Trader Joe’s FAQ

TraderJoesPumpkinButterTrader Joe’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

First, we are not affiliated with Trader Joe’s. We are just loyal customers that generally like everything we buy there. We are a full service organization here at Club Trader Joe’s and to ease you on your way, we thought we’d put up a short list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Trader Joe’s. You can find their website at

Here is a good book of Trader Joe’s Recipes

Where can I find a Trader Joe’s Store?

Trader Joe’s started in California and spread around that state and in the late 1990’s started a major push around the country. They are rapidly expanding around the USA and it won’t be long before there is one in your neighborhood. If you want to find out where a Trader Joe’s store is located, the best place is to look on the website to find one near you

What are Trader Joe’s Hours?

It varies from store to store, but generally Trader Joe’s is open from 9am to 9pm seven days a week, 364 days a year (Closed on Christmas). Check your local store to make sure!

Trader Joe’s Stores are small 
Their stores are average are about 12,000 square feet. Compare that with an average grocery store of about 50,000 square feet. Small shopping carts and small parking lots. It makes it easier to get in and out quickly. In the past, stores have been generally located in less than ideal shopping centers. Some newer stores are over 15,000 sqft and are located in newer shopping centers.

Trader Joe’s has fewer items
Trader Joe’s stores have only have an average of about 4000 items per store compared to 40,000 or more SKUs per normal grocery store.  Again, this means lower prices all around and frankly it just makes it easier to navigate the store with fewer choices. When your store is ¼ the size of a normal grocery store, it means lower overhead and lower prices.

Most items are sold under Trader Joe’s brand. 
About 90% of the items sold at Trader Joe’s are under the Trader Joe brand name. There are very few other brand names, mostly in the beer and wine sections and outside of those areas you will hardly ever find a nationally recognized brand. Buying directly from the manufacturer means lower prices again. It also ensures that the items they buy made to their specifications and it keeps costs down by cutting out the middleman.

Crew Members
Most of the people you see working at Trader Joe’s are “crew members” these are the non-management employees. You can recognize them because they usually were Trader Joe’s  t-shirts. Management must wear some type of Hawaiian shirt mostly button down type, short sleeve shirts. Most employees in the store can pretty much answering any question about any product, stock shelves and ring up sales. They are always around and almost always helpful. If you want to sample a product, usually they will open something up and let you have a taste!

Trader Joe’s Return policy
If you are unsatisfied with anything you buy there for whatever reason, they will give you a refund at the cash register no question asked. Period. If any employee even gives a moment’s pause about returning something, go straight to the manager. You need your product or a receipt to get money or exchange, but even half eaten food will be fully refunded. In all my years shopping there, I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff.

Trader Joe’s loves Vegans, Vegetarians, Gluten Free and Kosher
They have made it a mission at Trader Joe’s to carry a wide range of Vegan, Gluten Free and Kosher foods. They mark them with special symbols to easy identification and they carry a list of all the products that are in that category on their website. The list is a little misleading because many items apples and potato chips are listed as “vegan” when it’s obvious they are already. But check out the frozen and the fridge sections for “meatless” items. You can find the list here:

No High Fructose Corn Syrup and Genetically modified foods
None of the Trader Joe’s branded items contain High Fructose Corn Syrup and contain no genetically modified ingredients. There have been instances of non Trader Joe’s branded items containing  HFCS, but they are rare anymore.

You can save money!
On staples you can save a ton of money! Milk, Eggs, Bread, Beer, Oil, Ketchup or whatever you buy all the time, you will simply save money of similar quality items at other nationally branded stores. I think the key to understanding that is that Organic Milk will be cheaper than say Safeway or Whole Foods. The products at Trader Joe’s are usually high quality and Trader Joe’s are known for keeping the ingredients to ones you can recognized.

Be choosy with the produce and meat
Trader Joe’s does not work with local produce distributors and works directly with growers mainly in California (for west coast) and Florida for the east coast stores. What many people have found over the years is that the produce can be sub par to some grocery stores. Bananas are a good example, time and time again they seem to turn brown faster than the chain grocery store. Vegetables that travel well like carrots, potatoes, apples and onions are a great deal and are of good quality. Trader’s also has great pre-packaged salad mixes that are good. Your mileage may vary.

Same with the meat. No butcher on location. Much of the meat comes from California or overseas. Sometimes hard to find the cuts of meat that you want or they are not necessarily cheaper. Many times you need to go to a regular grocery store for what  you want. But if you want ground beef and chicken, there are a lot of choices. Not so many for pork. Lots of bacon, cold cuts and sausages. Not so much fish. Good selection of frozen fish though.

