This Is How Trader Joe’s Really Feels About Those ‘Retail Arbitrage’ Schemes

updated Jun 25, 2019
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Remember that viral story a while back about the couple who made $30,000 re-selling Trader Joe’s items — in particular, the Everything But The Bagel Seasoning — on Amazon? At the time the strategy proved controversial: Buying products en masse, after all, would leave less on the shelves for everyone else. Regardless, it worked so well for this couple, most people were impressed. Of course Trader Joe’s caught wind of the practice. And on the latest episode of the company’s podcast, Inside Trader Joe’s, Jon Basalone, President of Stores, weighed in on how Trader Joe’s actually feels about retail arbitrage. Hint: He’s not happy about it. 

During a segment of the podcast in which the hosts read out user-submitted questions, Basalone didn’t sugarcoat his opinion: “We don’t like it,” he said. “It really starts to get me a little fired up actually.” 

Basalone explains that coming into a store and paying a relatively inexpensive price for a product, then reselling it online to someone who either doesn’t have access to, or doesn’t know about, the original low price, is “not fair on a lot of levels.” Not only do other customers suffer, but Basalone also feels that the practice is disrespectful to Trader Joe’s staffers who buy products for the stores and stock them on the shelves. 

Mitch Heeger, Executive Vice President for Marketing and Merchandising, explains that when retail arbitrage schemes first emerged, customers would come into stores and order 10 cases of Cookie Butter — one of the store’s most popular items — and no one batted an eye. Then the same thing happened with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning. As a result, customers who come in looking for just one of these items to restock their pantry end up out of luck. 

Basalone also notes that Trader Joe’s prefers for shoppers to experience the whole store — from the friendly customer service to the murals — which just isn’t possible if you’re buying a case of seasoning online. Yet, Matt Sloan, who hosts the podcast, also acknowledges that it’s a tricky situation for some folks, who want to try the store’s legendary products but just don’t have a Trader Joe’s in their area. 

“We understand that people might live in Juneau, Alaska, and want that Cookie Butter, but we don’t have a store there,” Sloan said. “And opening a store there might not make sense for us for a long time. Maybe ever. Boo. Sorry, Juneau.”