s going to continue so long as you live here, and I don’t want to see it wear you down.

    Good luck, and keep us posted!

    • Golden Silence

      “It is NOT too late for you to go back and complain!”

      I agree with B. It’s never too late to complain. As long as you have the time, date, location, and a description of the harasser, you’ve got a report.

      Good luck, and please keep us posted.

  3. Kat Milligan

    Agreed. Please go talk to the manager. It’s good for business to reprimand and then fire people who will lose the store customers and it’s good for us for that employee to learn that he can’t act like that.

  4. Omega

    And J, I bet you will more than likely avoid that particular store or try to go at a time when you think the idiot won’t be there. I’ve said this to many posters and I’ll say this to you, ‘I am so sorry you went through and continue to go through this.’ With so many of these instances after the event has happened the man is laughing and the woman is fuming/upset/deflated.

  5. HB

    I agree with the above commenters, and I’d suggest reporting this incident on TJ’s website if you don’t want to do it in person. I have complained through the website about general customer service before, and they were very receptive and responsive to my concerns. Since this is a much more serious matter, I am optimistic that they would reprimand your harasser and apologize. Good luck!

  6. B.

    For what it’s worth, I forwarded this posting to my friend who works at that Trader Joes. She expressed her embarassment for the company, said she intends to share the story with her supervisor tonight when she goes in for her shift, and encouraged you to go back to the store and tell the “Captain” what took place.

    • hollabackdc

      Thank you, B! Tell your friend we thank her for taking action. Let us know if she updates you after she talks with her supervisor.

  7. VeggieTart

    I agree: Report the guy. Hopefully he had a name tag so you can identify him better.

  8. Tee

    Hi, I work there and I am terribly embarrassed about this whole thing! I would highly recommend you call the manager and let him know about this asap. This is not something that anyone should ever feel anywhere. Our store prides itself on treating people with the upmost respect and you should never feel anything other than welcomed

  9. J

    Hi all,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful input. Tee, I have always felt welcomed by Trader Joe’s and this one incident will not stop me from going there. I typically enjoy my conversations with the cashiers each time I shop there. After all of your encouragement, I have reported the incident to the website. If I do not hear anything back I will definitely call the store. I am so thankful for all of your comments and support. And B, thank you as well for bringing this to the attention of your friend! I have felt much stronger each time I encounter similar situations since finding this blog.

    • Golden Silence

      From what I’ve been reading, it sounds like TJ’s wants you to give them a description of the harasser. Have you done that yet? Please follow up with this and let us know what happens. Sounds like TJ’s is being very cooperative in the matter.

  10. B.

    Okay, I just sent this to their corporate office via their website. It’s just been irking me too much.

    Will report back if I hear anything!

  11. B.

    J.~ I’m so glad you reported this. Well done!

    I had forwarded it to the store, and heard back from a T.J.’s rep today. Here was the reply:


    Thanks for your email. I would just like you to know that she did in fact write us and we have communicated with her. We do take harasssment very seriously and hopefully she will email us back with at very least a discription of the person who commited the act. Also, as a result of her email we have already begun conversations with all our employees reviewing Trader Joe’s zero tolerance regarding any type of harrasment.

    Thank you very much for your concern,

    Perry Zettersten
    Captain – Trader Joe’s DC

    –I felt encouraged by the fact that they took this seriously. Like Tee, I used to work for Trader Joes, and I know they pride themselves on quality customer service, so I’m glad this one incident won’t stop you from continuing to patronize them.

    Like you, I have been made stronger by this blog. I remember a few years ago when I was really, really struggling under the weight of all the harassment in DC, my male roommate told me I needed to search for other women in the community who felt the way I did, and form some sort of group that would fight back against this. Hopeless and defeated, I scoffed at his suggestion, saying that it would be futile to try to mobilize something like that, and that even if it could be done, I doubted it could have an effect on anything.

    Within an hour, he’d found and emailed me links to sites like this one.

    Well, I see little victories won all the time thanks to the hollaback dc and “stop street harassment” blogs. I’m so glad I was proved wrong~ There IS power in mobilizing groups like this.

    Good luck with this issue.

    Onward and upward!

  12. Anonymous

    Just a follow up – my fiancee works at that Trader Joe’s, and he told me earlier this week that the managers sat down all of the employees to tell them about the incident and let them know it was unacceptable.

  13. Anonymous

    I cannot believe that this has happened to you, and I feel terrible that it has. what a jerk! You should not feel that you have to dress “uglier” or avoid men. That is completly unfair to you. I hope that things get better!