Staples are very good!
Milk, Eggs, Bread, Butter, Olive Oil, Rice, Peanut Butter, Jelly, you name it the stuff you buy in week in and week out are usually of good quality and usually a lower price. Sometimes much lower.

There are no sales
All items are priced to sell. There are no discounts generally. The price you see is the price you pay. They do honor coupons of some items, but Trader Joe’s does not offer coupons. I have seen items discounted like old Christmas stuff. They will take coupons on some brands that aren’t theirs, but this is pretty rare to find coupons that work at Trader Joe’s.

One Stop shopping is hard
You simply can’t buy everything you need at Trader Joe’s. If you live in a state that doesn’t allow wine or beer to be sold, then you’ll need to go to another place. They don’t carry many paper products. A better bet for that stuff is Target or Walmart. Also, no plastic products like Saran Wrap or Ziploc bags. Many times the vegetables I need for a dish simply aren’t at Trader Joe’s or they are of poor quality.

Sample Kitchen
I think all Trader Joe’s now have a small sample/demonstration kitchen where they cook up a product or two a day for samples. Very popular, especially with the kids. They always have a pot of sample coffee there for a free shot of caffeine!

The Bells!

  • 1 Bell – Open more cash registers it’s getting busy in here. Frequently crew members are stocking shelves and when things get busy, the drop what they are doing an open more cash registers.
  • 2 Bells – Price check, or assistance finding something on the shelf
  • 3 Bells – Manager needed at cash register.
Let me know if there is anything you want me to add!
– Steve


  1. I have been a loyal fan of TJ’s for 40 years! The first location I can remember was in Palms – a bedroom community southwest of Los Angeles. At that time they mostly had imported items including wines. I think TJ’s head office was always in Pasadena, CA.

    Anyway… I have been buying the same items from TJ’s depending if I am on a diet or not. I save $ and get a special variety with my weekly pilgrimage. Staples for me are milk, eggs, cheese, American bagged salad, dog biscuits, bran cereals, Savory Thins(crackers), sourdough wheat bread, and very special oatmeal raisin cookies.

  2. After 30 years of shopping at Trader Joe’s, my philosophy is to shop at TJ’s first and then go elsewhere for anything that TJ’s doesn’t have. They make shopping fun and less expensive, and I usually find some interesting new product. Their announcer on the radio is fun to hear and has great new suggestions. Thanks for listening.

  3. I have been shopping at Trader Joe’s for several years and have always found it to be a wonderful place to shop. I have recently been put on a Gluten Free Diet and thought I would hate it but again, Trader Joe’s came through. Your Gluten Free Bread is the best and also the best priced than the other stores. There is one thing on your list of Gluten Free itmes that I can not find, please tell me where I can get find the Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies. I would love to try them as would four of my friends. Thand you, Linda Jones

  4. Avoid the fresh burgers. Bought pack on Saturday,sell by date Wednesday.stunk to high heaven when opened on Tuesday. I always shop at Aldi, TJ’s sister company and their burgers are quality AND if anything is wrong their return policy is price back PLUS another pack of same item as a goodwill gesture.

    • Jill – There is no corporate connection between TJ and Aldi. They are completely separate companies. Two brothers used to own each chain, but even then they kept the companies separate.

      • Yes, but the are close similarities between the two companies and if I remember correctly there are a couple of Trader Joe labeled products on Aldi shelves?

  5. Hello, I’ve worked for trader joes for 6 years, and I though you should add, that all of our trader joes products have, no gmo’s, no antibiotics, and no artificial colors. And we have not do business with china since the start of 2011.

    • I would like to know this too! I just bought gluten free brown rice tortillas and they’re like plastic!!! I’ve warmed it up on the skillet for few seconds but when I started to wrap the tortilla it all crumbled. Dinner fail :/ This is the first product ever that I’m going to try to return to TJs.

      • Freeze them. Then when you want to heat them up put the frozen tortilla in the hot skillet. The ice crystals from them being frozen help them heat up soft and without breaking.

  6. Good info. I really like TJ’s for lots of items. Their wines are hard to beat and we live in NorCal wine country!
    l did have my first return today after many years. The Cabernet Pot Roast. I baked it as instructed, and the end result was terrible, way to much garlic, actual small garlic balls, and the Cab marinade was not good, plus the meat was tough! But I recieved a full refund just by showing my reciept, and they didnt want the remaining product. I guess I’ll see if I can come up with a beef stew recipe that’ll bury the over powering garlic, and tederize the remaining meat

  7. Not all Trader Joe’s stores will take returned merchandise. Even when returning unopened, store brand items, they have been uncooperative. It seems to depend on the store manager–too bad they don’t have consistent practices.

    • Really? I have seen people just tell the manager at our TJs that they didn’t like something without the packaging or anything and get their money back!

