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RetailIamA Mate (manager) at Trader Joe's!! Ask me anything :)

Sep 10th 2015 by slothh55 • 34 Questions • 87 Points

I work at Trader Joe's and love every minute of it. Feel free to ask questions about products, how the store works, why we are so awesome, money, about the job etc.. anything you want.

http://imgur.com/1kF5hKn My collection of shirts (I have more that are being cleaned) and my name tag.

Edit: To answer some quickies:

Yes the job pays well, but yes it is hard work. Boxes come in up to 40 lbs and we are moving several hundred throughout the day. Yes, employees get a crew discount on all products. Yes the people are really, genuinely happy to work there. Yes the parking lots suck.

Q:

Your parking lot sucks. Why does it suck?

A:

Confirmed. Parking lots do suck.


Q:

I love Trader Joes but I'm kind of put off by your enthusiasm. Why are you all so happy?

How can I be that happy but still make 6 figures?

A:

Hahaha I guess that's a compliment. Honestly, before I worked there and was just a shopper I was thinking the same thing.. "why are all these people so damn happy, must be faking it or something" But now that I work there I can tell you it is 100% genuine. We are just happy to be at work. It's a great job with great people and we get treated humanely. Need a break? Go stretch your legs. Hungry? Grab a snack. Also very flexible with leaving early/coming in late. Low pressure, low stress job that pays well = happy employees. Thanks for the question!


Q:

The envy stacking up is immense.

A:

It's a glorious place.


Q:

What's the deal with the bell at the register?

A:

Ah, the glorious bells. It's basically our way of talking to each other instead of opening an intercom through the whole store. 1 ring means more cashiers, 2 rings means help i.e carryout/get me this item/why is this out of stock etc. and 3 rings means a manager for a refund/void etc... It's an effective system.


Q:

Our town has been campaigning to get a Trader Joe's for years now (closest one is 50 miles away). Portillos (restaurant chain) held out on us for years too, and when they finally opened, our city broke their records for openings. Point being, we have people here, and we mean it when we say we want something! Question then is: Is there any hope? Any magical formula to make the higher ups take notice and bring a location to our town?

A:

People drive 2 hours or so to come to my store to shop and spend upwards of $500 and then say what you are saying to me right now. There is nothing I can do on my end sadly. If you go to the website and complain/beg/ask politely, you may some day get that store you want. It's hard to set up the logistics of a grocery store. Deliveries/truck drivers etc. We are expanding at a rapid rate but unfortunately not everyone has the same opportunity to shop with us. Some day!!!


Q:

How do your stores pass health inspections when they're constantly filled with seamen?

A:

hahahahah lol. that was hilarious. We do routinely pass health inspections though.


Q:

if i ask to sample a product, are employees allowed to eat the remainder? what's the policy on foods that would otherwise be thrown away?

A:

I LOVE when customers ask to try products!!!! Yes, you get to eat as much as you want and the remainder will be given to crew members. We donate as much food as we can to local food shelters but some food does get tossed into the trash. If an item is out of code (expired) we write it off and it goes to the suitable location (trash or donated)


Q:

So I can ask for a sample of anything in the store?

A:

Anything within reason. We're not gonna grill up a steak for you, but something that you can open up and taste, yeah go for it. They'll be happy to open it and let you try. Chips/candy/snacks. Stuff you can just open and eat. Shouldn't be an issue. Also the return policy is that of Nordstrom's, i.e. you don't like anything bring it back no hassle.


Q:

What is your favorite holiday season item at TJs?

A:

The magical time that is holiday season. The entire cookies and candy aisle turns into a holy relic of wonderment and me trying to not get fat. The seasonal cookies are amazing! Were already getting pumpkin stuff in. Pumpkin Ice cream is awesome. I love sweets. Dammit now I want cookies.


Q:

Damn... me too. Can you put a rush on the peppermint Joes O's? The pumpkin ice cream really is insane.
New summertime favorite this year... Pickle Popcorn. That stuff is incredible.

A:

I hope you bought all the pickle popcorn you can afford because it is no longer orderable, at least not at my store. But yes, delicious, and yes I ate a lot of it. Holidays are insane busy so I always reward myself with delicious treats. nomnomnom


Q:

I ate about 15 bags over the summer months. Probably should have stocked up, but hoping the product will be back next summer. I kind of enjoy the seasonal release vibe. Keeps me looking forward to their return. I have 4 TJs within 10-15 minutes drive from my house and a 5th arriving in December. I am truly living the dream.

A:

Hahahah! Love it. Good on you, sir.


Q:

When you call a meeting do you refer to it as "mating" with your fellow employees?

A:

NOW I DO


Q:

Why does your bread have nearly immediate expiration dates?

A:

The best answer for this is that NONE of our products, breads included, have any sort of preservatives in them. Also if the section leader (person who orders that section, in your case - bread) does a poor job and orders too heavy then they are always having backstock which depletes slower so the new stuff becomes old stuff quick. And rotation. But I feel your pain. Thanks for the question!


Q:

[deleted]

A:

Uh, have fun at Target working ungodly hours for the same paycheck and having no fun, poor benefits and missing out on all the delicious treats!


Q:

What do you think of Aldi's? Does anyone at TJ's ever mention the great schism that split the German grocery chain in two?

A:

Actually it's pretty quite. Most people just refer to Dan Bane, CEO. The Albrecht brothers don't get mentioned very often, and I don't think a lot of crew members even know of their existence. I must admit I don't know a whole lot about them, seem like good dudes?


Q:

What are some products that you and other Trader Joe's employees are surprised hasn't been more popular?

