Former Employees Dish on What You Don’t Know About Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s

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Millions of people use Reddit every day, and that means the site is an absolute goldmine for insider information. Some of the site’s most popular topics are AMA threads — short for Ask Me Anything — by experts in topics like swimming pool maintenance or dog grooming. And with so many people chatting without using their real names, some secrets are bound to come out. That’s why everybody took notice when a recent thread hit the front page asking, “What are some company secrets you can now reveal since you don’t work for the company anymore?”

That Reddit thread has more than 26,000 comments, and many of them are from people claiming to be current and former employees of companies everybody has heard of, like Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s.

(Image credit: Kristi Blokhin)

Behind the Scenes at Whole Foods

According to the Redditors claiming to be former Whole Foods employees, a lot of cleanliness issues vary wildly between stores, and depend a lot on the particular managers involved. A few posters alleged that they’d seen managers insisting on using past-due meats instead of throwing them away, while others said they’d heard of that sort of thing, but never seen it at their own stores.

“I used to work in the meat department at Whole Foods,” one Reddit user alleged. “Hopefully things have changed, but our manager was insistent on using past due meat to make grinds for burgers, sausages, etc. I once got in trouble because I threw out the ammonia scented chicken tenderloins that had expired two weeks ago, rather than grind them up for chicken patties.”

Other users claiming to be Whole Foods employees said that sort of thing depended on the particular store’s manager and the amount of traffic coming through.

“The thing about expired food isn’t true for all locations,” another poster said. “My store, and most other high traffic stores don’t need to engage in such practices to keep margins up. In stores like that, they use the marinades to disguise ugly or undesirable parts that are otherwise perfectly edible.”

“When I was there and the people I worked with, were pretty stringent with quality,” another user wrote. “We constantly threw away meat that was plenty good to eat but cosmetically blemished. Marinated meats were fresh or day old cuts, nothing even close to expired and it got thrown away before it was expired.”

“As someone who also used to do meat at Whole Foods, it entirely depends on the store and team management,” another Reddit user wrote. “Thankfully most of the people I worked with and for would never allow this. Hugely not okay. I worked for a fish manager where this was his process, eventually people got sick for processes I didn’t take part in. I took the call and passed it to store management. They started checking in, he got fired.”

(Image credit: Sorbis)

Starbucks Employees Really Are Judging Your Bonkers Coffee Order

In the Starbucks section of the thread, it was the customers that made for the most entertaining stories. And it sounds like the employees really do notice if you show up with an utterly off-the-wall, non-menu drink order. They’ll make it for you, but they’ll remember it.

“Some more fun stories are the nightmares that people actually order,” wrote the aptly named 2muchcoffee4u. “At my bux we had a regular who, every weekday morning, would order a venti heavy cream mocha. … His heavy cream mocha meant that we would literally make a 20 oz drink with heavy cream as the milk. That would be like a good, solid 16 oz of heavy cream. ”

It’s OK to order 15 shots of raspberry syrup in a cup, if that’s what you want, but whatever you’re drinking, don’t be mean to the employees when you order it.

“Don’t be a jerk when you place your order, otherwise you will without a doubt be decaffed,” one alleged former Starbucks barista claimed. “I’ve even witnessed assistant store managers do this to customers.”

Multiple people reported that “decaf” is a verb in barista parlance, and it means to swap out the customer’s regular order for a decaf version. Some people even report that there are secret barista codes to let each other know when an unpleasant customer should be “decaffed.”

“I can confirm the decaf thing,” another Redditor said. “If you were mean to a cashier they would draw a smiley on the cup before they handed it to the barista to signal to make it decaf.”

“At my Starbucks, if you were on bar and the cashier “double tapped” the cup when they set it down you knew to decaf that order,” one said. “It happened rarely, you really had to be a jerk in order to get decaffed.”

There does appear to be a code among the alleged baristas of Reddit that one can swap a regular coffee for decaf, but never put caffeine in a drink that was supposed to be decaf, no matter how rude or unpleasant the customer might be. One can never tell when a person is ordering decaf for a medical reason, and it’s not worth the risk.

(Image credit: Jonathan Weiss)

Trader Joe’s Is a Magical Place Full of Happy People

In a 26,000-comment-long Reddit thread full of people mostly complaining about the places they’ve worked, there is one shining bright spot: Trader Joe’s is apparently just as lovely as it seems.

“Worked in management for Trader Joe’s for 8 years and boy have I got a doozy for you: the employees are ACTUALLY that nice,” wrote one Redditor who absolutely terrified everybody who thought they were about to learn something unpleasant about Trader Joe’s. But in the Trader Joe’s section the thread promptly turned into a huge love-fest full of people gushing about how much they enjoyed working there.

“Former employee here! Yeah they really stress that,” another agreed. “And we genuinely enjoyed working. Plus, stocking after the store closed, with music up loud, dancing, and doing our own shopping was always fun. Not to mention they would pull you from your work a couple times a week to sample products that just came out or were high sellers. They wanted YOU to have a legitimate opinion when asked about a product.”

“Former employee here as well…best job I ever had….worked as night crew, and 100% agree that stocking with the music cranked was super fun….and getting to do ‘product knowledge’ was some of my favorite things, esp when we got to do the wine tasting hahaha (not sure if they do that anymore, this was about 8 years ago),” wrote another commenter who still misses that job.

It’s nice to know that Trader Joe’s employees really do seem to be having a good time at work. A few commenters said they wanted to apply after hearing all the great Trader Joe’s stories. Trader Joe’s is probably about to start getting even more applications.

Do you have any workplace secrets to share? Let us know in the comments.