Trader Joe's Has The Authority To Install Traffic Arrows

Oh, wait. No, it doesn’t. A reader wrote in to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer because he was suspicious that a traffic arrow installed in the alley near his home wasn’t legit.

“Area residents, like myself, use the alley to rejoin the neighborhood arterials and frequently have difficulty going against the flow of the oncoming alley traffic,” Sarbach said. He said he’d “had several close calls as cars quickly turn into the alley off of Galer; my son and daughter have noticed a few impolite finger gestures from vehicles backing out of the alley onto Galer (Street) to clear (a) way for our vehicle.”

“It could only be a matter to time until there is an accident as the store is very, very busy most weeknights.”

The reader was right, it wasn’t a real traffic sign.

Wayne Wentz, Seattle’s traffic management director, said the city “only changes alleys to one way if there has been a process involving the property owners along the alley, and owners approve the change. This has not occurred for this location.”

Trader Joe’s didn’t respond to comment, but the manager said he’d take the arrow down. He claimed the arrow was put up because customers liked having traffic “one way.” That’s sort of hilarious, except for the part where the drivers gave the finger to children. Oh, wait. That’s funny, too. —MEGHANN MARCO

Getting There: Trader Joe’s sees the arrow of its ways [Seattle P-I] (Thanks, James!)
(Photo: Velo Steve)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mikyrok says:

    You don’t this kind of dedication to customer service elsewhere! Trader Joe’s is willing to change traffic laws for its customers.

  2. humphrmi says:

    This is typical Trader Joe’s “We’re better than you even though we sell relabelled cheap crap” attitude.

  3. nickripley says:

    I live by this Trader Joe’s in question. There could be a serious accident here sometime!

  4. mfergel says:

    hehehe……..sounds like my local circuit city. They took the parking lot and put up signs in front of 4 spaces near the store for “web sales pickup”. Bullshit……..what, they think pickup is like pregnant women spaces???? I park in them all the time. They don’t own the lot (it’s a strip mall parking lot). If it was their own parking lot I’d say fine, but it’s mall parking, not Circuit City parking.

  5. Matthew says:

    And who can blame them for liking it? I, too, like it when the needs of the greater community are subjugated to my own short-sighted fancies!

  6. coss3n says:

    It’s all good as long as they don’t put up any “Alternative Fuel” parking spaces!

  7. BillyShears says:

    To be fair, the drivers in question had no reason to believe the sign wasn’t legit. I know if I saw someone coming down in the opposite direction of what I legitimately thought was a one way street and possibly causing an accident, I’d probably flip ’em off too.

    But this TJ manager is obviously not too bright. You can’t just hang signs like that on public roads.

  8. Wasabe says:

    I know TJ’s likes to do everything in-house, but this is ridiculous.

  9. Falconfire says:

    @BillyShears: They do it often though. I know the Koehls by my fiance hangs up stop signs in the parking lot for the pedestrian walk to make people stop there, even when no one is there.

    They are obvious illegal signs though and no one ever follows them.

  10. kerry says:

    @BillyShears: He might not have thought the alley counted as a public road. I know the alley behind my old apartment building was not, in fact, public road. It was part of the property owned by my building. The manager may well have though (stupidly, I’ll admit) that the alley behind his store was owned by whoever they leased their space from and that he could put up whatever signage he wanted.

  11. crayonshinobi says:

    @nickripley: I live by this Trader Joe’s in question. There could be a serious accident here sometime!

    Is that a threat or an observation? ;-)

    This also brings to mind the “valet parking” only spaces… What exactly is the legality of restaurants reserving parking at…say a shopping mall…for their valet? What if I just want to park and don’t want to spend $5 to tip a valet?

  12. matdevdug says:

    Sometimes I hate places like TJ for exactly this sort of thing. I was told once at a Whole Foods that I wasn’t allowed to park on the street in front of the store because they want people to be able to look inside the store. I kid you not, someone walked up to me and asked me to move my car. I laughed and told him to get lost, but sometimes these places can get it in their heads that they are more important than they are.

  13. ElPresidente408 says:

    Sometimes, if I am able to, I will double park my car across the handicapped and pregnant women spaces.

  14. jaredharley says:

    The reader was right, it wasn’t a real traffic sign.

    It wasn’t even a “sign” at all! The first line of the article:

    “Question: Mark Sarbach wanted to know if a traffic arrow painted on a Queen Anne alley near the Trader Joe’s store was legal.” (Emphasis mine)

  15. Emor8t says:

    I want to know who paid for the sign in question? did the manager pay for it, did the store, or did TJ’s?

    Seems to me that this is a potential crime, much like impersonating a police officer, impersonating or falsifying road signs has to be illegal.

  16. Kornkob says:

    @mfergel: If it was their own parking lot I’d say fine, but it’s mall parking, not Circuit City parking.

    Actually, they may very well ‘own’ those spaces. Retail space lease agreements will frequently include language allowing tennants to apply special rules to a specific set of spaces.

