The Real Reason Trader Joe's Employees Are So Friendly

People often remark that Trader Joe's employees are exceptionally friendly. And anyone that has shopped at this popular grocery store chain has probably encountered staff that's always smiling, happy, and inquisitive (even so much as asking what you might be making for dinner with your fresh produce). The employee courtesies are no accident, as Trader Joe's tries to find great personality and culture matches during the interview process, according to Cheapism

As the article notes, job seekers will frequently be asked unique questions such as "What's your favorite color?" or "Do you have a sense of adventure?" to ascertain their character and make sure they'll have the right energy for the environment. Says one anonymous Seattle employee in the article, "I feel like they really look for a person who has their own uniqueness, but is still a good people person."

Elaborating, the worker calls the crew a "family" and notes they are encouraged to provide helpful and insightful service, going beyond the rote actions required to simply obtain a paycheck. Trader Joe's describes it as cultivating a crew that helps in "creating a store environment that imparts adventure, humor, and a warm sense of community" (via the company website).

Employee happiness is key in creating a happy shopping experience

Unlike some other big box stores, at Trader Joe's, it's not hard to find customer service when you need it — and there's never any self-checkouts. These personal touches have really made their mark on many customers, and it seems employees are happy to provide the one-on-one service, maybe because they're paid so well. According to Cheapism, Trader Joe's does market research to come up with a competitive salary above minimum wage and also allows the opportunity for raises twice a year. According to the article, it may be why 20% of the staff has worked at the chain for more than a decade.

While Trader Joe's does many things right, it would be rare to find a large corporation without criticism — and it's no different in this case. Some workers have complained that these outward smiles hide internal strife and arbitrary treatment (via NY Times). And this reliance on outward expression of joviality along with personality test indicators in the larger hiring industry have also led to allegations of ableism or discrimination in the workplace, notes the Irish Times. In one great step forward, Trader Joe's announced in December 2020 that it would be recommitting itself to a mission of both diversity and inclusion as corporate policy, per their website, which could be another great bridge to employee happiness.