It’s every company’s worst nightmare. An employee, deeply ingrained in the daily business practices and brimming with secrets, takes to the dark web to reveal its inner workings. Unless of course you’re Trader Joe’s. In that case, said employee is bubbling with company pride, and secrets include that the stores donate unsold flowers to food pantries and nursing homes.
That’s what happened recently on Reddit when a user, who goes by “semblanceofafeeling” and appears to be rather happily employed at one the chain’s Manhattan branches, spent a day answering questions about the quirky grocery store from adoring and curious customers. The three-year-long TJ’s employee tackles everything from why the store seems to run out of high-demand items so quickly (“no everything bagel seasoning?!”), to why employees seem so damn happy all the time, in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread so cheery it’ll restore your faith in the internet!
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Here are some highlights!
Why do Trader Joe’s employees love working there so much?
“The simplest way to explain it is: we’re treated very well. We get good schedules, health insurance, and we make above the national, and usually, the state minimum wage. We qualify for raises every six months, and we can also review our managers. Everyone is held accountable. Even if they’re in a position of authority.”
Why do you run out of products so quickly?
“That has to do with ordering and warehouse. In order to prevent food waste, we order in a system called “truck to shelf”, which is what it sounds like. We don’t want to order too much. Sometimes we end up with too little. But for us, that’s better, because it’s less waste. It helps keep prices down.
There’s also the problems of QA — quality assurance — and production delay. If something is QA’d it’s because there’s an issue with the product, like an allergen contamination. If our producers or growers can’t grow enough lemons in time, that could leave us with a shortage.
Now, if you’re asking about seasonal items and discontinuation, that has a lot to do with driving sales and trying to keep things fresh. We don’t do sales (we can’t, our prices are already too low) and we don’t advertise. So seasonal and special items keep people coming back. [Trader Joe’s] have smallish stores and don’t carry nearly as many products as a normal market. This means they can either have fewer total things or more seasonal items.”
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Will stores order products by request if they aren’t carrying them but others are?
“Yup! If you ask enough, talk to other local customers, and email corporate, the more likely we are to bring products in. We’re all about supply and demand here!”
Trader Joe's Cookie Butter, $10.99 on Amazon
Perhaps the most crave-able snack food of all time, and thankfully stocked year-round.
Can you request that they bring back the mango black tea, please?
“Sure! Feel free to email corporate or call your local store, all of that information should be available online for you!”
Do bigger stores have a greater variety of products compared to smaller stores? Just curious!
“Sometimes! There are stores like Back Bay in Boston, Center City in Philly, and Murray Hill in NYC are smaller and sometimes don’t have the same variety. Most stores in the country do have the space to stock most of our product. Also, while the majority of our stock is nationwide, we do have products that are specific to certain regions, like babka or hushpuppies”
Trader Joe's Oven-Baked, Low Carb Cheese Bites (3-pack), $15.99 on Amazon
TJs even has you Ketos covered.
Is TJ’s a company where there is internal advancement?
“I want to say about 80% of our store and corporate advancement is from within. I’ve only met two people who were hired as managers. We’re all very aware of our ability to move up in the company, none of it is secret and if a manager sees that you’re doing a good job, they’ll ask if you want to be promoted.”
Who designs your cards? They’re all so unique and adorable and only 99 cents!
“We have artists in store that do all the murals and signage.”
How do you get your flowers to look so fresh and nice?
“Flowers come in daily from our local supplier florists and we try our best to tend to them and keep them fresh. Ones that don’t sell are donated to pantries, nursing homes, etc…”
I know this beyond your control but can you guys please, please, please open one in the UES (Upper East Side)?
“If this is any consolation, TJ’s is planning on opening up to five more stores in the New York City area in the next five years.”
Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend
Yes. You can buy the cult-classic seasoning online!
I haven’t found those deeply discounted steaks in a while—what is the best time to get those?
“It’s possible that it was an opportunity buy, meaning that a supplier was offering a good price so we took them up on it. It’s also possible that they’re temporarily out of stock for now and they’re coming back soon. Next time you’re at your TJ’s, ask someone to look it up for you!”
What would you say is the biggest perk of working at TJ’s?
“Health insurance, but also, family. I know that sounds sappy and fake, but I swear on my grandfather’s grave that I have met some of the most amazing, caring people at Trader Joe’s in my time there.”
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Header image courtesy of Trader Joe's