10 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Trader Joe’s

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Trader Joe's store entrance
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Workers in funky shirts, bells ringing, the cozy-sized stores. There’s just something different about Trader Joe’s compared with its much larger grocery competitors. And its die-hard customer base would agree.

From its humble beginnings in Pasadena, California, in 1967, TJ’s has grown to more than 500 stores nationwide, under the ownership of German multinational supermarket chain Aldi Nord.

The stores are small, the workers are friendly, the products are intriguing and the shoppers are loyal. TJ’s has found the magic formula. Read on to find out what sets this grocer apart from the rest.

No coupons, no discounts

Checkout counter in Trader Joe's
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No need to scour your email inbox for Trader Joe’s coupons, no need for a rewards card. As the company flatly states in its FAQ:

“‘Sale’ is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices, every day.”

No online promotions, no membership cards, no nothing except for what’s on the shelves.

The most popular products

Trader Joe's shopper
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Trader Joe’s lets its customers vote for their favorite store products with its “Annual Customer Choice Awards.” The overall favorite for 2021 was Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken, and the top beverage was its Non-Dairy Oat Beverage.

No receipt? No problem

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Dissatisfied with a purchase? Returns are easy at Trader Joe’s. Even if you’ve mowed through half of it but don’t have a receipt, you can still bring it back to the store for a refund, no questions asked.

TJ’s offers refunds on anything you buy, as Money Talks News detailed in “15 Retailers With the Best Return Policies.”

You have to go inside

Entrance to a Trader Joe's grocery store
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Despite the era of COVID-19, you still have to enter a Trader Joe’s brick-and-mortar to buy their products. The store does not deliver and does not offer curbside pick-up, instead striving to maintain its feel as a “neighborhood grocery store” where customers can actually have conversations with the workers.

There’s a podcast

Man relaxing at home on his sofa
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Learn how to “hack” Trader Joe’s products, why their parking lots can be challenging to navigate or what happened at the latest annual meeting of the “Captains,” the title given to the leader of the stores, on the TJ podcast.

Some products disappear

Empty shelves and a grocery cart in Trader Joe's
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Don’t get too married to a certain item at Trader Joe’s — it might not be there next week. The store’s offerings are somewhat of a meritocracy. If products don’t sell well, they lose their spot on the shelf. The stores just aren’t large enough to allow for under-selling items to remain, as explained in its FAQ.

It’s highly admired

Trader Joe's
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Find any list of the top-rated grocery stores, and you’ll probably find Trader Joe’s high up on the rankings. Reader’s Digest has it at No. 2, thanks to its unique products, low prices, clean stores and “cool vibe.”

The 2022 Axios Harris Poll 100 rated Trader Joe’s as the most reputable company in the United States, as Money Talks News reported in June 2022.

Nothing gets wasted

Trader Joe's produce section
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Trader Joe’s tries to be a good neighbor in its community by donating “100% of products that go unsold” to local food recovery organizations. The company says that it donated more than $349 million worth of products in 2021.

No PA system, just bells

Shoppers at checkout in a Trader Joe's
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You won’t hear anyone blaring over a loudspeaker to clean up Aisle 5, spritz the lettuce or summon the manager. The sole source of communication is the ringing of bells. One bell means “open up a new register,” two indicates a customer has questions at checkout and three calls over a manager.

No junk in the food

Shelves of granola in Trader Joe's
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Trader Joe’s has a huge amount of “private label” goods, and the store guarantees that those products don’t contain artificial flavors and preservatives, trans fats or genetically modified ingredients.

To ensure quality, TJ’s puts each food through a rigorous tasting panel before it can be approved for sale.