Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Trader Joe's

You'd have to be living under a rock to have never had the distinct pleasure of shopping at Trader Joe's. Despite the parking lot traffic and constant bob and weave you play with other people and their shopping carts, Trader Joe's has a lot to offer. And they have a cult-like following of loyal shoppers to prove it.

When founder Joe Coulombe first opened Trader Joe's back in 1967, his goal was to deliver something different... and that he did. Part of the Trader Joe's difference are the people who work there. Those people, who so elegantly refer to themselves as "traders on the culinary seas," work in almost 500 stores in 41 states across the country. 

Their bright colored shirts and friendly personalities are some of the first things customers notice when they walk through the door, but there is much more to being a Trader Joe's employee than the nautical title you're given when hired. 

We are getting down to the details of what it's really like to be an employee at Trader Joe's, from those who know best.

Trader Joe's employees are jacks of all trades

If you get bored easily, a job at Trader Joe's may help with that. Trader Joe's throws a little variety at their employees by allowing them to change tasks throughout their shift, rather than doing the same thing all day. During a shift, it's typical for a crew member to check customers out at the cash register, stock shelves, and do the cleaning. 

Ivetta Linnell was a crew member in Cape Cod for five years. She tells Money that the change in jobs during shifts helps to keep things interesting for employees. "It's perfect because it breaks down your shift. You don't get tired doing one repetitive thing," she told them. 

Another perk of being a crew member is that not only do tasks change during shifts, but shift times change as well. Crew members may have to wake up to be ready for the frozen truck when it arrives at four o'clock in the morning, but they can rest assured that others will be doing the same thing throughout the week so they can catch up on some sleep. 

A former crew member told Lattice that "oversight of opening and closing shifts are distributed evenly, and tasks and assignments are rotated throughout the week." This being a possible reason they tell Lattice that "managers are able to stay so nice." 

If you're a firm believer that variety is the spice of life, it looks like you'll find plenty of it working at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's cares if times are tough for their employees

Trader Joe's may have almost 500 stores across the country, but they aren't too big to forget about the hardworking people that make that success possible, especially when one of them is having a bad day. 

Refinery 29 shares a story from a New Jersey crew member who remembers when an employee the team considered their "little sister" fell on tough times. Instead of turning a blind eye, the crew member says their boss told them "to walk her down to Starbucks on the clock to talk with her for a bit."

The story isn't surprising considering that Trader Joe's sees their crew members as the bread and butter of the company." 

A claim that former Trader Joe's crew member Ivetta Linnell fully supports. "Honestly it's been like the only job..." she tells Money, "where I felt appreciated and supported." 

With such high morale in the aisles of Trader Joe's, it's no wonder crew members like Linnell spent years as a proud crew member. 

Working at Trader Joe's makes you a sort of local celebrity

It turns out that you don't have to be a real celebrity to be noticed when you're not on the clock at Trader Joe's

Former Cosby actor and Trader Joe's employee Geoffrey Owens was once called out when he was recognized by a customer. A photo of Owens bagging groceries made its way around the internet and social media had a field day with the actor's choice of jobs in between gigs. 

Though most crew member's photos won't end up on social media, their claim to fame in their own community comes from working at Trader Joe's. 

An employee by the name of Hayley talked with Refinery 29 about how she has become the "Trader Joe's girl" within her tight-knit community. She hears it when frequenting a local coffee shop, a party, or even at school. Hayley says that Trader Joe's is aware of this kind of attention and reminds employees like herself that even when they're not bagging groceries or stocking shelves, they are still representing the store. 

Hayley says those expectations of "unwanted pressure can feel strange." If you're not ready for the spotlight, you may want to skip Trader Joe's all together — or find a job at one a few towns over. 

Employees at Trader Joe's never go hungry

When it comes to enjoying the perks as a Trader Joe's employee, taste testing is one of them. Employees at Trader Joe's need to know what the food they sell tastes like in order to recommend it to customers

One employee tells Refinery 29 that when new flyers come out, employees can expect quite a feast in the break room. Trader Joe's also likes to set up things to celebrate holidays and store team victories, as well. 

 Another Trader Joe's employee praises their demo team when it comes to getting the hook up, saying it's common for employees to enjoy "breakfast or dessert during openings/closings." 

If that isn't enough to make you envious of crew members, they also get the opportunity to be their own chef. An employee tells Refinery 29 that "crew members can do tastings with different themes and create dishes for everyone to try." 

It's safe to say that taste testing is a pretty big part of the job at Trader Joe's. One that will keep hunger pains away each shift — and probably save some money on your lunch break. 

Working at Trader Joe's earns a pretty good paycheck

Employees who work at Trader Joe's may handle customer's cash on a daily basis, but when their shift is over, they too have earned some pretty good change in their pockets. 

In an AMA post on Reddit, an employee of Trader Joe's says that crew members can make anywhere from $10-$24 an hour, and that's only the beginning. Managers, or as Trader Joe's likes to call them, Captains, have the ability to make up to six figures

If you're a crew member, you have the opportunity to receive a raise twice a year. According to Trader Joe's career website, that raise can be anywhere from 7-10 percent. On the flip side though, those raises are not guaranteed. 

According to the same AMA post, in order to receive a raise you must excel in three specific areas: customer experience, productivity and working as a team. Any crew member that falls short in even one of those categories most likely isn't going to see a change in their paycheck. 

So, if you want to reap the rewards of that Trader Joe's pay raise, be sure to smile, work hard, and play nice with others.

The pay is good, but the Trader Joe's benefits are way better

Trader Joe's employees may be raking in pretty good income when it comes to pay, but it's the benefits that will really blow you away. 

