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20 Things You Didn't Know About Trader Joe’s


There are dozens of supermarket brands out there, but none are quite like Trader Joe’s. We tracked down 20 facts that we bet you didn’t know about Trader Joe’s, even if you’re a regular shopper.

20 Things You Didn't Know About Trader Joe’s (Slideshow)

The history of Trader Joe’s begins with, as you might expect, a man named Trader Joe: Joe Coulombe, to be exact. In 1958, Coulombe launched a small chain of convenience stores in the greater Los Angeles area called Pronto Market, but after realizing that competition from a burgeoning chain called 7-Eleven would likely drive it into the ground, he decided to introduce a new concept. The tiki trend was in full swing, so in 1967 he opened the first Trader Joe’s, a play on the name of popular tiki restaurant chain Trader Vic’s.

By 1972, Coulombe knew that the average American was traveling more and developing tastes for foods that were impossible to find at the average supermarket, so along with cedar-planked walls and Hawaiian shirt-wearing employees, he rolled out granola, the first in a line of foods under the Trader Joe’s private label. Coulombe was also a big fan of California wines, and the original Trader Joe’s (which still exists in Pasadena) sold literally every California wine that was available, helping to put many vineyards on the map.

In 1973, a trip to Trader Joe’s would have offered you many items that you won’t find today, like pantyhose, which was sold until 1978. In 1975, they started cutting and wrapping cheese for the first time, and in 1977 they expanded their private label with fun names like Trader Ming’s, Trader Giotto’s, and Pilgrim Joe and introduced the first reusable canvas grocery bag. In 1979, Coulombe cashed out and sold the company to German entrepreneur Theo Albrecht, who also owned the German supermarket chain Aldi Nord; Trader Joe's is still owned by his heirs today. By the late 1980s, the chain had expanded into Northern California, in 1993 the first Arizona location opened. 1995 brought expansion into the Pacific Northwest, and in 1996, the first two East Coast locations opened outside Boston.

Between 1990 and 2001, the number of store locations quintupled and revenue shot through the roof as they rolled out on average 10 new items per week. During this time, they also introduced supermarket innovations like paper bags with handles. In 2002, they introduced one of their most notorious products: a $1.99 bottle of wine, produced by Charles Shaw, that was actually decent. It came to be known as “Two Buck Chuck” (the price in most locations has since gone up to $2.99).

Trader Joe’s found success by anticipating the needs of their customers — in many cases knowing what the customer would want even before they did — and selling it to them at a low price in a fun atmosphere. Today, there are nearly 460 stores across the United States according to the company, with the majority in California but more being added regularly. Click here for 20 fun Trader Joe’s facts to keep in mind the next time you pay them a visit, and learn some things you didn't know about the products sold at Trader Joe's here.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.


17 Secrets Every Trader Joe's Shopper Needs to Know

There's more to America's favorite grocery store than meets the eye.

Trader Joe's has achieved cult-like status. Shoppers of the seafaring-themed supermarket love its localized offerings, low prices, super-friendly staff, and lovable, kitschy decor&mdashespecially those chalkboard signs scrawled with punny food jokes. Last summer, the tiki-inspired grocery chain was even named America's favorite market for the third year in a row, and honestly we can't say we're surprised. But we were caught off guard by some of the hidden secrets we discovered about good ol' TJ's.

1. It wasn't always a favorite.

From 1958 to 1967, TJ's was just a humble set of small one-stop shops called Pronto Market. The first full-fledged grocery store was named for proprietor Joe Coulombe and opened in Pasadena, California in 1967.

2. Now there are more than 400 stores&mdashand counting&mdashnationwide.

Finally branching out from its humble Californian roots in 1993, the chain expanded first to Phoenix, Ariz., then to the Pacific Northwest and later hopped across the country to Brookline, Mass. Bonus: There are ten more outposts slated to open soon in Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington. The company is now owned by the folks behind the German market Aldi.

3. Look for the plastic lobster.

And it's hidden, Where's Waldo style. So the next time you're filling up your ruby-red cart, take a closer look around the store.

4. The Two-Buck Chuck is basically the best buy in the store.

Since debuting in 2002,that deliciously dirt-cheap Charles Shaw wine is both a customer favorite and a vino award winner. It's surprisingly made by an offshoot of the famous Franzia family and, unsurprisingly, is exclusively TJ's.

5. Ask the employees for anything. ANYTHING.

That's what they're there for. Staff members are known as crew, with leaders referred to as mates. Other job titles include merchants and captains. Everyone working at Trader Joe's is notoriously nice, as long as you don't act like a total pirate.

6. The Fearless Flyer can be used to your advantage.

It's a newsletter&ndashcatalog&ndashcomic-book hybrid filled with stories about the store's latest products to keep you in-the-know and entertained. You can either pick it up at the store, or subscribe via USPS or email.

7. Be on the lookout for at least one new product each week.

Pretzel bagels, kale sprouts&mdashthe store's offerings change with the seasons and the current culinary trends. Be on the lookout for the newbies while you're making your milk run.

8. Respect the Hawaiian shirts.

Keeping with the maritime theme, crew members flaunt flower- and palm-tree printed T-shirts inspired by the company's early days during the tiki-centric 1960s.

9. TJ's will reward you for getting creative in the kitchen.

Every now and then, the company hosts nationwide cooking contests where the prizes are&mdashyou guessed it&mdashTJ's gift cards. Right now, there's a "Strut Your Stuffed" recipe contest where up to eight TJ's ingredients can be used to stuff peppers, potatoes, turkeys, anything your creative heart desires.

10. Ask Joe to come to your town.

If you're feeling serious FOMO, you can do something about it. Just fill out an online form, rally your friends to do the same, and then cross your fingers and hope the TJ's crew comes to you. There's no guarantee, but the company says that "being wanted matters."

11. Understand their pricing strategy.

Notice the lack of branded items? That's very much on purpose. TJ's sources its products directly from suppliers to keep quality high and price points low. The resulting private-label goods are given quirky names like Trader José (Mexican food), Trader Jacque (French food), and Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

12. Those random bells are like Morse code.

Ditching PA systems, the team first started communicating using maritime bells: one ding for another register to open, two for questions at checkout, and three for manager assistance. After that, they could just be messing with our minds.

13. Sometimes you have to say so long, farewell to your favorite products.

Everyone knows the stores are notoriously small, which means every item really needs to bring it. If your favorite obscure chocolate bar doesn't do well and gain a following, TJ's has no choice to cut it and make space for another red-hot number. Other times, your new go-to is just a one-off specialty product and it won't be restocked for a while. But don't dismay too much and listen to Joe himself: "It's all part of the shopping adventure."

14. Each store has its own artist.

Every location of Trader Joe's has its own in-house artist who does all of those colorful, intricate sketches and murals that reflect the neighborhood you're in.

15. You get free samples of anything, any time.

Sure, there's the free sample station where employees show off one select item every day, but the crew will also open any store item and let you try it, if you ask nicely.

16. Triple ginger snap cookies are the company's top seller.

They're so popular that TJ's even decided to turn the treat into an ice cream flavor.

17. Their return policy is unmatched.

If you don't like a product you bought at Trader Joe's, you can always bring it back&mdashno questions asked.