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11 Things Trader Joe’s Employees Want You to Know

Trader Joe's has almost a cult-like following thanks to their amazing products, great prices, and happy employees. But all that doesn't happen by accident: Here are some behind-the-scenes secrets from everyone's favorite store.

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Portrait of a handsome seller in uniform cutting young cheese in front of the store showcase full of different cheeses

Employees taste test all the new products

A perk of working at TJ’s is sampling all of the latest and greatest products the store introduces—from Japanese Style Fried Rice to Lemon Elderflower Soda, Why? So that when customers ask about something on store shelves, employees are able to answer questions knowledgeably and thoroughly. These are the products you really should only buy at Trader Joe’s.

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This kid is eating delicious cookies.
Bunphot Kliaphuangphit/Shutterstock

Customers can taste test products, too

You can also try things in the store before you buy them—so long as they are not items that need to be cooked, of course. Let an employee know what you’re doing before you rip open that bag of Joe-Joes Cookies, and common-sense dictates that you should limit your sampling to one or two products per visit. If your store sells wine, that’s fair game, too. Discover 20 secrets from America’s top grocery stores.

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New York, February 14, 2017: Cans of Organic Black Beans are stacked on a shelf in a Trader Joe's store.
Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock

They private label a lot

Trader Joe’s is well-known for its high-quality, store-brand products, which usually cost less than a similar name brand product you find at other grocery stores. That’s because 80 percent of the products TJ’s sell are actually made by those same name brand companies, specifically for Trader Joe’s. (Who those brands are is top-secret, but that hasn’t stopped the Internet from speculating.) The store usually pays upfront and in cash, which also helps keeps costs down. Find the real reason behind Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck.

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Cropepd shot of a little girl paying with a credit card for a pack of cookies at the store groceries food dessert eating payment consumtions customer consumerism banking children kids lifestyle.
Zoriana Zaitseva/Shutterstock

You can return everything

Trader Joe’s will take back virtually everything, even if you have opened up the package and taken a bite or two, and for any reason or no reason at all. They want you to continue to come back and love the store.

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Brass bell hanging

Those bell rings aren’t accidental

You know the bells that go off at the cash register? Well, they actually mean something—kind of like a Trader Joe’s secret code—and are used in place of those annoying PA systems you hear at other stores. One ring of the bell signals that more cashiers are needed up front, two bells indicates that a customer at the register needs assistance that the cashier cannot provide, and the sound of three bells signals that a supervisor’s assistance is needed for the transaction.

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Edina, MN/USA- February 19th, 2018. The interior of a Trader Joe's grocery store in Minnesota.
Jeff Bukowski/Shutterstock

They celebrate local flavor

While Trader Joe’s is a national chain, each store is involved with its local area as much as possible. You’ll find murals painted by an in-house local artist featuring your town’s landmarks and tasting station named after local spots. And the dedication doesn’t stop there. If you ever need a donation for the silent auction at your kid’s school, each store has a dedicated Donation Coordinator who could help.

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Fairfax, USA - January 18, 2017: Happy Trader Joe's employee returning shopping carts to the store outside entrance with woman customer
Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

They treat their employees really well

Most jobs at Trader Joe’s start at around $14 per hour and employees get reviewed every six months, which often comes with a pay raise. Also, after three months of working more than 30 hours a week, they get health insurance and a 401K. Some managers even earn $130,000, according to Buzzfeed.

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Close-up Beautiful cute little girl wear straw hat eating lollipop

You might find hidden treasure

In some locations, employees hide a stuffed animal among the shelves for children to find. If they spot it, they get a lollipop at checkout. (And even if they don’t, TJ’s employees are still pretty generous with doling out those lollipops and stickers.) You’ll also find a plastic lobster hidden in every Trader’s Joe’s.

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Woman In Grocery Aisle Of Supermarket With Coupons
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Yes, you can use coupons

While Trader Joe’s doesn’t hold sales because they believe in providing people with “quality food that is affordable every day,” they do allow you to use manufacturer’s coupons for the few name-brand products it sells, including Lärabars and Applegate Farms. That said, the majority of products TJ’s sells is its in-house brand and they don’t currently offer coupons for those. Coupons are a great add on to the already low prices. Here’s why Trader Joe’s is so cheap.

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Fairfax, USA - January 18, 2017: Buckets of flowers with Trader Joe's signs viewed from outside of store
Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

They donate food

Trader Joe’s donates unsold food to local charitable organizations. This goes for anything from fresh fruits and vegetables to frozen entrees. Those cheery bouquets of daffodils and tulips are also donated. (Believe it or not, Trader Joe was an actual person.)

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This, photo shows riced cauliflower for sale at a Trader Joe's in New York. Swapping out the rice and potatoes in dishes with chopped-up cauliflower gained traction with followers of the Paleo diet and others mindful of their carbs. Now, several companies are trying to take advantage of the trend. Trader Joe's began selling frozen "Riced Cauliflower" last year and a fresh version this year
Candice Choi/Shutterstock

They’ll set aside in-demand products for customers

Desperate to get your hands on a bag of fresh cauliflower rice before the next shipment sells out? If you ask nicely, an employee will set aside a bag for you to pick up at your convenience. Not sure which foods to ask for? Start with these 19 foods nutritionists always buy at Trader Joe’s.