10 things you should never do in a Trader Joe’s, according to employees

Before heading to Trader Joe’s, you may want to read up on some things you should avoid on your next trip. Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock
  • Insider spoke with current and former Trader Joe’s employees to learn which customer habits bothered them.
  • Leaving trash, empty sample containers, and carts around the store can be frustrating for staff members.
  • The bells near the checkout are there for staff members to communicate with one another, and you shouldn’t ring them.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories .

The first Trader Joe’s opened in 1967 in California. Since then, the colourful grocery chain has opened more than 500 stores across the US.

Beloved for its creative snacks and affordable grocery staples, Trader Joe’s offers a shopping experience all its own. This means the etiquette for customers at TJs can also be a bit different from that of a typical supermarket.

Insider checked in with current and former employees of Trader Joe’s to find out what shoppers should never do in the store.

Don’t ask two different employees to look for the same item.

Doing so means a staff member who could be helping someone else is now working on finding something you’ve already sent someone else to look for. Madeline Diamond

A former Trader Joe’s employee named Joseph Sleek told Insider that employees hated when customers asked two staff members to search for the same food item.

“Customers often asked me to look in the back of the store for something, and it really bothered me when I’d come back out to find that they had asked a different employee to check in the back as well,” Sleek said.

Rather than sending multiple staff members on a hunt for the same out-of-stock item, it’s often more useful to ask when an employee expects that item to be restocked.

There’s no reason to leave sample cups or trash around the store.

If you’re going to take a sample, be sure to properly dispose of the container it came in. Madeline Diamond

A former Trader Joe’s employee named Lauren Wardini told Insider the staff hated when customers left food wrappers and sample cups around the store.

“There are plenty of garbage cans around the store, so it’s annoying to find trash left on shelves or in carts,” Wardini said. “This is especially true if the trash was sample cups.”

Show your appreciation for the free coffee and food samples that are often offered at Trader Joe’s stores by depositing your used cups, utensils, and napkins in the provided trash cans.

It can be rude to ignore employees when they greet you.

Even if you’re in a rush, greeting a staff member is often the polite thing to do. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

The employees at Trader Joe’s are known for their friendliness, and being polite in return is always the best option.

A current Trader Joe’s employee, Valentina Morales, told Insider that ignoring staff members or cutting them off during conversation was considered rude.

“When I greet a customer and ask how they are, it’s frustrating when they either don’t acknowledge I said anything or they cut me off and just ask a question about where to find an item in the store,” Morales said. “This happens almost daily.”

It’s frustrating for employees when you put products back on the wrong shelves.

When a product is placed in the wrong spot, it may be impossible for someone to find. Madeline Diamond

Trader Joe’s employees are responsible for making sure all items are shelved correctly, so leaving products where they don’t belong creates more work.

“It’s so much easier for employees if you bring items that you don’t want up to the cashiers,” Wardini said. “If everyone just brought unwanted items to the register, we could avoid hours spent dealing with misplaced items.”

This is especially true for frozen items that can be ruined if left out. When in doubt, simply pass the item to a staff member rather than abandoning it on a random shelf.

Try not to leave carts at the register.

You should try to put your cart back where you found it. Shutterstock

Trader Joe’s shopping carts aren’t as large as those at some other supermarkets, but they can still obstruct the flow of traffic through the store if left unattended.

“Some people just leave their cart at the register and walk away after checking out,” Wardini said. “The carts are located right outside, so please take it back instead of leaving it in the way of everybody else.”

If you don’t want to deal with a cart and are picking up only a few items, just grab a shopping basket instead.

Don’t try to abuse the Trader Joe’s return policy.

Trader Joe’s has a lenient return policy, but there are some limits. Abigail Abesamis

Trader Joe’s has a generous return policy – you can bring almost any item back to the store for a full refund, with or without a receipt. This includes food items you’ve opened and even eaten as well as nonedible products that didn’t meet your expectations.

The store expects customers to not ask for refunds, however, on products they have successfully used or enjoyed.

“Trader Joe’s is known for its excellent return policy that you can use even without a receipt, so it was always annoying when people abused it,” Wardini said. “For example, I had multiple people return plants that they’d obviously killed and then tried to blame the store for it.”

If you want to sample a specific food, wait for a staff member — don’t open the package yourself.

Trader Joe’s lets customers sample items, but there are a few rules. Madeline Diamond

Many shoppers may not be aware that Trader Joe’s often allows customers to try before they buy.

Customers can have an employee open just about any item for a sample before purchase, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to start opening packages on your own. An employee must be present if a customer is sampling an item from the shelves.

In addition, employees said shoppers weren’t able to sample certain items, such as frozen vegetables or baking mixes.

There’s no need to critique an employee’s bagging technique, especially since they are trained to do it a certain way.

If you don’t like how someone is bagging your groceries, you may want to ask if you can do it yourself. Shutterstock/David Tonelson

Morales said it’s frustrating when customers criticised the way an employee bagged groceries.

“Staff are actually trained in the best way to bag the store’s groceries, so it’s annoying when a customer comes in and says that we’re doing it wrong or critiques our method,” Morales told Insider.

It’s fine to ask an employee to put certain items in the same bag or leave an item out of one. But customers who are extremely particular about how their groceries are handled should simply bag their items themselves.

While at the register, you should avoid being on your phone.

By being on your phone, you could hold up the line. Madeline Diamond

It’s disrespectful to staff members and other shoppers waiting in the checkout line to talk on the phone at the register.

It really annoys staff when a customer is on the phone in the checkout line and then gets upset when we interrupt them to tell them the total or ask a question,” Morales said. “Even worse, some people ask us to wait until they’re off the phone.”

Stop ringing the bells at the checkout lanes.

Trader Joe’s has bells to communicate with staff members; they aren’t just fun decorations. Shutterstock

Those large bells hanging near each cashier aren’t just for decoration. Staff members actually use them to communicate or ask for assistance.

Ringing the bell once instructs staff to open another register, and two rings means someone at the register has additional questions that need to be answered. Three bells summons a manager.

For this reason, employees don’t appreciate when customers or their children ring the bells for fun.