5 Things You Should Never Do at Trader Joe’s — And 5 You Should

published Feb 19, 2020
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We’ve been shopping at (and writing about) Trader Joe’s for long enough that we have dubbed ourselves official experts on the ins and outs, the comings and goings, the who’s who and what’s what of the beloved grocery store. At this point, we consider ourselves qualified to teach a class on proper TJ’s etiquette.

Here is a definitive list of what to do, and what not to do, while inside the hallowed halls of Trader Joe’s.

1. Don’t abandon your basket or cart at the checkout line.

While we fully endorse shopping while in line at Trader Joe’s (as is necessary when stores are completely inundated with other overzealous shoppers), under no circumstances should you leave your cart or basket unattended for extended periods of time. This can hold up the line and create a major traffic jam. It’s just plain inconsiderate.

2. Do hold a stranger’s spot in line while they grab something nearby.

That said, we’ve all been in a situation where we’re approaching checkout and realize that we forgot a crucial item that’s “just over there.” If the person in front of you in line asks you to hold their spot while they go to grab something, do it. With a smile! Someone will likely do it for you when the tables are turned.

3. Don’t fondle every piece of fresh produce.

We’ve written at length about how disappointing the produce selection is at Trader Joe’s (although it is getting better). Why make it worse by manhandling the semi-acceptable options? We’re looking at you, avocado abusers.

4. Do put things back on the right shelf.

No one wants to find a frozen bag of cauliflower gnocchi in the chip aisle. If you throw an item into your cart that you later decide you don’t want, go the extra aisle and put it back where it belongs. It doesn’t take that long!

Credit: Cassiohabib

5. Don’t hoard every bag of cauliflower gnocchi.

Speaking of cauliflower gnocchi, there’s no reason to stockpile the stuff like there’s no tomorrow. (We have a feeling that this item isn’t getting discontinued any time soon, considering it took home top honors in the 11th Annual Customer Choice Awards.) When picking up a bag or two, be courteous and save some for the rest of us. This goes for any and all hot-ticket TJ’s items!

6. Do exercise the free sample policy (within reason).

Trader Joe’s is magical for many reasons and one of those reasons is the fact that you can sample any item in the store that you wish to try. You just have to ask a crew member to assist you. Avoid being a nuisance to the busy crew members, however, and make sure to not abuse this gift and privilege.

7. Don’t litter your free sample cups.

Our hearts shattered into a million pieces when we realized there was an Instagram account (@TJ_used_cups) that exists just to document all the places that people litter their used sample cups. How hard is it to find a trash can?!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn

8. Do bring your own bags.

While not widely publicized or honored at every location, if you spend more than $25 on groceries at certain TJ’s and bring your own reusable bag(s), you’ll be entered to win a weekly lottery for a $25 TJ’s gift card. If you’re not sure if your store participates, ask for details the next time you check out. Regardless, bringing reusable bags is a good habit.

9. Don’t try to pay with coupons.

Trader Joe’s stands by their assertion that their food is always as reasonably priced as possible. “Sale is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices every day. NO coupons. NO membership cards. NO glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores,” they outline on their website.

10. Do chat with crew members while you check out.

Have you ever left Trader Joe’s and asked yourself why on earth everyone who works there is so friendly? It’s not just you. Trader Joe’s employees are famously friendly (for many reasons outlined in an Inside Trader Joe’s Podcast episode). Mirror their moods and let the goodness rub off on you.

Have any dos or don’ts to add to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.