“Forced Flow” and Trader Joe’s


I have heard some people decrying the “forced flow” store design of Trader Joe’s.  Those people complaining about it were not its customers however.  I personally like the floor layout.  I do more of my shopping there than anywhere else.  It’s not as bad as say the uncomfortable seating at McDonald’s that says to you subliminally, “purchase something and get the fuck out.”  Some people like to go into a store, know what they are getting, purchase it quickly and leave. I am a creature of habit, I like predictability.  Furthermore, if people are suggesting that TJ’s is trying to unduly influence the behavior of it’s customers, let’s examine the alternative.



Some stores, I won’t mention names, put the bakery in the front of the store by the entrance, knowing that the smell of freshly baked bread stimulates the appetite and makes you more likely to spend money.  They put the most often purchased products in the back of the store, so that you have to walk past all of the other products if you just want milk and eggs.  They set their isles at confusing angles so you get lost and disoriented in the store.  And they have a policy of continuously relocating product to make customers have to find the product and spend more time in the store and get exposed to more products.  They stock their shelves not with products that you want but products that they want you to purchase.  Now THAT is unduly influencing customers.  Is this free market economics or not?

I suggest we give forced flow a title promotion, it is after all a semantic argument that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  Maybe we should call it, “selected” flow, or “maximized” flow?  I don’t know, what do you think?




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