It’s no surprise that so many people are all in on anything and everything that has to do with Trader Joe’s. The quirky supermarket has a crazy cult following—fans are willing to drive hundreds of miles to the nearest store to stock up on their one-of-a-kind products, like the Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar, or Truffle Marcona Almonds. Some pay more than double the retail price of a popular product through resellers like Amazon and eBay just so they can get their TJ’s fix.
All of this being said, getting the inside scoop on some secret shopping tips and what really goes on behind the scenes at Trader Joe’s thrills us to no end. Here’s what you need to know to be the savviest-ever TJ’s shopper.
You can sample anything you want
Would we lie to you? Never. Indeed, Trader Joe’s maintains a strong “if you’d like to try, just ask” policy. Their rationale is that they’d rather you find out before you buy something whether you like it or not. So next time you’re eyeing their Omega Trek Mix or their Creamy Salted Cashew Butter, just flag down a staffer. (P.S. they’re referred to as The Crew.)
The best time to shop is mid-week and off-hours
This may sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating time and again. Those of us who’ve jubilantly filled a shopping cart with heaps of grocery goodies and then noticed the line trailing outside the store know why. The worst times to go are weekends and right after work, but lunchtime can get crowded too. If you want to be super efficient, try to go first thing in the morning or right before the store closes (they’ll shut the doors while you shop so the line can’t get any longer).
You can have your groceries carried out to your car
This under-utilized service is available to everyone, not just disabled, pregnant, or elderly shoppers.
You can return any product
Just like the free sample situation, TJ’s will give you your money back for anything product you’re dissatisfied with. Yes, this includes partially opened, eaten, or damaged food items—but let’s try not to take advantage of their generosity on this one!
The Crew knows pretty much everything
Every staffer at Trader Joe’s receives a confidential bulletin every week that tells them what new items are coming in soon so they can properly prepare. They also taste everything—how else are they to give you such solid product recommendations? All crew members are trained on every job at the store, too, so they can help each other (and you!) at any time with any question.
It’s one of the best places to shop for those with dietary restrictions
TJ’s was one of the first grocery giants in the U.S. to offer a wide variety of gluten-free items. Today, the store offers hundreds of products for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions—and if you’re unsure which work for your preferences, a Crew member will walk you through the aisles to show you which foods meet your needs. Their website also offers guides that tell every product for those following a vegan, kosher, or gluten-freediet.
All of the produce bags are compostable
Yes, they appear to be plastic. But these baggies are made from an eco-friendly alternative to plastic that you can compost.