In an AMA post on Reddit, an employee spills the beans about what to expect. If you love to travel, here's some good news. Both full-time and part-time employees earn paid time off, and employees that work at least 15 hours per week qualify for free dental and vision insurance. 

Another employee tells Refinery 29 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.

Employees also seem to have no complaints on Trader Joe's 401K option. 

Scrolling through the careers page on their website, you'll find that Trader Joe's contributes 10 percent of an eligible crew member's annual salary to their 401K. And of course, employees receive in-store discounts (but we'll talk more about that later).

Trader Joe's has good reason for the amazing benefits options. On their website they say that employees are "making an investment in us" so this is their way of "making an investment in and for you." Well said Trader Joe's.

Employees don't get free groceries from Trader Joe's

If you were looking to snag a job at Trader Joe's to eliminate your grocery bill, think again. Employees still have to pay to stock up their cupboards, but they do get a little break from the chain store. 

A perk found on Trader Joe's career page says that crew members receive a 10 percent discount off of all products in store. That even includes the alcohol aisle, which will come in handy for employees when they're stocking up on Trader Joe's infamous two-buck chuck wine selection.

Trader Joe's must really value their employees to give them a discount, as regular customers will never receive that kind of benefit — no matter how often they shop there. 

Since Trader Joe's offers low prices everyday, they say no to coupons, membership cards, and discounts. According to their website you will find "no glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores." 

So, if you're in dire need of a little price cut at Trader Joe's, you'll have to fill out a job application and hope you get hired to see that 10 percent off your grocery bill.

Employees can really go places at Trader Joe's

Hard working crew members at Trader Joe's have pretty good odds when it comes to climbing the ranks within the company. 

According to Trader Joe's, 78 percent of store supervisors, otherwise known as Mates, were promoted from their crew member role. If that isn't impressive enough, all, yes 100 percent of store managers, were promoted from their role as a Mate.

Up the ladder though isn't the only place employees can go over time at Trader Joe's. There is an actual team at Trader Joe's that travels around the world in search of the best products for the store. This job can sometimes be hard work, but the places you'll get to go may be worth it. 

One employee tells Thrillist that an individual from the travel team found an amazing pizza in Italy, but the owner didn't want to share the recipe. Instead, the employee drew up a business plan with the pizzaria to freeze the pizza, package it, and send it to Trader Joe's stores. 

"This guy's pizzeria," the employee tells Thrillist," is now his side job," since working with Trader Joe's is now basically his main gig. It looks like people (and pizza) really go places at Trader Joe's. 

Employees at Trader Joe's really are family

When you are working with the same people day in and day out, it certainly helps to be able to tolerate them. Luckily, at Trader Joe's employees truly are a team. They get along well with each other and unlike reality TV, an employee tells Refinery 29 that "there is never any drama." 

Changing departments throughout shifts helps hold crew members accountable. Every job is documented which means that no one leaves a job unfinished and expects the next employee to pick up the slack. 

The camaraderie is so great that The Kitchn reveals how Austin, an employee at a Chicago Trader Joe's, says that going to work was really nothing more than "hanging out with friends for eight hours."

Some employees even hang out for more than those eight hours. In an article on Money, former employee Iveta Linnell talks about how she frequently hung out with her coworkers outside of work hours. Despite the wide range of age groups and backgrounds, strong friendships were formed and many drinks were had. The drinks came only after the crew was clocked out for the day of course. 

Employees at Trader Joe's do a lot of talking

One of the benefits of working at Trader Joe's is that they don't expect employees to keep quiet all day. If you're an extrovert who loves being around others and thrives in the midst of conversation, a crew member position may be exactly what you need. 

It turns out that as long as what you're saying is mildly appropriate, employees can strike up their choice of conversations with customers. In fact, it's practically encouraged.

One employee told Business Insider 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 stays happy, they have freedom to talk about what they want. 

With customer interaction being a regular part of the job, it's no wonder that a large part of the interview process focuses around finding crew members who genuinely have what company president Bryan Palbaum calls an "outwardly nice" personality to begin with. That would certainly come in handy when striking up daily conversations.

Working at Trader Joe's isn't all rainbows and butterflies

So far, it may sound like Trader Joe's is the best place in the world to work, but working at Trader Joe's isn't always a walk in the park — and it's not for everybody. 

With shipments arriving at the store more than once a day, one employee says in a Reddit AMA post that employees are "constantly running around."  

In another Reddit post, a different employee says working at Trader Joe's can be a very physical job. You won't have to feel guilty about skipping the gym some days since "about half your day is moving heavy boxes of merchandise to put on shelves." 

On top of getting your steps in each day, you may also have to sacrifice a little bit of sleep. Employees may rotate shifts on a regular basis, but there are a good amount of shifts that start as early as four or five o'clock in the morning. Others can go until as late as midnight. 

Couch potatoes and those who can't function on minimal sleep need not apply. 

Employees at Trader Joe's really are as happy as they seem

Although some shifts at Trader Joe's may call for early mornings or late nights, and sometimes employees have to get a little physical to get their jobs done, overall employees seem to think it's a pretty good gig. 

The company must be doing something right, as 20 percent of their employees have been employed for over a decade. 

The friendly personalities and overall pleasant demeanor of a crew member doesn't go unnoticed. It's a question that even an employee confesses in an AMA post on Reddit they used to ask before they started working there. "Why are all these people so damn happy?" They thought the employees were faking it until they themselves started. Now, they say, they understand. "It is 100 percent genuine. We are just happy to be at work."

Who wouldn't be happy with a company that allows them to stretch their legs, strike up a conversation, or grab a snack when they need to? 

Overall, the Reddit post reveals working at Trader Joe's is a pretty low stress job that pays well. That's an equation that, when added together, makes for pretty happy employees.