A:

Ah man I was just having this discussion with co workers like "this is SO good but nobody buys it." I can't remember the specific item. I work at a very busy store so most of our stuff all sells but there are definitely some items that should be way more popular. I'll have to think of what they are.


Q:

Better N' Peanut Butter is the answer. That stuff is amazing.

A:

Quite good!


Q:

Why is Trader Joe's packaging so hard to open?

A:

Is this a thing?


Q:

You guys have really affordable, good quality wines there - thank you. What are some of your favorites under $12 a bottle?

A:

The wine selection is unreal and the prices are just as wonderful. I really wish I could recommend some to you but my store has 2 fantastic gentlemen who are wine connoisseurs so I pass any customers to them. I can come back to you in a day or two with answers. Also depending on which state you shop in, the selection may differ.


Q:

Why are the stores so bloody cold?

A:

To get you to hurry up! No just kidding, I dunno, my store is always pretty comfy.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

Should be coming this month, seems all pumpkin related items are releasing this or next week. Not sure about nationwide.


Q:

I hope you guys improved the pumpkin coffee though. I've shopped at TJs since you had to ring up everything manually and say the price out loud. I love almost everything but yikes, that pumpkin coffee.

A:

I'll come back


Q:

Also, the Pirate Joe guy in Vancouver has like 150-300% markups. It's insane but people are lazy so he is probably doing fine

A:

Well, to be clear, "Pirate Joe" isn't a company or a business, it's just the name that Trader Joe's crew has given to the people who come in and do what I described.

My pleasure.


Q:

How can one get a job there? Secrets? Tips?

A:

No big secrets or insane hazing to get in. Just apply and give em a big ol smile. Tell them you love Trader Joe's and talk about your favorite product and why you like shopping there.


Q:

Do they put crack in the chicken Apple sausages? Why are they so good?

A:

And the secret is out.


Q:

What happened to the pineapple salsa and why isn't it generally available at all of the stores?

A:

My store constantly has that bottle of happiness. I buy it all the time and recommend it to people, very great salsa. I guess your stores suck? All stores have mostly the same staple products, such as that. Harass them more.


Q:

I live in a part of the US that has a huge local foods movement and just got a Trader Joes. I went in there and there was absolutely nothing (except beer) that I could identify as locally sourced, which frankly turned me off.

Where does your food come from? How much might be local, although labeled as Trader Joes?

A:

Sad to hear. I guess it depends where you live. I'm guessing your referring to mostly produce, which is great because that is the companies focus for this upcoming fiscal year for us, which began in late July. The majority of produce, not just at Trader Joe's, comes from California. Something like 90% of the strawberries consumed in the US are grown in Cali. Sourcing locally is becoming much more popular and in my area we have a handful of locally sourced food, but not a lot. I do agree with you, we lack in the locally grown produce. It may be improved, but it's hard to mass produce produce (lol) at an affordable rate. If you check other stores, they price food based on weight, where we price each item, like an apple at Whole Foods is $x/lb while we sell everything at a set price for said item, despite the weight.


Q:

I've been told that there's a lobster hidden in the store - looked for it every single time - never found it. Is there a lobster hidden somewhere?

A:

Each store has a stuffed animal of some sort hiding somewhere. It's really just for kids to run around and find the missing animal, and they get a treat. Kids seem to LOVE it and parents go along with it too. So, I'm guessing the store your referring to has a lobster as their animal.


Q:

I once ate a whole sushi party tray. Am I gonna die?

A:

Not because of this.


Q:

Every time I get bagged lettuce or kale there, it goes bad in a day. What am I doing wrong? Is it me? Is it Joe? HOW DO I REMEDY THIS?!

A:

I've heard this complaint before but I buy that stuff almost every other day and have never had this issue... keep it refrigerated? I wish I had better advice, but I've never run into this personally.


Q:

Every time I get bagged lettuce or kale there, it goes bad in a day. What am I doing wrong? Is it me? Is it Joe? HOW DO I REMEDY THIS?!

A:

I can try to get an exact date when I go back to work tomorrow.


Q:

You mentioned the no hassle return policy and I have to ask this and yes, it's real. It really happened and I'd like to know how you would handle this at your store.

An acquaintance bought a pie at a competitor (we'll just call it whole foods), ate the whole pie and then realized it was $X. He went back to the store, complained that it was too much and somehow got his $ back. Mind you, they asked if anything was wrong with it and he just said no, he didn't realize how much it was.

To this day I'm still shocked at a) his audacity to ask for a refund b) the store giving him his money back.

How would you have handled it?

A:

Keep in mind I managed a restaurant for 8 years and dealt with this and much more ridiculous things.

I would have done the same thing. Corporate is adamant about the return policy and no hassling customers. Often times, most times, I don't even ask why they want a refund. I don't want to waste their time, my time, other customers in line time, etc. It's usually around $10 and my time is more valuable than that and the company is aware scams and dumb shit happens like this. You can over analyze this and think "well did he purposely scam us, is he being honest, or is he just a plain old imbecile?"

You just pray people don't abuse the awesome policy we bestow upon them.

Yes, that person is a jackass, but those people exist. They exist by the thousands. I have pretty much grown immune to the idiocy of the American public.


Q:

Is there crack in the reduced guilt pita chips? I have worked up a 2 bag a week habit at this point.

A:

I was stuck on those for a long time. With Mediterranean hummus. 10/10


Q:

On a more personal note, what are your favorite films?

A:

Good Will Hunting. Fight Club. Law Abiding Citizen. Social Network. These are the first to my mind, but there are more. Thanks for the question?