    • Anytime that happens you need to contact the corporate offices in Monrovia, California (Tel# 626-599-3700) and report the offending manager by name and store location. I have shopped at Trader Joe’s since the early 80’s and know them well. They are very committed to upholding their longstanding reputation.

  8. I just had a very unpleasant experience after I returned something at a NYC Trader Joe’s yesterday. I had returned a few unopened items with no problems and no questions asked after the manager was called over. So upon packing up my new purchases the cashier asks me what the reason for the return was. I said “I don’t know.” He then said something like “the return policy is If you try it, then you can return it.” I was very confused because I did not try any of the items I returned. I asked him how this pertains to me and wanted to know why he was telling me this. I felt as if he was reprimanding me and giving me the third degree for no reason. I have returned items at Trader Joe’s before and have never been questioned or told anything similar to this by a manager, let alone a cashier. This interaction left me completely upset and confused. So on the way out I asked another cashier what their return policy was. I told him what had just happened. He was very nice and he and gave me a completely different response. He called over a team leader because he saw that I was upset. I then explained what happened again but I really don’t think that I expressed myself clearly because I was upset. The team leader was very nice as well and apologized for what had happened. What upset me has nothing to do with the return policy. The feeling of being reprimanded and feeling like you did something wrong is not a good feeling at all. I shop at Trader Joe’s frequently and have never had an interaction like this before.

    • All I can say is that stuff happens and you never know what you are going to run into, even at Trader Joe’s. Hopefully someone at Trader Joe’s is listening…

    • This exact same scenario just happened to me at the Paramus, NJ store. I shopped there last night. I bought a few too many items which I didn’t realize until I unpacked the bags at home and noticed I had enough of the same items in my fridge & pantry. I didn’t open either product and went to the store today to return them. It was a 1-lb bag of shredded mozzarella and a bag of tortilla chips. The “manager” asked me what was wrong with the items. I stated, honestly, that I had enough of these items at home and hadn’t realized it last night. He said, “I will give you a refund THIS TIME but in the future, don’t return overbought items to this store!” I was shocked! I should have lied, opened the items and just said that I didn’t like them. So bizarre.

      • Hmmmm… I’m wondering if there is some return scam going on. I just saw something recently on the news at how people would go to great lengths to return products but the stuff inside the box was replaced with fake food/electronic/clothes/whatever and they would pocket the money. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with Trader Joe’s

        • Steve: My thoughts exactly. Having purchased and return items because they ‘had enough at home’ is no excuse for returning, especially cheese, etc., which TJ’s sure can’t put back on the shelves. This is a loss for the store. Absolutely ridiculous that people think they’re justified in doing so!!

      • Really?!?!?!! Who goes to a store, goes home, decides they have too much, returns to store, and tries to return items?!?!?!!! WEIRD.

      • sorry julie but you were wrong. what were you thinking even if unopened they cannot sell that cheese again. I think it is so wrong for people to return frozen refrigerated anything perishable when you know they have to throw it out. big deal cheese I keep so much cheese in fridge unopened it lasts. and only one pound. there is more to this story.

  9. So, please clarify for me TJ’s doesn’t sell anything with high fructose corn syrup, but its Dulce de Leche has “glucose fructose syrup” which by all my research is HFCS…

  10. April – you’re entitled to your opinion. I bought these items on my way home from work. My receipt says 8:43 pm. I returned it less than 12 hours later..on my way to work the next morning. Again, I probably should have opened it and lied that I didn’t like it, but I thought (incorrectly) that Trader Joes accepted returns on anything for any reason. If the “manager” would have been a little less condescending, I wouldn’t have had an issue but, like the poster above stated, it was like being reprimanded. Since that’s how your post came across too, I suppose you won’t understand that.

    • We all know that not everyone is created equally. There are bad apples everywhere. Some Trader Joe’s drone was having a bad day and was giving you a hard time. I’ve never, ever had a problem with Trader Joe’s in the 15 years I’ve been shopping there. But, like everything there exceptions to the rule.

  11. Alan,

    I also see ” glucose-fructose syrup ” listed on Trader Joe’s brand items (also known as High Fructose Corn syrup) !

    That about zaps their non-gmo claim !

    What gives, TJ’s !?

    • High fructose corn syrup is not GMO per se. It may not be healthy for you but you can make HFCS from organic corn. Not saying they are doing that and in all likelyhood there is some GMO corn in there but you can’t make a blanket statement that it’s GMO just because it’s HFCS.

  12. I like TJs, but it seems I get a favorite product and then it’s gone. Very frustrating to make the trip there and it is not available anymore. So I only go when I have a list of 10 or more items.

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