BYOB has a totally different connotation nowadays at Trader Joe’s. At least for me it does. I’ve been shopping at T. J.’s ever since the first store opened on 14th street back in 2006. But I never noticed the “bring your own bag” raffle until a couple of years ago.
I wasn’t big on bringing my own bag for a long time, much to the chagrin of my wife Danusia, who is very eco- conscious. At least much more so then me. But finances being what they are I started thinking about winning that $25 gift card. After all, twenty-five bucks is twenty-five bucks for a senior citizen on a fixed income.
Plus since completing the Master Composter’s course this spring I have myself become more eco- conscious, and felt guilty every time I went shopping without taking a reusable bag. And I’ve no excuse for that given that we have tons of reusable bags at home, including two that are 100% compostable that I scored at the Zero Waste fair I worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard last month.
I always assumed that if I brought my own bag I was somehow automatically entered in the weekly BYOB raffle, but as we all know the world is full of unrequited assumptions. So I finally asked my wife about it.
“You have to tell the cashier you want to enter the raffle,” she said. And all this time I was waiting to be invited to partake. Like I keep waiting for someone to offer me a job.
I saw a woman on the subway yesterday with a T-shirt that said:
I’ll do it tomorrow
I can’t do it
It’s too hard
I can definitely relate. But now I knew the secret, so I had no excuse. So for the first time last month, as the cashier filled my own bag with a smile (they smile because they are being watched, unlike the Whole foods employees who won’t even look you in the eye they’re so mad) I bravely blurted out,
“I’d like to enter the raffle.” There, I said it, I want in.
The smiling young man said “Sure,” and tore off a strip of register paper and directed me to write my name and phone number on it. It seemed pretty low tech and cheesy, I remember when I first spotted the board with “This month’s winners” I looked around for entry forms like they used to have at Key Food years ago, and seeing none wondered how they did it. Now I knew, on a strip of torn register paper.
Whole Foods has a raffle for a $250 gift card, but you have to go online and fill out a whole survey. In a way it’s easier to do that than to ask the clerk for a piece of paper.
I’ve been entering dutifully for the past couple of months at every Trader Joe’s I’ve shopped at, and anxiously looking for my name on the board every time I walk into a T.J.’s. After I told Danusia about it she said, “I’ve been doing that ever since they opened the 14th Street store and I’ve never won. I think it’s impossible.
Years ago when I was married to my first wife and working in Queens I shopped at Key Food. I shopped at the one in Kew Gardens where I worked and Kathy and I shopped at the on Avenue A a couple of blocks from out home on Houston street. Key Food ran a weekly raffle for $50 worth of groceries. We won three times, once in Queens and twice on Avenue A.
Of course we stacked the deck by swiping all of the entry forms and sat at home filling whole books of entry forms and stuffing the box with them. After the second time at the Avenue A store the manager smelled a rat and informed me that we were disqualified from further entries. At least we got $150 worth of free groceries out of the deal.
I also won a $50 gift certificate from Balducci’s on 6th Ave around the same time because I answered a question right on the trivial pursuit game some radio station used to run. The question was “What New York City gourmet food shop employs a strawberry topper?” Since I worked down the street from Balducci’s at the time I figured it was them, and I was the first one to get it right when I called the radio station. I got the gift certificate and a stack of trivial pursuit cards in the mail a couple of days later. I bought a $30 steak and some expensive cheese with the certificate, and learned who Mel Ott was.
Last night I looked at my phone as it was done recharging and saw I had a message from a 212 number I wasn’t familiar with. I played the message.
“This is Christine from the Trader Joe’s 93rd Street store. I’m happy to inform you that you have won this week’s $25 raffle. Stop in as soon as you can to pick up your gift card.” Dang, I won! I thought. I told Danusia about it, and she reiterated she’d been doing it for years and never won.
So this morning I went to the 93rd Street store and claimed my prize. “Where’s the board with the winners names on it?” I asked. I wanted to take a picture of my name up on Trader Joe’s wall. “Oh, we don’t do that at this store. Sorry,” the smiling young man that gave me my card and free reusable bag said. Well, you can’t have everything, I guess.