Recently I found myself in such an entanglement that I’m honestly surprised John Hughes hasn’t called my personal number yet. (Is John Hughes still alive? Is that an outdated reference? If I can’t reference John Hughes, who in the world am I supposed to write into my rom-com script? Olivia Wilde?)

Two weeks ago, I entered a relationship that had started oh-so-romantically as our hands met over the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. My hand grabbed a bag of orange chicken at exactly the moment he was restocking it. Serendipity! Our eyes met, and the rest was a very short history.

Yesterday I received a text from him letting me know that he had not, in fact, asked me out as a response to my adorable looks or my gleaming personality. It was company policy.

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That’s right — I was informed that Trader Joe’s, my beloved overpriced food mall, my place of refuge for when I want to pretend I’m an adorable outdoorsy health nut, had implemented its latest strategy of corporate kindness.

We all knew that handing out free flowers, cracking jokes at the register and the standard-issued dentures all employees wear to ensure the brightest smiles were all Trader Joe’s gimmicks to make customers feel welcomed and special. And it worked! No complaints here — my serotonin has to come from somewhere.

But this was a step too far.

Being the highly inquisitive journalist I am, I of course had to report my findings to the world, lest another poor being such as myself be led into such a farce. Unfortunately, both Trader Joe’s and the man I’d been falling for declined to comment. In fact, when I tried to reach out to him via text, I received the following message:

“Thank you for being a valued Trader Joe’s customer! Please enjoy this half-off Cauliflower Gnocchi coupon on us: XXX-XXXX”

(Coupon number redacted because no one steals my cauliflower gnocchi).

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Perhaps I should have known. He did only refer to me by names of Trader Joe’s brand sweet treats, after all. “Hello, my cinnamon bun spread, how is your morning?” and “Where would you like to eat tonight, sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds?” could have been a hint, but really, it was so subtle, how was I to know?

This incident is still too fresh to provide any real closure, unfortunately. I am writing about it so soon only because I feel it is my reporterly duty to do so, though it is still painful and as fresh as the newest dew-dropped produce in Aisle 1.

Capitalism, you’ve done it again.

Though someday soon (certainly before my cauliflower gnocchi coupon expires) I will again wander through the well-stocked shelves of the Monroe Street Joe’s, it won’t be easy. I long for the simpler time of two weeks ago when I could purchase my fruit jellies in peace and without the potential awkwardness of going during my ex-beau’s shift. 

Until then, I’ll buy elsewhere and let the salt of my tears season my regular chocolate-covered almonds.