The One Thing Trader Joe’s Will Never Offer, According to Employees

published May 15, 2023
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Credit: Lauren Masur

Trader Joe’s is famous for many things: wildly popular private-label products, friendly “crew members” (aka store employees) in floral-patterned shirts, hand-designed price tags, and not offering online grocery shopping or delivery. Then late last July, a third-party delivery company popped up in New York — with a waitlist! — and disappeared just as quickly. It had me wondering, would the grocer finally enter the online marketplace? It seems like many other frequent Trader Joe’s shoppers were curious about the same question. 

In the latest bite-sized episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast co-hosts and TJ’s employees Matt Sloan and Tara Miller are sharing the definitive answer (Spoiler alert: It’s a no!) and the three reasons why. Let’s take a look.

1. It’s not cheap (for both Trader Joe’s and shoppers).

I’m not a logistics expert, but I can imagine building out a supply chain for an online delivery service is a costly endeavor. The two hosts confirm as much: “There are costs involved with ordering things online, shipping things to your door, with trucks and warehouses that are dedicated to not servicing a store location — which services a lot of people — but servicing individual homes where products get delivered,” says Tara. Trader Joe’s prides itself on keeping prices (relatively) low; by sticking with in-store-only shopping, it avoids “all of the costs that ultimately might get passed onto those shopping with us,” says Matt.

2. It would be hard for shoppers to discover new products.

New items hit Trader Joe’s shelves weekly, if not daily — it’s one of the most exciting aspects of the grocer. As Matt says, “There’s this treasure hunt that we hope is experienced by customers,” and discovering the latest not-to-be-missed groceries is not something TJ’s thinks is easily replicated online. “You might not know about that product when you are shopping virtually,” says Tara. “You tend to have blinders on and you see the products you are already looking for.” (The grocer does have a “What’s New” section on its website, but it’s not clear how up-to-date it is.)

3. Plus, the “small, more intimate” stores are a selling point.

Compared to other national retailers, Trader Joe’s stores are a fraction in size, and according to Tara, that’s on purpose: “That small, more intimate setting really does set us apart from everyone else selling food.” The grocer does a pretty great job of packing the shelves with our favorite finds. As we navigate those cozy (ok, sometimes cramped) aisles, the close proximity to fellow shoppers and TJ’s staff encourages us to strike up conversation and build a “more personal connection,” she says. 

Do you want Trader Joe’s to offer online grocery shopping? Tell us about it in the comments below.