Trader Joe's is not like most regular grocery stores. In addition to their affordable produce and wide array of health-food options, they also carry their own line of unique products like their "Everything But The Bagel Seasoning" and their infamous Cookie Butter that you just can't find anywhere else. And let's not forget their Two Buck Chuck, which is basically the cheapest wine you can buy! Their stores definitely stand out when it comes to the grocery shopping experience, but as it turns out, there's much more than meets the eye. To help you make the most of your time in the store, here are nine secrets about Trader Joe's you probably didn't know.
1. You Can Win Prizes
Free goods from Trader Joe's? Count us in. Customers have the chance to win prizes through various contests that they post on their site, many of which including coming up with clever recipes. If you use a reusable bag when shopping at some locations, you are also eligible to enter a raffle for a chance to win a $25 gift card.
2. You Can Sample Whatever You Want
Trader Joe's offers different samples every day, but if there's a particular product you want to taste, you can just ask an employee, and they'll open it for you. This applies for everything except alcohol and anything that is raw or frozen.
3. You Can Return Whatever You Want
If you've already opened that bag of kale chips and realized it's not for you, you don't have to worry about having wasted your money—Trader Joe's will take the product back, no questions asked. Sounds like a great deal, especially if you're taking a chance on something offbeat like their "Popcorn In A Pickle."
4. There's Meaning Behind That Bell Ringing
Ever notice there's no PA system with a voice overhead shouting "Clean up on aisle 3?" That's because employees use a bell system to communicate with one another. According to the Trader Joe's website, "Two bells mean there are additional questions that need to be answered at the checkout. Three bells call over a manager-type person."
5. Every Store Has A Plastic Lobster Hidden
Don't be alarmed when you find a plastic lobster hidden between fruit shelves. Every store has a plastic lobster hidden somewhere on display. Encouraging your kids to keep an eye out for the creature can be a great way to distract them while you go shopping.
6. Each Store Has Its Own Local Artists
The display chalkboards at Trader Joe's are always beautifully done, and this is no coincidence. Each store has a local artist on staff, which is why their displays so accurately reflect the vibe of that location.
7. All Of Their Own Products Are Non-GMO
If you're buying a Trader Joe's label product, you can rest assured that none of the ingredients are genetically modified. Although they can't guarantee that other branded products don't contain GMO ingredients, for their own products, they require suppliers to provide documentation that their ingredients are from non-GMO sources. They also go a step further and conduct their own random audits of items using an outside, third-party lab.
8. The Difference Between Employees' Shirts Means Something
You may have noticed that some employees wear Hawaiian shirts, while other wear t-shirts with hibiscus flowers on the back. No, one employee isn't lazier than the other. Instead, the employees with the button-down Hawaiian print shirts are the store leaders, while the ones wearing just the t-shirt are regular employees. Despite these differences, you can ask any of these people for help, and they will be equally well-equipped to find a product for you.
9. They Donate Their Food Waste
Despite how awesome their food is, not all of their products get sold, and instead of just tossing them, Trader Joe's donates 100 percent of its salvageable food waste to community homeless shelters and food banks. Now that's a company we can get behind!