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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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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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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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They treat their employees really well

Most jobs at Trader Joe’s start at around $12 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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You might find a 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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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.

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Shutterstock / Kristi Blokhin

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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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.