10 Secrets Trader Joe's Doesn't Want You to Know
There's a lot to love about Trader Joe's, don't get us wrong. From unique products to great prices to free samples to a staff that's, on the whole, friendlier and more accommodating than you find at most grocery chains, it can be a great place to get your groceries. And of course, it's hard to beat the prices TJ's offers on wine.
But it can also be harder to tell from just where Trader Joe's got the groceries they are offering you based on their product labeling practices, it can be hard to find ways to save money beyond posted prices due to their policy on discounts, and it can often be hard to find a product you once loved, too, given the chain's proclivity for discontinuing items.
As long as you enter Trader Joe's armed with a shopping list, some reusable bags, and some knowledge, you should, by all means, shop there whenever you like. Just add these 10 Trader Joe's secrets shared here to said knowledge, and avoid the place on the weekends if you can—it's a madhouse on Saturdays and Sundays. The best time to shop at Trader Joe's is in the morning on a Tuesday or Wednesday, according to Stark Insider, but feel free to keep that secret to yourself.
And if you're a Costco shopper, check out 6 Things You'll See at Costco This Year.
Many Trader Joe's products are made by large national food brands
Trader Joe's offers all sorts of delicious products under its own brand name (or clever plays on the name, like Trader Giotto's for its Italian-style foods), but don't think they are manufacturing many of those foods themselves. Most are made by third parties and simply branded for the chain, and said third parties include PepsiCo's Naked line, Kayem Foods, and ConAgra, to name a few, via MoneyWise.
You can try (almost) any product you want
With a few exceptions, like alcoholic beverages, for example, Trader Joe's employees are obliged to open anything a customer wants in order to let the person try it in the store, reports Popsugar. The "try before you buy" policy is meant to head off returns of products people decided they don't like and, if you're rather unscrupulous, you can take advantage of the policy and sample all sorts of foods without making a purchase at all.
The company is hit with frequent food recalls
Any grocery chain is going to deal with product recalls meant to prevent or stem damage from outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, so it's not Trader Joe's fault there are often recalls that affect the company. But because of the many suppliers from which the chain sources foods, they often deal with multiple recalls in short periods of time. That said, the company does take all food recalls very seriously, says Consumer Buff.
The company was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging dangerous lead content in foods
Last year, Trader Joe's was hit with a lawsuit alleging many of the foods it was selling contained dangerously high levels of lead, according to Insider. The foods in question included highly popular items such as the Super Spinach Salad, the Palak Paneer, and Vegetable Spring Rolls.
Many Trader Joe's products are very unhealthy
Trader Joe's may have a vibe that calls to mind health and wellness, but many of their foods are anything but good for you. In rounding up a dozen products to avoid, Spoon University especially singled out the chain's frozen Grass Fed Angus Beef Burgers. Despite language on the packaging like "All Natural" and "Minimally Processed," these burgers are far from healthy, with each patty delivering 23 grams of fat and nine grams of saturated fat per 290-calorie serving size.
Three bells means a manager is needed
The ringing bell system of communication used by Trader Joe's is supposed to make the shopping experience remain fun and low stress, with bells more pleasant than a PA system. If you hear one bell, it means more help is needed at the front; two bells means a specific customer needs help, either with a price check or locating an item; three bells means a manager is needed a cash register, often to help deal with a problem, reports Stuytown.
The return policy is very generous
Though the brand might not advertise this policy in huge, bold signage, the fact is that you can return pretty much any Trader Joe's product for any reason, even after you have consumed much of it, says Mashed. And this is true whether or not you have a receipt and even if the only reason for the return is your dissatisfaction.
Trader Joe's does accept some coupons
While not readily advertised, Trader Joe's does have a policy of accepting some coupons. These are in the form of manufacturer's coupons offered by the makers of the few name-brand products the chain offers, as opposed to the majority of its private-label foods, according to Reader's Digest.
The chain never offers sales
Trader Joe's is prized for its fair prices, but don't ever expect to find products marked down below the prices they already offer. The chain has a policy against offering discounts or sales, so aside from occasional deals they proactively offer, there is rarely a way to shave down the price of your purchases there aside from the occasional manufacturer's coupon.
The chain is owned by a foreign company
Though Trader Joe's may seem to be a quintessentially American company, it is in fact owned by an overseas conglomerate. According to Consumer Reports, the chain is owned by Aldi Nord, a German company that operates a number of brands, such as the Aldi chain of grocers, and has operations in multiple different nations.