    So it’s very possible (I’d even say probable) that Circuit city does in fact ‘own’ those spaces and the property owner has specifically allowed them to create special rules for those slots.

  17. Kornkob says:

    @Falconfire: Actually posted speed limits and traffic control signs on private property may very well be enforcable by local law enforcement. Check your local laws.

    They are in Madison, WI.

  18. Buran says:

    @matdevdug: If it was a public street with a parking meter or no signs prohibiting parking there, all he can do is request. If you say no, he can’t do a thing.

  19. ThatDon'tFazeMeBro says:

    I’m confused, so please correct me or point out what I’m missing. From the way that I read this (both on Consumerist and on SeattlePI), there is an alleyway that goes between the store and a parking lot. The store (illegally) painted a one-way arrow from the store to the parking lot.

    The individual who wrote the SeattlePI said that “my son and daughter have noticed a few impolite finger gestures from vehicles backing out of the alley onto Galer (Street) to clear (a) way for our vehicle.” This suggests to me that the alley is too narrow for more than one car, which suggests that a one-way designation would be appropriate in order to avoid “an accident as the store is very, very busy most weeknights.”

    I agree and understand that the store should not have painted the one-way arrow without the neighbors’ approval; however, why wouldn’t it be appropriate to change the alleyway (with permission, of course) to one-way for the safety of drivers?

  20. billy says:

    @ Kornkob: They are in Madison, WI.

    I find it hard to belive that. What authority do the police have to do that?

  21. mac-phisto says:

    @special4k4: ok, i mapped it on google:'s&near=

    it appears as though the sign was designed to control the flow of traffic thru the parking lot (one way in, one way out), but also had the un-neighborly effect of also controlling traffic flow on the alleyway that runs between the tj’s & the parking lot.

  22. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    special4k4 brings up a good point, I’d like a bit more clarification here.

    Is this alleyway the only way into the Trade Joe’s parking lot? If so, where is the exit?

    If this isn’t a primary entrance, and the alley is clearly not a thru street, but an access alley to residential buildings (that need it as an entrance/exit) then Trader Joe’s shouldn’t be directing their customers through there.

  23. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    ah, thanks mac-phisto, that wasn’t there when I posted!

  24. SirLoin says:

    Blah blah blah, sign blah illegal blah… they make two dollar wine! TWO DOLLARS!

  25. Falconfire says:

    @Kornkob: Not in NJ. Has to be placed by the town in question in a manner where they can not be removed, which these where not. Even if the cops did enforce them, you could get the maps of signage for the town and prove they where not on the books, thus illegal.

    Technically they cant even enforce traffic speeds unless it was placed their by the town it’s self. Not something you should test obviously, but its something that could protect you if you get nailed obeying the law anyway, which cops here like to do to run up tickets. I know more than one friend who was ticketed for “running” a stop sign in a mall parking lot and had the charge overturn in court by showing that the city in question never legally had a sign put there.

  26. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    My two bucks, Chuck:

    1. The intentions may have been good, but, no, Trader Joe’s is not the Seattle road authority. (Trader Joe’s rules the universe otherwise.)

    2. Call the city and have them establish a one-way alley along with a clear, different route for those going the other way. Have hearings if necessary to attempt to reconcile conflicting interests. An asking-for-an-accident two-way alley is not a solution.

  27. dantsea says:

    I used to shop at this TJ’s on a regular basis, when I lived in Seattle. This has to be one of the worst locations in Seattle for a high-traffic business. They really need to relocate or actually work with the city on traffic pattern issues.

  28. levenhopper says:

    wow. just. wow. i am handicapped, and hate it when people like you do that.

    in fact, if i can’t get a spot that won’t cause me pain, and i see someone like you 2x parked…i call the cops. because parking in a handicapped space without a card is ILLEGAL!

  29. Buran says:

    @ElPresidente408: Handicapped spaces are legally enforceable by police, unlike the pregnant-woman spaces. Park in the latter all you want but if you park in the handicapped spaces, I’ll report you. Car got towed? Oops.

  30. DeeHaney says:

    I don’t know the area, but there have been a few times when new businesses go in, the extra traffic can make driving hazardous. Usually, it is the city who delays on doing anything about it, and that delay can often result in bad consequences.

  31. ElPresidente408 says:

    Woah I wasn’t expecting anyone to take me seriously lol. I usually park my car on the opposite side of the lot to avoid scratches as it is

  32. Kornkob says:

    @rubinow: There is a Trader Joes in Madison, but not the one discussed here.

    As for ‘by what authority’– to what are you referrring?

  33. Kornkob says:

    Oh– and for the record: Here’s the city ord relating to a private organization deciding to post specific parking signs on their property–

    083: On posted private property/public property (sign limitations or restrictions)

    Did park a motor vehicle on private or public property contrary to a posted sign limiting/restricting parking and without the permission of the owner or lessee of such property.

  34. @ElPresidente408: I didn’t take you seriously. You are too consumeristic for that.