16 must-know secrets about Trader Joe's

Is Trader Joe's the most universally beloved grocery store? With friendly employees, low prices, and fun and unique products (looking at you, Everything but the Bagel seasoning), what's not to like? Okay sure, maybe the crowds can be annoying. And sometimes the new snacks are not that great. It’d also be nice if they had a deli counter to cut up big items.

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Trader Joe's secrets you never knew
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Trader Joe's secrets you never knew
1. The best days to shop are in the middle of the week. You should avoid weekends at all costs if you’d prefer your shopping experience to be less crowded.
2. The best time to shop is early morning, right after they open, or late in the day, right before they close. Avoid after work and lunch time. One Domino editor walks into the Upper West Side store 15 minutes before closing; they close the doors while you’re shopping, so you know a limited number of people will be there.

 

3. There is no giant stockroom. What you see is what they have. All Trader Joe’s stores get multiple delivery trucks per day, so the stock should be consistent no matter what day you shop. Plus, this means everything is always super fresh—all produce arrives the day before it hits shelves or the day of. “We call it ‘truck to shelf,’” says the manager. “You know that bag of spinach hasn’t been sitting in a box in the back for five days.”

4. You can try basically anything you want. “Short of grilling up a raw steak, we’ll let you try anything,” says the manager. “We’d rather have you open it in the store than take it home and be disappointed.” So if you’re deciding between the three-seed sweet potato crackers and the three-seed beet crackers, just ask for a taste test and a crew member will open the packages for you. 
5. You can return anything, too. And you’ll get your money back: “We’ve had customers return a bag of popcorn with one kernel in it, or a bar of chocolate that clearly sat in the sun for six hours.” Sure, the manager admits that there is a tiny percentage of customers who might take advantage of this, but most people are simply happy that it’s an option.
6. Trader Joe’s has super high standards for anything it puts its name on. Anything that has the TJ’s private label (close to 85 percent of the store) must be free of high fructose corn syrup, GMO ingredients, hydrogenated oils, MSG and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
7. Don’t sleep on the prepared frozen foods. According to our source, the macaroni and cheese is far and away the best frozen mac ’n’ cheese available, while the mandarin chicken is a national bestseller. While most frozen foods have a long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients and preservatives, you won’t find that at TJ’s because of the private label standards.
8. Crew members live for the limited edition items. These are the most coveted of products. Last year, they had a super-limited (one case per store) stock of Geisha coffee that sold out almost instantly, and right now, they have a coconut-soy wax grapefruit candle that you should snatch up ASAP.
9. Employees try literally everything. Crew members want to be able to make recommendations and tell you what something tastes like, so they make a point to taste everything. They also get a confidential bulletin each week from the corporate office that tells them what’s coming so they can prep in advance.
10. Dietary restrictions are super easy to accommodate. If you’re vegan or gluten-free and unfamiliar with the products, a crew member will walk you around the store and show you every item that you can eat. They also have guides on their website that list every product for those following a vegankosher or gluten-free diet.

11. If you don’t like something, let them know. Trader Joe’s really, really values customer feedback. “We always say customers vote with their dollars,” says the manager, but you can also give feedback to any crew member in-store and through the website. If a new product doesn’t sell, or an old favorite stops selling, it will be discontinued, so instead of just ditching those cheese puffs because they aren’t cheesy enough, tell your local store how your go-to snack could be improved.

Case in point: TJ’s received feedback that their dish soap wasn’t sudsing up enough, so they reworked the product and just released version 2.0.

12. Crew members really just want to make you happy. Honestly, they’ll pretty much do anything for you. TJ’s does not have a produce counter, but they will slice up that butternut squash for you nonetheless (the sample station makes a great makeshift chopping place).
13. You can have your groceries carried to your car. “No one takes advantage of this enough!” says the manager.
14. All of the produce bags are compostable. They may look like plastic, but they are actually an eco-friendly alternative.
15. All of the toiletries and beauty products are actually name brands. Trader Joe’s orders their products from manufacturers of brands you know and love, but they are notoriously secretive about who the suppliers are (last year, Eater uncovered some of the names behind a handful of snacks).
16. Trader Joe’s doesn’t advertise. Aside from the daily flyer email, and possibly a couple radio spots, you won’t see much marketing for the stores, which lets the company keep prices low.
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Turns out, there are solutions to all of those grievances. We chatted with a store manager in the Northeast to find out how to make your weekly (okay, daily) Trader Joe’s experience faster, more convenient and even better. Here are 16 tips that will change the way you shop.

RELATED: Stars who love Trader Joe's:

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Stars who love Trader Joe's
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Stars who love Trader Joe's
Photo � 2010 The Grosby Group Los Angeles, August 4th 2010 JENNA DEWAN was spotted stocking up on supplies at Trader Joe's for herself and hubby Channing Tatum in Studio City, CA. PGpg68 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
�2010 RAMEY PHOTO Beverly Hills, California, June 23, 2010 MISCHA BARTON smokes a cigarette before shopping for groceries at Trader's Joes in West Hollywood, CA. PGpg68 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
�2010 RAMEY PHOTO NO SPAIN/ NO ITALY/ NO RUSSIA Beverly Hills, California, March 19, 2010 JESSICA ALBA was spotted shopping for groceries with daughter Honor Marie, at Trader Joe's in Westwood, CA. PGpg68 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
�2010 RAMEY PHOTO NO SPAIN/ NO ITALY/ NO RUSSIA Beverly Hills, California, March 19, 2010 JESSICA ALBA was spotted shopping for groceries with daughter Honor Marie, at Trader Joe's in Westwood, CA. PGpg68 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
TOLUCA LAKE - AUGUST 20: Hilary Duff spent the late afternoon grocery shopping at Trader Joes and Vons supermarket on August 20, 2008 in Toluca Lake, California. (Photos by David Aguilera/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD - MAY 15: EXCLUSIVE: Kate Bosworth and her boyfriend, James Rousseau, spent the day shopping at Trader Joes and also picked up an application for ANZ (Australian Finanacial Institute), while on the stroll home on May 15, 2008 in West Hollywood, California. Kate Bosworth seemed to be in a happy mood and was dressed casual in a grey singlet and black pants. (Photos by Manuel Velasco/BuzzFoto.com) Buzz Foto LLC http://www.buzzfoto.com/ 1112 Montana Ave suite 80 Santa Monica CA 90403 1 310 441 4464 1 310 980 8822
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 11: Lucy Hale is seen leaving Trader Joe's in Studio City on January 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by BG015/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Amanda Seyfried is seen carrying three grocery bags as she leaves Trader Joe's on February 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Vanessa Hudgens is seen picking up groceries at Trader Joe's on February 24, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
�2010 RAMEY PHOTO NO SPAIN, NO ITALY Los Angeles, Jan.10 , 2010 ASHLEY TISDALE and boyfriend, SCOTT SPEER leave a Trader Joe's market in Toluca Lake after shopping for groceries. Ashley hitches a ride on the cart while Scott pushes. PGpg68 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
�2009 RAMEY PHOTO NO SPAIN , NO ITALY, NO MIDDLE EAST Los Angeles, January 17, 2009 MILEY CYRUS got a pedicure at a North Hollywood salon and later went with her half sister, Brandi to a Trader Joe's store in Toluca Lake. Along the way they stopped a a flower shop where she bought a plant and even made time to take a photo with a lucky fan. PGpg6 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
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