- Trader Joe’s store crew members know how you can make the most of your shopping experience.
- Some have taken to the web to share their best money-saving tips with customers.
- Employees spoke about everything from the store’s generous return policy to its famously cheap wines.
Trader Joe’s stores are, by design, intended to cater to the sophisticated-but-frugal crowd.
“I designed it for people who are over-educated and underpaid,” Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe said in 1998, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But those Trader Joe’s fans who are looking to save even more require insider information about the grocery chain. After all, Trader Joe’s doesn’t hawk obvious deals in the form of coupons or online promotions.
Fortunately, Trader Joe’s employees have some suggestions that can help customers save money and make the most of the store’s best deals.
Here’s a look at some advice on getting the best deal at Trader Joe’s, courtesy of the crew members themselves:
Remember that the store has a generous return policy
- Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Trader Joe’s has a famously liberal return policy.
“We want our customers to try new things they wouldn’t normally try out of fear of possibly not liking the product and wasting their money,” a Trader Joe’s employee of 10 years wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA.
According to the blog Rather Be Shopping, if you return an item with a receipt, the store will give you a full refund. But if you don’t have your receipt, you can still receive a store credit or a gift card equal to the lowest advertised price of the product.
“I am a firm believer in the return policy,” a Trader Joe’s manager wrote in a 2016 Reddit AMA. “I myself have returned things in my own store… We encourage people to try stuff and the staff recommends products to customers. If a customer doesn’t like it, we want to fix that.”
You can also ask the crew members to open up a product you’re not sure about
- Rick Wilking/Reuters
Worried that you’re about to waste your money on a product you’ve never tried before? You can ask a crew member to open it up (as long as it’s non-alcoholic) so you can try it.
In fact, employees will probably thank you for that.
“I love when customers ask to try products,” a Trader Joe’s manager wrote in a 2016 Reddit AMA.
“We get to finish whatever the customer wanted to try,” a Trader Joe’s crew member wrote in a 2018 Reddit AMA.
The Trader Joe’s manager wrote that there are certain limitations to how much free food the store will give out to prevent shoppers from taking advantage of the policy.
“We’re not gonna grill up a steak for you,” the manager wrote. “I’ve only experienced two or three occasions where a customer tried to take advantage of this.”
In those instances, customers would ask crew members to open up over 10 products.
“Management had to step in and kindly inform them that one or two products is fine but we have to draw the line somewhere, plus we have the no hassle return policy where you don’t even need to bring a receipt, so they can buy with product with confidence and if they don’t like it are welcome to return it,” the manager wrote.
Always go for the wine
- basykes / Flickr
Trader Joe’s is known far and wide for its iconic Charles Shaw wine – popularly dubbed “Two Buck Chuck.”
“The wine selection is unreal and the prices are just as wonderful,” a manager at Trader Joe’s wrote in a 2016 Reddit AMA.
Talk to the people doing demos
- Rick Wilking/Reuters
It’s easy to get free insight on how to prepare a new recipe at the store. All you have to do is ask.
“Never hesitate to ask your demo person how they prepare the demo,” a Trader Joe’s employee wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA. “Typically they’re ridiculously simple, but unfortunately unless the store makes recipe cards – my store does sometimes, depending on the demo – there’s no way to get them because each store does it’s own personal demo every day.”
Many brand items are sold at reduced prices at Trader Joe’s
- Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Some big deals are hiding in plain sight at Trader Joe’s. In a 2017 Reddit AMA, a Trader Joe’s employee wrote that “a lot of our brands are actually other brands.”
That’s right. If you’re buying a store-brand item, you might be purchasing a cheaper and nearly identical version of a well-known product.
“To my knowledge though, it’s not cheap brands – it’s normally more expensive brands that we carry for cheaper,” the employee wrote.
Eater reported that companies like Naked, Marie Callender, and Tate’s Bake Shop are behind some of Trader Joe’s store-brand snacks.
Shop early in the morning
- Michael Nagle / Getty Images
You’re not going to be able to snag any good deals – or purchases, in general – if you can’t even get into the store because of the crowds. And the lines at Trader Joe’s can get intense, to say the least.
In a 2016 Reddit AMA, a Trader Joe’s manager wrote that Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to shop.
“I think it’s hilarious that people go on Sunday and complain that we are so busy,” the manager wrote. “Right when we open is honestly the best time to go.”
And the early birds will often get the best selections when it comes to produce.
“We get fresh produce in every morning, so you can get the best products,” the manager wrote. “Some stuff actually will sell out for the day around 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., including perishable and non perishable items.”
Are you a current or former Trader Joe’s employee with a story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.