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Scalpers Are Snatching Up The Hottest Trader Joe's Items

Internet hype is only one reason your favorite item may be out of stock right now.

Trader Joe's is an endless source of exciting new foods to covet. That's a big reason why fans, including many of our own editors, gravitate to the specialty grocer so much.

Case in point: TJ's Squiggly Knife Cut Style Noodles. Customers have been fawning over the Taiwanese-style air-dried noodles ever since they  arrived in stores last month.

Commenters on social media quickly compared them to celebrity chef David Chang's pricier Momofuku-brand noodles, and enthusiasts on TikTok attracted thousands of gawkers by showcasing various tantalizing ways to customize TJ's chewy, ruffled noodles.

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This reporter picked up a package of the trendy noodles from a towering display at my local Trader Joe's in Brooklyn, N.Y., back on Jan. 25. I soon understood all the fuss. The squiggly noodles are cheap: just $4.99 for pack of four servings. They're super quick to make: ready in under five minutes. And they're especially delicious with just a dollop of chili crisp swirled into the mix.

Store display of Trader Joe's Squiggly Knife Cut Noodles
Chris Shott

I was thrilled to discover such a fast, affordable, and satisfying lunch option for busy weekdays, slurping through all four servings within the same number of days and planning to restock my pantry with more as soon as possible.

Trouble is, I haven't been able to find another package ever since. Each time I returned to Trader Joe's the noodles were all gone.

Now, it turns out, there's an explanation for the sudden squiggly noodle shortage beyond all the Internet hype.

Scalpers are apparently snatching up the popular noodles and reselling them on eBay for as much as $20 a pop, according to a Feb. 24 editorial in the San Luis Obispo Tribune. The article noted that most—"if not all"—TJ's locations have been wiped out of the popular product, and it's probably not coming back until April.

Writer Stephanie Finucane pointed out there is nothing illegal about shoppers profiteering off of these items, thanks to a principle called the "first sale doctrine," but argued that "it still still stinks — and if there were any justice, it would get the resellers banned for life from TJ's."

Trader Joe's reportedly has been grappling with the resale issue for years now, with company executive calling it "not fair on many levels" but "really, really tricky" to resolve, during a 2019 podcast on the subject.

Even the secondary market appeared to be pretty dried up when I checked eBay on Feb. 27, with just one California-based seller still offering up the TJ's squiggly noodles, with a starting price of $9.98, plus $11.55 for shipping. The item had already generated a couple of bids.

I did find several other buzzy new TJ's items also available through the online marketplace, including three newly released store-brand seasoning blends—Ketchup, Pizza, and Sriracha—all marked up to more than double the retail price.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris