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12 Bizarre Rules Trader Joe's Employees Have to Follow

Working at Trader Joe's is very different from other grocery stores.

People who love Trader Joe's really love Trader Joe's, and honestly, what's not to love? It's affordable, has great snacks, grocery short-cuts, a freezer section with lots of simple and delicious meals, and of course, well-priced wine. It's also staffed by the most friendly, helpful employees, but we can't help wondering if it's as great to work there as it is to shop there. Read on to find out what it's like to work there and what kind of bizarre rules Trader Joe's employees have to follow.

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Those fun shirts are part of workplace hierarchy

trader joes uniform
BeltLandia / Flickr

While we might see the tropical-influenced shirts as part of the fun of Trader Joe's, the distinctions between the shirts actually represent rank in the Trader Joe's hierarchy, according to Spoon University. Rank-and-file staffers, known as "crew members" have to wear solid color t-shirts with flowers on the back, while the store leaders are the ones wearing the button-down Hawaiian print shirts.


Those bells mean get to work

trader joes bell
Aranami / Flickr

If you've shopped at TJ's, you've heard those cheery bell tones playing over the store's loudspeaker. But you've probably wondered what, if anything, do they mean? According to a post on Reddit, basically, they're there to tell the workers what to do. If you hear one bell, it means the lines are backed up and someone needs to head up front and open another register, two bells mean a cashier needs help from anyone available and three bells mean a crew leader is needed.


Opened packages must be sold

hand holding bottle of organic trader joes cold brew
Meghan De Maria / Eat This, Not That!

If a shopper wants to try a product that doesn't need to be cooked, they can tell a crew member they want to try it, and the box will be opened for the customer. If the customer doesn't buy it, it has to be pulled from the floor and ends up in the break room. Needless to say, Trader Joe's employees love this rule!

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Pay Raises Come Twice a Year

trader joes employee stocking

According to a reddit post, from a person who claims to have worked at the grocery store for a decade, raises come twice a year, and the raise changes, "In one review cycle it might be 60 cents, the next one may be 80 cents. Just depends on how well the company is doing."


You are judged on three things

person shopping trader joes

To get a raise, you need to focus on three specific areas, according to a former employee, who wrote, "They judge you in 3 areas: Customer experience, productivity, and working as part of a team. If you fall short on even one of these categories it means no raise. You can be the fastest at stocking shelves, give the best customer experience, but if you find yourself constantly quarreling with other crew members, don't expect a raise."


Workers get a discount

shopping trader joes

If you're a staffer at Trader Joe's you'll get 10% off your groceries at the store, which is a nice bonus. However, this discount may or may not cover alcohol, depending on the state the store is in and local laws.


Workers can also get a discount on their phone plan with one caveat

trader joes app

A worker told Refinery29 that the California-based company also offers a pretty generous 18 percent discount off of your phone bill—but apparently, that only applies if you're a Verizon customer.

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You may have to create a sign

trader joes sign

All of the signs and art you see at your Trader Joe's location are created by someone at the store, according to an employee. "We create shelf tags, murals, chalkboard signs, coloring pages for kids to take home, and much more," one employee explained.


You represent the store even when you're not working

outside trader joes

Several employees noted that they'll often be recognized by customers when they're not working, and they feel like local celebrities. However, one employee told Refinery29 that the company takes advantage of this, "You kind of become a local celebrity, and the company knows that—they often remind us we're representing the store even in our off hours, and that unwanted pressure can feel strange."


Chatting with customers is encouraged

trader joes employee pushing cart

An employee told Business Insider that they are encouraged to be nice and engage with customers, even sharing that they've "discussed politics, religion, movies, philosophy, parenting, and so many other things, all while bagging people's groceries." As long as somewhere in that conversation the crew is emphasizing the values of Trader Joe's, and the customer isn't unhappy, they have the freedom to talk about what they want.


It's a lot of physical labor

trader joes worker

In another Reddit post, an employee shares that working at Trader Joe's can be a very physical job. You'll get in shape fast if you're not, as they say, "about half your day is moving heavy boxes of merchandise to put on shelves."


Schedules change all the time

trader joes cashier in face mask
Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

There's no getting around it, as anyone who has worked in retail knows, the hours are difficult. Schedules change week to week, and employees could work shifts that start as early as 4 or 5 in the morning or end as late as midnight.

READ MOREThe Unhealthiest New Trader Joe's Foods, According to Dietitians

Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya