13 Facts About Trader Joe’s You Probably Didn’t Know

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are addicted to Trader Joe’s and those who aren’t. If you love the store, you already know how magical it is, but if you haven’t yet fallen under its spell and succumbed to its sweet, intoxicating embrace, here are a few facts that might pique your curiosity… and perhaps turn you into a believer.

1. You Can Try Things Before You Buy Them

Not just samples — anything at all. The Miami New Times quizzed Trader Joe’s publicity director Alison Mochizuki on this rule, asking if you were really allowed to request that an employee open up any item and allow you to sample it. Mochizuki responded in the affirmative when asked about the following: bananas, imported salami, lobster and maybe wine. City and state regulations differ when it comes to drinking wine in a grocery store, apparently.

2. There’s A Real Trader Joe

OK, his name isn’t actually Trader Joe… but it’s Joe. The store’s founder, Joe Coulombe, bought out a chain of grocery stores in 1958 and renamed it Trader Joe’s in 1967. The first official Trader Joe’s was opened in Pasadena, Calif.

3. Trader Joe’s Wasn’t Called Trader Joe’s Until 1967

As mentioned above, TJ’s started out as a small chain of convenience stores called Pronto Markets, which somehow doesn’t sound as catchy. Coulombe renamed the stores nearly a decade after buying them and instituted the store’s nautical/tropical theme, which still persists today.

4. Trader Joe’s Doesn’t Have A PA System

It uses bells instead. One bell means another register needs to be opened; two bells means questions need to be answered at the checkout; three bells summons a manager from the briny depths of the ocean.

5. Most Of Its Products Are Trader Joe’s Products

According to PopSugar, 80 percent of the store’s products are its own. As an added bonus, none of Trader Joe’s products contain GMOs, artificial flavors, preservatives or artificial colors.

6. Every Store Has A Hidden Plastic Lobster

Plastic lobsters were introduced as “kitschy décor” in 1983, according to the Trader Joe’s website. Now every store has one.

7. The Chain Works Directly With Suppliers

Ever wonder why Trader Joe’s has such incredibly low prices? Thrillist reports that this is because TJ’s cuts out the middleman and has “private, exclusive” partnerships with various international sources that allow it to price its products at bargain rates.

8. It Stopped Selling Pantyhose In 1978

Thrillist doesn’t provide any details on this little tidbit, but now you know that Trader Joe’s no longer sells pantyhose as of 1978, in case anyone ever asks.

9. Hundreds Of Millions Of Bottles Of Two Buck Chuck Have Been Sold

Over 600 million, to be exact. Although Charles Shaw wine now costs slightly more than two dollars, it’s still quite popular.

10. Trader Joe’s Was Owned by A German Billionaire

Theo Albrecht died in 2010; with a net worth of $16.7 billion, he was the 31st richest person in the world. He acquired Trader Joe’s in 1979 when original owner Joe Coulombe sold the company; however, Coulombe stayed on without a management contract until 1987, when he hired former frat brother John Shields as CEO (Shields is now retired). Today, Trader Joe’s is still owned by the Albrecht family under the Aldi brand (yes, Aldi grocery stores — in 1960, the two Albrecht brothers split their empire into Aldi Nord, which would eventually operate Trader Joe’s, and Aldi Süd, which operates as plain old Aldi in the U.S.).

11. Salaries Are Crazy High

Cashiers make about $12-$14 an hour, according to Glassdoor, while mates (assistant managers) can make $20-$25 an hour. Store managers, also known as captains, can make upwards of $100,000 a year.

12. You Can Buy Pound Plus Bars Of Chocolate At Trader Joe’s

You probably knew this already if you’re a Trader Joe’s fan, but in case you were in the dark, you no longer have to suffer through the shame of buying your chocolate bars in tiny sizes; you can buy both milk and dark varieties in one huge, glorious, 17.6-oz. bar.

13. You Can Also Buy Craft Beer

There may be some things you can’t get at Trader Joe’s, but booze is not one of them. In addition to carrying a surprising variety of craft beer, some TJ’s locations allow you to build your own six-pack. It’s like being a kid and getting to fill up a bag with a bunch of different kinds of candy, except in this case it’s a bunch of different kinds of beer.