Employees reveal 7 secrets about shopping at Trader Joe’s

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Trader Joe’s has brought the treasure hunt shopping experience to the grocery store and customers really love it!

The retailer is perhaps best known for “Two Buck Chuck” — its line of Charles Shaw wines that originally sold for just $2 a bottle — but there’s a lot more to know about the beloved grocer.

For example, have you heard the founder of Trader Joe’s once ran a small chain of convenience stores?

RELATED: Publix vs. Trader Joe’s vs. Aldi vs. Wegmans: Which grocery store is best?

Trader Joe’s secrets revealed in new podcast series

Joe Coulombe spent a decade operating Pronto Markets before getting into the grocery business and opening the first Trader Joe’s in 1967. That original location in Pasadena, California, is still open to this day.

Trader Joe’s has grown over the years to 475 neighborhood grocery stores that employ more than 40,000 people.

In a new podcast series uploaded to Trader Joe’s website, company executives answered some of the frequently asked questions that they receive from customers.

Read on for a few interesting facts that every Trader Joe’s shopper will want to know…

1. A tasting panel approves all new products

Trader Joe’s says 80% of its products are private-label and it all started with granola back in 1972.

The company has a team of product innovators who travel the world to search for items that you can’t find anywhere else. Every product must be approved by a special tasting panel before it gets to your local store.


There are also weekly tastings held for crew members at stores so they’re able to pass that knowledge on to help customers.  

Have you stopped by the demo station? That’s the best way to sample the newest products before you buy them. Trader Joe’s says its biggest marketing expense is actually letting customers try their food.

2. Why are bananas sold for 19 cents each? 

Trader Joe’s previously sold bananas by the pound like other grocery stores, but they’re now 19 cents each.

CEO Dan Bane said the change happened after one day he saw an older woman stop by to look at the bananas without buying any. They were packaged in little plastic bags with a minimum of four bananas.

When he asked her why she didn’t put any in her cart, she replied: “Sonny, I may not live to that fourth banana.”

3. They’re not tracking your purchases

This isn’t a secret to regular shoppers, but it’s worth mentioning that Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a bonus card or loyalty program. That means the retailer isn’t collecting data, like how often you buy its popular Mandarin Orange Chicken.

Trader Joe’s says it doesn’t need special cards, sales or coupons because it provides quality products at a great price — every day.

4. What do the bells mean? 

You won’t hear anyone making announcements over a PA system at Trader Joe’s. Instead, you’ll probably hear bells ringing and may not know exactly what they mean. Here’s the scoop:

  • One bell: Open another register
  • Two bells: Someone has a question at checkout
  • Three bells: Calls over a manager

5. Crew members may have dozens of Hawaiian shirts  

Joe Coulombe came up with the nautical theme at Trader Joe’s and explained the inspiration behind it during episode two of the podcast series.

“I’d been reading a book called ‘White Shadows in the South Seas,’ and I’d been to the Disneyland jungle trip, and it all coalesced. And that is why, to this day, the employees wear Hawaiian shirts.”

One employee said he has enough Hawaiian shirts to wear a different one each day of the week for at least two months.


6. Here’s why your favorite products may be discontinued 

Do you ever wonder why your favorite Trader Joe’s products always seem to be discontinued? As the tasting panel approves new items, the chain has to phase out less popular products to make room.

Sometimes items disappear because they’re only stocked during a particular season, but they may return the following year!

7. What’s with the parking situation? 

If you’ve noticed that parking is a mess at your local Trader Joe’s, you’re not alone. There are a few factors that may contribute to the issue, but the company says the number of parking spaces is based on square footage in some cities.

Since Trader Joe’s stores are smaller than the average supermarket, they’re not allowed to have as many spaces as they’d like.

In other cases, the retailer says the only way to have a store in a specific neighborhood may be to settle for a less desirable parking situation.

What’s your favorite thing about shopping at Trader Joe’s? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or right below in the comments!

RELATED: 9 budget breakers to avoid at Trader Joe’s

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